Author Topic: DND Accused of Using Pandemic to Withhold Info- Broad Topic of Clerks+Per File  (Read 3882 times)

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Offline EnchantedEng

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Defence Department accused of using pandemic to withhold info from Parliament

https://a.msn.com/r/2/BB14Xx4O?m=en-ca&referrerID=InAppShare

OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence stands accused of trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to withhold information from Parliament and Canadians.

There has been widespread concern about federal departments failing to respond to access-to-information requests since the crisis first started in earnest in March, but the Opposition Conservatives say the problem is much worse at the Defence Department.

"By far National Defence is the worst offender," said Conservative defence critic James Bezan. "There seems to be a systemic breakdown in being transparent in the department, or there's intentional disregard for what Canadians have been requesting."

The allegation stems from the department's failure in recent months to respond to a large number of questions on the order paper, which are one of the primary means for members of Parliament to get information about the inner workings of federal departments.

Departments have 45 days to respond to order paper questions, which include everything from the number of veterans receiving government-subsidized Viagra to how much the government spent on advertising to the number of RCMP officers by province.

Yet in more than a dozen recent requests, the Defence Department did not respond. One of those asked how many government ships had broken down in the last year. While the Canadian Coast Guard provided a response, the Defence Department did not.

"During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, public servants are required to work remotely and have limited access to the tools and files requested," the department wrote in response to a recent request by Conservative MP Lianne Rood.

Bezan also flagged concerns about testimony from parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux to a House of Commons' committee last week about the watchdog's request for updated information on the government's plan to invest billions in new military kit.

"We were supposed to get the information on time to provide parliamentarians with an update," Giroux told the standing committee on government operations and estimates on Friday.

"May was the target date for us, but we didn't get the information on time. ... We were told it will be delayed by a couple of weeks, but we have not received it yet."

The Liberal government's defence policy unveiled in 2017 promised $553 billion in defence spending over the next two decades, though it has been slow in getting that money out the door.

The Defence Department acknowledged it had failed to respond to 17 order paper questions in April and May and was unable to provide the information that Giroux asked to see about the planned defence spending, citing COVID-19 as the reason.

"Work on the request the PBO referred to has, in fact, been impacted by COVID-19 given the requirements for our analysts to work from secure systems inaccessible from home," Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said an in email.

He went on to blame personnel having "limited access to certain records and databases" and "key military staff" being tasked with supporting the government's COVID-19 response for not responding to the order paper question.

At the same time, Le Bouthillier said officials did respond to 12 order paper questions while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office said officials helped the budget officer analyze the cost of the military's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April.

"The Department of National Defence and the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have been working around the clock helping Canadians during this pandemic," Sajjan's spokesman, Todd Lane, said in a statement.

"Despite the challenges that the pandemic has posed, we remain committed to transparency and being accountable to Parliament."

Bezan nonetheless accused the government and department of failing to provide information to Canadians and parliamentarians, whose job is to hold the government to account.

"At the beginning (of the pandemic), I would say they had the right to make those decisions," he said. "But we're getting to a point now that this has become a government and Minister Sajjan, in particular, stonewalling the accountability aspect of his role."

If there are legitimate concerns, he added, efforts should be underway to install proper protocols and provide adequate safety equipment to let defence officials return to their offices and "fulfil the obligations the government has to Parliament."

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, who is responsible for public access to government information, sent a letter to his cabinet colleagues last week reminding them of the need for transparency even during the COVID-19 pandemic

The message followed calls from information commissioner Caroline Maynard, the Canadian Association of Journalists and an ad-hoc accountability group for concrete actions to ensure transparency during the crisis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 12:42:33 by Bruce Monkhouse »

Offline Navy_Pete

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The questions I've seen have been really broad, poorly defined and lacking any context of when they were asked to figure out what they are looking for.  Usually too they spend weeks filtering down to the level of whoever gets pinged with answering it. Usually a bit surprised at how ignorant the MPs are.  Then, once the answer gets figured out, there is usually a painful review process where it goes back up the chain, and the answer is simplified like you are talking to a six year old.  What does 'number of times a ship broke down' even mean?  Can count on one hand the number of times we've had to go off mission because of an equipment issue, but there were probably thousands of things repaired in that time.

