In an unprecedented dramatic appeal to the public, the Information Commissioner pleaded that her office is so overburdened with complaints that her reduced budget left her in a crisis mode. She added that she may have ‘little choice” but to cut (again) the number of investigators who deal with complaints.” Imagine for a moment. if DND or Veterans Affairs had reacted the same way after government cut their own budgets!
On a roll, Legault then advised that she will released next month her very own’s set of recommendations as to how the Access to Information Act should be reformed. Part of these recommendations, she said would be to have her granted the power to REFUSE to investigate complaints. She failed to mention, however, that already her office is awash with complaints, the majority of which are at least two years old.
In response to Legault’s pleas for poverty, I would recommend that a critical external examination of her top-heavy OIC organization be conducted tout de suite. One would find that since her appointment, she has added a high number of senior managers and advisers as part of the OIC organization imposing a heavy burden and drawing down a considerable amount of resources.
The one and only focus for the OIC should be the investigation of complaints and nothing else. The OIC misguided and prolonged investment of staff and management time to advocate changes to the ATIA is a case in point. This is the job of elected officials, our parliamentarians. This unnecessary and unauthorized forey in drafting legislation is a draw on OIC resources and an unwarranted disruption on the OIC management to address the current excessive and growing backlog of complaints.
A return to basics is essential. Indeed, the OIC clientele is longing for a return to the days (Grace’s and Reid’s) when their complaints would be handled in matters of months not YEARS as is currently the case. A time when OIC Report of Findings would actually be signed by the Commissioner as opposed to a mid-level manager which is currently the case! Oddly, this is precisely, and the only job, assigned to the Commissioner.
Any increase in the OIC’s budgetary allocation would only encourage the current maladministration! Perhaps a solution would be for the Auditor General to conduct a systemic review of the ATIA regime and the bloated OIC managerial structure.