Unlocking Efficiency: How Technology is Transforming FOI Programs in Ontario Municipalities

By Shaun McIver*, CEO
Vayle Inc.

As municipalities navigate  the challenges of complying with  the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), Freedom of Information (FOI) requests add an additional layer of complexity.  According to recent research conducted by Vayle, most Ontario municipalities surveyed reported a year-over-year increase in the volume of FOI requests received. However, 9 out of 10 participating municipalities said that budgets have not increased to cope with this demand. More than 50% of respondents cited access to FOI team resources as their most pressing challenge.

For many smaller municipal entities, the task of processing FOIs is often left to the Clerk or Deputy Clerk “off the corner of their desk,” whereas larger entities with higher request volumes typically have a dedicated records management and FOI team. In either scenario, tasks such as managing legislated due dates, drafting response letters, and generating reports have become increasingly arduous when performed using non-purpose-built applications such as word processing software and spreadsheets. 

In the evolving landscape of municipal administration, technology has been leveraged to optimize FOI management for entities of all sizes. These benefits include: 

  1. Providing an online form to securely capture and process payments for information access requests, reducing time, effort, errors, and risks associated with manually recording and keying FOIs received via mail, email, or in person. 
  2.  Tracking and issuing reminders for legislated due dates, task assignments, search memos, transfers as well as streamlining the appeals process, enhancing organizational compliance and workflow efficiency. 
  3. Simplifying fee calculations associated with estimates, deposits, search time, preparation time, reproducing, and shipping records. 
  4. Enabling the automatic creation of response letters referencing all relevant request details, including requester details, fees, and applicable exemptions, as defined in MFIPPA. 
  5. Automating the generation of the annual Information Privacy Commissioner (IPC) report and other productivity analytics, empowering municipalities with comprehensive and accurate insights. 

FOI software not only enhances productivity, compliance, and file tracking but can also improve the experience for citizens making requests. For example, municipal entities that have implemented online FOI request forms have generally seen a dramatic shift toward this medium as the preferred method of submitting requests. 

In exploring the possibilities offered by FOI software, municipal leaders can unlock a new era of efficiency, positioning their organizations to meet the demands of transparency and accountability without compromising fiscal responsibility.

*Shaun McIver is the CEO of Vayle, a leading provider of FOI and privacy compliance solutions for the public sector and AMO Partner. For more information about how Vayle FOI software can streamline your information access program, please email: foi@vayle.io

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