Would be interested to see the actual questions, and how many of them are just random unimportant factoids so they can manufacture some outraged headline.  Honestly think most MPs are token representatives marking time and converting oxygen, and you could effectively get everything done and have an opposition with room for other parties with less then 100 total.
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Offline CountDC

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had the privilege of responding from the unit level on information requests.  The time line I had on one was 2 days or justify why I couldn't provide the information.  These do tend to be totally ridiculous requests that are obvious fishing trips with a net.  Let's cast a net and see what we catch.

While on the subject - serving members please stop filing requests for your pers file, leave records, etc through this means.  You are able to obtain directly from the OR and should be able to get a lot faster from them.  You should review your file yearly and request copies of anything you want at that time. 
“non-commissioned officer (NCO)” means a member holding the rank of sergeant or corporal.

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Offline dapaterson

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While on the subject - serving members please stop filing requests for your pers file, leave records, etc through this means.  You are able to obtain directly from the OR and should be able to get a lot faster from them.  You should review your file yearly and request copies of anything you want at that time.

If members are resorting to ATIP for either personal information or information they require to do their jobs, it's an indicator of either a lack of knowledge or a lack of trust in their CoC.
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Offline Lumber

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If members are resorting to ATIP for either personal information or information they require to do their jobs, it's an indicator of either a lack of knowledge or a lack of trust in their CoC.

Could also just be the pervasive idea htat for some reason members aren't allowed to see their own pers files. I don't know who started this rumor, it must have been decades ago, but it's still around.
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Offline Eye In The Sky

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Could also just be the pervasive idea htat for some reason members aren't allowed to see their own pers files. I don't know who started this rumor, it must have been decades ago, but it's still around.

They can't see it on their own, so perhaps think they can't see it at all? 
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Offline CBH99

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Could also just be the pervasive idea htat for some reason members aren't allowed to see their own pers files. I don't know who started this rumor, it must have been decades ago, but it's still around.


Not going to lie, when I was in, I was told that numerous times by different parties.

Never for any one particular thing, and I never requested to see it.  It would just come up randomly when discussing PER or courses, etc.

I always thought that 'not allowed to see your own file' was a real thing.   
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Offline Navy_Pete

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Could also just be the pervasive idea htat for some reason members aren't allowed to see their own pers files. I don't know who started this rumor, it must have been decades ago, but it's still around.

What do people think is in their PERs file that is so secretive? Weird.  You just aren't allowed to see it on your own because someone might remove a RW or something, not because someone is scribbling notes and dropping it in their for eternity.

Also strange that stuff isn't digitized; would be so much easier, and wouldn't get lost when you are posted.

Offline MilEME09

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What do people think is in their PERs file that is so secretive? Weird.  You just aren't allowed to see it on your own because someone might remove a RW or something, not because someone is scribbling notes and dropping it in their for eternity.

Also strange that stuff isn't digitized; would be so much easier, and wouldn't get lost when you are posted.

Digitalize it as read only on EMMA. Problem solved
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Offline stellarpanther

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While on the subject - serving members please stop filing requests for your pers file, leave records, etc through this means.  You are able to obtain directly from the OR and should be able to get a lot faster from them.  You should review your file yearly and request copies of anything you want at that time.

That's incorrect, unless it's a few specific things you are looking for such as an old course report, CF98 or something, if you want the whole Pers File as many people do, they are told to submit an ATI for it, it's not just a CFSU(O) policy either, any OR, I'm aware of  across the country does that.  OR's are short staffed enough and we don't have time to be photocopying entire files for people.

Offline garb811

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That's incorrect, unless it's a few specific things you are looking for such as an old course report, CF98 or something, if you want the whole Pers File as many people do, they are told to submit an ATI for it, it's not just a CFSU(O) policy either, any OR, I'm aware of  across the country does that.  OR's are short staffed enough and we don't have time to be photocopying entire files for people.
You do know you're just going to end up photocopying it anyway when they submit the Privacy Act request, right? So just cut out all the staff officers in the middle and do what's right instead of hoping the person isn't going to bother with the paperwork.  It's policies and attitudes like that which have bogged the system down to the point of being useless for people who have a genuine need to use a Privacy Act request to get something off of a databank they can't access by walking into the OR.
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Offline stellarpanther

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They can't see it on their own, so perhaps think they can't see it at all?

