Ottawa’s government-wide electronic records management platform will come from a familiar supplier: Waterloo, Ont.’s OpenText Corp.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement told reporters on Wednesday that the content management software company’s suite will be the records management platform for all departments.
Among other things, records management will help the government handle access to information requests.
The promise to have an enterprise-wide electronic records management platform was made last week as part of the government’s three-year action plan on open government. Ottawa already has a contract with OpenText to supply its ECM Suite. According to OpenText, it is used by 80 of the 106 federal departments and agencies.
OpenText offers ECM Suite as an on-premise and hosted solution. The open government action plan calls for the enterprise-wide version to be hosted, but Clement didn’t have any details.
An OpenText spokesperson said the company wouldn’t comment on Clement’s remarks.
Clement conducted the press conference from Brazil, where he was attending the first international Open Government Partnership conference, where a number of countries presented action plans to make their administrations more transparent and accountable. Usually this will be done by ensuring that government documents and data are available online. In addition a number of countries are leveraging social media to encourage two-way communications between citizens and governments.
Several of the Canadian reporters on the call were critical of the Harper government’s seemingly contradictory stand on being more open, yet reluctant to yield information on touchy topics such as the price of F-35 fighter jets and the number of civil servants being laid off as a result of the federal budget.
One reporter, citing complaints from the federal Access to Information commissioner on the slow release of information on access requests, said “the numbers seem to indicate we’re going backwards not forwards.”
But Clement said a House of Commons committee is looking at possible changes to the Access to Information Act.
He also suggested that
But Clement said that attacks on the jets are “part and parcel of political debate in this country,” although he also said the government “will take the criticism to heart.”
As for complaints from reporters that unions and not government departments are the source of information on layoffs, Clement said the government is “handcuffed’ because staff have to be notified before the press. In addition, he said, departmental estimates have to be presented to Parliament.
As part of the conference there was a so-called ‘civil society’ of nine governance experts who publicly reviewed the government action plans.
Among the concerns about Canada’s plan was that it didn’t include a promise to review the Access to Information legislation. But Clement said that was deliberate: A House of Commons committee is already looking at the legislation. “If felt at best it would be impolite and at worst stomping all over the parliamentary committee” if the action plan promised legislative changes.
Clement also said he agreed with the experts that Ottawa shouldn’t emphasize open data over access to information requests. Some see open data policies as a way for governments to flood the public with old reports, and stonewall critics who seek politically-charged information through access to information requests.
The Harper government will bring in “robust policies on all aspects of open government,” Clement said.
The purpose of the action plan, he said, is to establish a framework for the government’s open information strategy.
“My focus is making sure we’ve got much more information available to the public on a regular basis at the tap of a keystroke. That will help inform debate on political issues
“I fully intend for us to be a model” on open government, he added.
When a reporter asked if government departments will be held accountable for the speed at which information is released, Clement replied that departments come before Treasury Board every week.
“It gives us an opportunity to measure their accountability for a particular policy,” he said, “and I intend to do so.”