Manitoba Ombudsman releases 2005 Annual Reports under The Ombudsman Act, FIPPA and PHIAReturn to listing
Apr 12, 2006
Manitoba Ombudsman Irene Hamilton has reported on the activities of her office relating to The Ombudsman Act, The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) during the calendar year 2005. Hamilton’s term as Ombudsman began on March 31, 2005.
Two Annual Reports under The Ombudsman Act and FIPPA and PHIA were released concurrently. Both reports have a new style and format and are being widely distributed with the hope that they will be used as an educational tool for Manitobans.
The Ombudsman’s annual reports are available on a CD for the first time, in addition to hard copy format and the Ombudsman’s web site, www.ombudsman.mb.ca. The CD contains additional information related to the mandate of the office. It includes four publications on youth rights co-produced by the Ombudsman’s Office, the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Manitoba Human Rights Commission on the topics of youth and the school, rights on the job, criminal justice and human rights. As well, the CD contains an EKOS survey conducted for the Ombudsman on Manitobans’ perceptions of their privacy interests.
“We are taking advantage of the capacity of the CD to distribute information that we believe will be of interest,” said Hamilton. “With the youth rights pamphlets we not only hope to inform young people in our province of their rights, but to engage them in discussion of how they can exercise those rights. Similarly, we are interested in Manitobans’ awareness and concerns about their personal privacy. The EKOS survey shows there is a perception that personal privacy is being eroded and that while Manitobans acknowledge their own role in the protection of their personal privacy, there is an increasing number who believe there is a strong collective role for government and other organizations to play in the protection of personal information.”
Created in 1970, the Office of the Manitoba Ombudsman exists to promote fairness, equity and administrative accountability through independent impartial, non-partisan, and thorough investigation of complaints and legislative compliance reviews. The Ombudsman investigates access to information and privacy complaints and reviews compliance under The Personal Health Information Act and The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The Ombudsman also has responsibilities under The Ombudsman Act to investigate complaints concerning any act, decision, recommendation or omission relating to a matter of administration by any department or agency of the provincial government or a municipal government.
For more information, contact: Irene Hamilton, Manitoba Ombudsman at (204) 982-9130 or 1-800-665-0531 (in Manitoba).
Copies of the 2005 Annual Report of the Ombudsman are available at Information Services, Room 29 – Legislative Building, the Office of the Manitoba Ombudsman, and at www.ombudsman.mb.ca.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2005 ANNUAL REPORT UNDER THE OMBUDSMAN ACT
Changes to both the format and content of our Annual Report reflect the Ombudsman’s commitment to public education and administrative accountability. The report contains a plain language description of the role and function of the Ombudsman, with selected case summaries used to demonstrate the breadth of activity undertaken by the office and its relevance to both government and the public.
In addition to Cases of Interest, the report contains a section entitled Public Awareness containing information we believe would be of benefit to all Manitoba motorists, and a section on Emerging Issues which highlights a number of ongoing provincial and municipal concerns the Ombudsman will continue to monitor.
As part of our focus on informing more Manitobans about the office, and in an effort to reach young Manitobans, we have expanded the distribution of the report which will include school libraries. The report will also be made available to community organizations serving a broad cross-section of the public. The report is intended to be a resource that organizations may use to inform their constituents about the availability of an impartial review of government decisions affecting them.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2005 ANNUAL REPORT UNDER FIPPA AND PHIA
A decrease in the volume of new FIPPA and PHIA complaints allowed the Access and Privacy Division of the Manitoba Ombudsman to significantly reduce the case backlog in 2005. There were 242 new cases opened, 79% concerning access-to-information and 14% concerning privacy complaints. The remaining files reflected auditing, monitoring, informing, or commenting on activities. In 2005, the Division closed 350 of 456 cases (new cases plus cases carried into 2005). This was the highest number of closures in a year by the Division.
In 2005, the Division also responded to approximately 620 inquiries from the public about access and privacy matters concerning FIPPA and PHIA.
The Ombudsman’s 2005 report under FIPPA and PHIA outlined the improved performance of public bodies in meeting FIPPA response requirements when refusing access requests. The 2004 report under FIPPA and PHIA had highlighted an evaluation by the Ombudsman that found a low rate of compliance with the response requirements under FIPPA. The improved compliance noted at the end of 2005 was particularly evident in public bodies providing reasons for access refusal and providing the title and phone number of an officer or employee within the organization able to answer an applicant’s questions.
As required by FIPPA and PHIA, the report included the Ombudsman’s recommendations in the year and whether public bodies and trustees complied with the recommendations. In 2005, there were seven recommendations made to four public bodies. All of the recommendations were made under FIPPA, with one relating to privacy and six concerning access issues.