They can't see it on their own meaning they can't ask for it and go off with it alone and have the chance to remove things or add things if they were so inclined however, they also don't need to have their supervisor present.  When doing a DAG they are given a chance to look at it, I usually let them skim through it while updating forms during their DAG or they can just make an appointment with any of the HRA's or sometimes even just walk in and if not busy we can sit with them.


Offline stellarpanther

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You do know you're just going to end up photocopying it anyway when they submit the Privacy Act request, right? So just cut out all the staff officers in the middle and do what's right instead of hoping the person isn't going to bother with the paperwork.  It's policies and attitudes like that which have bogged the system down to the point of being useless for people who have a genuine need to use a Privacy Act request to get something off of a databank they can't access by walking into the OR.

We get the request from Access to Information with the address and name of who to send it to.  We put it in an envelop and drop it in the mail and it gets return to us a few weeks later.

Offline garb811

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We get the request from Access to Information with the address and name of who to send it to.  We put it in an envelop and drop it in the mail and it gets return to us a few weeks later.
That's interesting. Anytime I have to reply to an ATI request it is very clearly specified that copies are to be sent, not originals. Guess Ottawa is so flush with cash they can afford to hire minions to do the copying for them.
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Offline dapaterson

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That's interesting. Anytime I have to reply to an ATI request it is very clearly specified that copies are to be sent, not originals. Guess Ottawa is so flush with cash they can afford to hire minions to do the copying for them.

There are differences between handing of Access to Information Act (ATI) and Privacy Act requests.  "All records pertaining to CAF Jellybean purchases" is an ATI request; "A copy of my Pers File" is a Privacy Act request.  Both lumped together as ATIP, but different legislation and different handling.
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Offline Jarnhamar

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Quote from: dapaterson
Privacy Act request. 

Bit off topic but from what I'm hearing a lot of gun owners are filing requests under the privacy act with the RCMP to find out what guns the RCMP has registered or associated with their name and asking for all information pertaining to them and social media.
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Offline stellarpanther

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There are differences between handing of Access to Information Act (ATI) and Privacy Act requests.  "All records pertaining to CAF Jellybean purchases" is an ATI request; "A copy of my Pers File" is a Privacy Act request.  Both lumped together as ATIP, but different legislation and different handling.

I forgot to add the P.  Anyway the way it works in the NCR is that the mbr makes the request to ATIP, the request is sent to the Coord at CFSU(O) who forwards it to the positional box which is monitored by the WO, I believe.  It then gets sent the Sgt who forwards it to the MCpl for the cell that handles the requesting mbr's letter group.  The MCpl will assign it to one of the Cpl/Pte's to get it off the shelf, package it up and send it off Access to information.  They make the copies and send it out to the mbr.  It is then returned back to CFSU(O) and it goes back on the shelf.  It's been a few years since I've worked in that unit but that's the same procedure that has been in place for many years across the country.  At CFSU(O) and I'm sure others, they have little pieces of paper with the instructions on how to make the request.  At least when I was there, most of the clerks would ask if it was something specific they wanted and if so, we could get it for them but only if was no more than a few pages.




Offline stellarpanther

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That's interesting. Anytime I have to reply to an ATI request it is very clearly specified that copies are to be sent, not originals. Guess Ottawa is so flush with cash they can afford to hire minions to do the copying for them.

It's not just Ottawa, it's everywhere.  We are too short of HRA's and if a mbr requests a copy of their Pers File that could take a full day or more.  Some of these people have 2 volumes of thick files. 
A bit off topic but medical records at the Montfort doesn't send them off, they do it themselves and I've heard some of those files are also thick.

If I'm not mistaken you're an MPO?  If someone is asking for something from you I would assume it's an MP report or something similar which might be a handful of pages that could be done fairly quick.  Think about a unit at a smaller place like Gander or like North Bay for example.  They might have a few HRA's.  If 5 people decide to get together and request copies of their Pers Files, it's going to throw a wrench into other work getting done.

 

Offline ballz

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That's incorrect, unless it's a few specific things you are looking for such as an old course report, CF98 or something, if you want the whole Pers File as many people do, they are told to submit an ATI for it, it's not just a CFSU(O) policy either, any OR, I'm aware of  across the country does that.  OR's are short staffed enough and we don't have time to be photocopying entire files for people.

