09/27/2011 07:24 EDT | Updated 11/27/2011 05:12 EST

Freedom of Information Audit shows system slow, uneven across the country

TORONTO - A new audit shows Canadians are still facing challenges when trying to get information in a complete and timely manner from various levels of government.

Newspapers Canada's sixth annual National Freedom of Information Audit found that Canadians continue to have uneven access to what should be public information. The group represents Canada's newspapers.

A student audit team found a wide variation in how quickly and completely various levels of government respond to requests for information.

The team made 354 requests on 40 topics to 11 federal departments and agencies, five provincial departments, 39 municipalities and 10 major hospitals.

It found Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Yukon were the fastest responders and B.C. the slowest.

Federal institutions completed 61 per cent of requests within the legally mandated 30 days, up from 50 per cent the previous year.

Some of the problems the audit revealed show the city of Winnipeg refusing to release contracts, claiming they were confidential, while Quebec denied even basic accountability information about top officials' spending.

Newspapers Canada CEO John Hinds said the audit shines a light on uneven practices that are not in line with the spirit of freedom of information legislation.

The audit gave B.C. and New Brunswick F grades for their speed of disclosing information while the federal government earned a D.

Quebec got an F grade and Ontario a D for the completeness of disclosure while the Ottawa received a C in this category.