National Defence releases a scan of a printout of a spreadsheet

The Newspapers Canada FOI audit asked each of the federal departments and agencies for an electronic file of the names, salary ranges and job classifications of all employees with a media relations or public information function; this is information that is considered public under the Privacy Act. The request also asked for the total pay and benefits for each of the last three completed fiscal years for media relations and communications. After some discussion, the auditors agreed with the defence department that the scope could be narrowed to just the employees under the assistant deputy minister for public affairs.

The department took three months to complete the request. It released most of the information, though not the salary ranges. They would have to be looked up based on the classifications.  The auditor requested the information be provided in a machine readable format, but defence instead sent a disk containing an image file that appeared to be a scan of a paper printout of a spreadsheet. A number of the rows in the file are unreadable or virtually unreadable.

This is an excellent example of a record that could easily have been released in an electronic format, had the department chosen to do so. This issue is discussed extensively in the audit, available here. The federal government has committed to an open-data policy. To have meaning, that policy must include data requests made under the Access to Information Act.

The records indicate the public affairs section has salary costs of about $11 million a year.