There has been a change in the regulations governing the Sunshine List — the record of compensation for public-sector employees paid $100,000 or more a year.
The change has to do with time limits for internal reporting, before the information is released to the public.
It includes moving up the date for notice to be issued to employees when their information is being included in the list, and deadlines for both appeals and responses to appeals.
“This was done to allow sufficient time for employees to make requests for exemption, to receive responses to their requests and to undertake appeals if necessary,” stated an emailed response to questions this week, from an official with the Human Resources Secretariat.
“These changes were also made as a result of recommendations from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.”
Commissioner Donovan Molloy took a closer look at the Sunshine List after its issuance in 2017 included the accidental release of information on exempted members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
In his findings, published on Aug. 16, 2017, Molloy found the information was disclosed by human error on the part of a single person. However, in addressing how to prevent a similar accident in the future, he identified larger concerns with the reporting process, including available resources and the fact the timelines for reporting left only a few days — less in some cases — to finalize and review information before its public release online.
Molloy told The Telegram he was notified of the recent change in regulations as required, and is pleased.
“We advised the department of our view that it’s a positive change and it went some way to address some of the concerns raised in our report,” he said.
Opportunity to appeal
Behind the scenes, a lot happens before the release of the Sunshine List each year.
Under the act, public-sector employees have the chance to apply to have their information withheld. The deputy minister of their department, or chief executive officer of their public body, makes the decision on that application.
Employees who ask to have their information withheld but are denied that request can appeal to the president of Treasury Board.
Cabinet can also make exemptions.
Information is withheld from release when it is determined that revealing the information, “could reasonably be expected to threaten the safety or mental health or physical health of the employee.”
Where information is not disclosed, it must be noted that the information has been withheld from the list (lists, really, since there is one for each department and public body).
Regulations now state employees should receive notice if their information is being made public no later than March 31 each year — a full month earlier than the previous May 1 deadline.
Requests to withhold information must now be made by April 16, while deputy ministers and CEOs must make their decisions on those requests by April 30.
Any further appeals must be filed by May 14 and decisions from the Treasury Board on the appeals must be issued no later than May 30.
The timelines were a change in the regulations, not to the act, so the amendments did not have to go through debate in the House of Assembly.