Privacy commissioner slams premier's office record-keeping
Christy Clark's office fails to find records for 45 per cent of FOI requests
B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner is raising concerns about the lack of record-keeping by Premier Christy Clark's office after surge in the number of Freedom of Information requests that found no documentation on key decisions.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham says the complete lack of any kind of paper trail related to former chief of staff Ken Boessenkool's resignation is just one of several cases where no government records are found in response to requests for information.
Boessenkool was asked to step down by Clark last September for undisclosed "inappropriate behavior" involving a female government staff member at a golf tournament.
Denham also confirmed her investigators have spoken with the premier's former deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstaad.
According to the report, Haakstaad told Denham's investigators the general practice in the premier's office is to communicate verbally and that email is used for only "transitory" communication like requests to make telephone calls or meet in person.
Haakstaad was forced to resign just last week over a highly controversial leaked memo laying out the government's strategy to win over "ethnic" voters forwarded from her Gmail account, which continues to raise serious trouble for Clark in the lead up to the May provincial election.
In the report released on Monday, Denham called for changes to the province's freedom of information laws to ensure the government documents its key actions.
"A citizen's right to access government records is a fundamental element of our democracy. The right to know promotes transparency in the public policy process, and is an essential mechanism for holding government to account," said Denham.
"In the course of my investigation, we have seen evidence of the practice of oral government, where business is undertaken verbally and in a records-free way. There is currently no requirement to document these activities. However, without a duty to document, government can effectively avoid disclosure and public scrutiny as to the basis and reasons for its actions."
Denham launched the investigation in response to a complaint by the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association alleging significant growth in "no responsive records" replies by the government over the last 10 years.
She found the premier's office faile to find records for 45 per cent of FOI requeste, the highest level of any government department.