Information and Privacy Commissioner Report: Enhancing Government Transparency and Accountability

On July 25, 2013, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report that makes 18 recommendations to promote transparency and accountability in the B.C. government’s open government initiative. The report evaluates each aspect of B.C’s open government program, which Premier Christy Clark announced in 2011. The Commissioner finds that:

Information and Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham

Information and Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham

With respect to open information, the only open information government is disclosing on its website to date is travel expenses of ministers and deputy ministers. I recommend government proactively disclose hospitality expenses, calendars, contracts and audit reports to the Open Information website. Government should also review the list of other categories of records that must be disclosed under FIPPA to consider what other information it should be disclosing on a proactive basis.

With respect to the disclosure log on the Open Information website, where government posts its responses to access requests, government has implemented most of the best practices set out in a previous investigation report issued by this office. Government exempts some responses from publication in the disclosure log and, in response to a complaint from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association; I have reviewed those exemptions and recommend that government institute a secondary severing process with respect to copyright matters so that more records are published on the disclosure log.

With respect to open data, government is on the leading edge and its policy aligns well with the principles of the G8 Open Data Charter issued in June 2013. I make a number of recommendations to improve the program from an accountability perspective, including more outreach to promote data literacy so that the policy achieves its potential.

With respect to maintaining the sustainability of the open government initiative, I recommend that records be made public by default and government should enact a modern archives and records management statute.

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For more information, visit the Commissioner’s website at www.oipc.bc.ca.