I never had that issue with an OR before, but I can only recall a couple of times where someone requested to see their pers file.

I forgot to add the P.  Anyway the way it works in the NCR is that the mbr makes the request to ATIP, the request is sent to the Coord at CFSU(O) who forwards it to the positional box which is monitored by the WO, I believe.  It then gets sent the Sgt who forwards it to the MCpl for the cell that handles the requesting mbr's letter group.  The MCpl will assign it to one of the Cpl/Pte's to get it off the shelf, package it up and send it off Access to information.  They make the copies and send it out to the mbr.  It is then returned back to CFSU(O) and it goes back on the shelf.  It's been a few years since I've worked in that unit but that's the same procedure that has been in place for many years across the country.  At CFSU(O) and I'm sure others, they have little pieces of paper with the instructions on how to make the request.  At least when I was there, most of the clerks would ask if it was something specific they wanted and if so, we could get it for them but only if was no more than a few pages.

Jesus H Christ. How many ranks/organizations/mail-runs need to be involved instead of just allowing the member to make an appointment with a Corporal HRA? There can't be so many people requesting to see their pers file that this is necessary.
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Offline stellarpanther

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I never had that issue with an OR before, but I can only recall a couple of times where someone requested to see their pers file.

Jesus H Christ. How many ranks/organizations/mail-runs need to be involved instead of just allowing the member to make an appointment with a Corporal HRA? There can't be so many people requesting to see their pers file that this is necessary.

You lost me... It's no problem at all for a mbr to see their Pers File and no one other than the mbr and a HRA needs to be involved.  The mbr can usually even get a few copies off it if they want.  As I said, the mbr can make an appointment with any HRA regardless of rank or often just walk in an ask if they can look at it for a few minutes.  The problem is if they want a copy of the entire file.  That's when the request needs to be made to ATIP.  In a place like the NCR, it's almost a daily occurrence.  ATIP requests come in every couple weeks at least.


Offline dapaterson

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Here's the Privacy Act thing.  You are allowed to access and look at your Pers File.

The minute you request a copy, however, the Privacy Act kicks in.  Which means that most references to others in your file have to be stripped before it is released to you, since they have not consented to the disclosure of their personal information.

So, the course loading messages in your file?  There's a redaction required of some of the personally identifiable information of the others involved.  The memo that lists the seven people exposed to a halogen release? The personally identifying information about the other six has to be redacted.

Sending the file to someone who knows what they're doing in the realm of Privacy Act disclosures is more time efficient than trying to train all HRAs to be privacy experts, on top of their regular duties.
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Offline CloudCover

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Bit off topic but from what I'm hearing a lot of gun owners are filing requests under the privacy act with the RCMP to find out what guns the RCMP has registered or associated with their name and asking for all information pertaining to them and social media.

I'm betting they are getting very few responses. If the musical ride has social media info in a file, it's very likely intelligence or related to a confidential complaint, and they don't usually have to disclose that to a requester.
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Offline ballz

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You lost me... It's no problem at all for a mbr to see their Pers File and no one other than the mbr and a HRA needs to be involved. The mbr can usually even get a few copies off it if they want.  As I said, the mbr can make an appointment with any HRA regardless of rank or often just walk in an ask if they can look at it for a few minutes.  The problem is if they want a copy of the entire file.  That's when the request needs to be made to ATIP.  In a place like the NCR, it's almost a daily occurrence.  ATIP requests come in every couple weeks at least.

Misunderstood what you were saying. Sounded like people were being told to submit an ATIP if they wanted to see the file. Now, particularly with the context of DAP's post, I understand the difference between asking to see it and getting a few copies of something vice the whole thing.
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Offline dapaterson

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ATIP is two different domains of law, both complex... and neither is fun to have as a background issue in a brief in front of the DM and CDS and a handful of 3* and civilian equivalents.

Or so I have heard.
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Offline stellarpanther

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Misunderstood what you were saying. Sounded like people were being told to submit an ATIP if they wanted to see the file. Now, particularly with the context of DAP's post, I understand the difference between asking to see it and getting a few copies of something vice the whole thing.
:)