Access to public information deteriorates
29 May, 2014
Access to public information deteriorates
The situation concerning the access to public information has deteriorated. The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), with the assistance of the Open Society Foundation Georgia, presented their research on the access to public information in the state structures. The survey covers the period from October 2013 to 1 March 2014. The IDFI presented a similar survey after the Georgian Dream coalition took office (from October 2012 to September 2013) with a significant improvement concerning the access to
public information. However, the current research depicts that the situation is still going the wrong way. In order to reveal the reasons of this deterioration as well as to identify the most transparent and closed state institutions, Georgian Journal spoke with the head of the IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili.
– Who did you request information from?
– We addressed 29 central public institutions with 493 demands. We asked for information that should be publically available based on the legislation.
– What tendency did you identify since your last survey which was released soon after the Georgian Dream coalition took office?
– After our last survey we anticipated 14% deterioration. We conducted the survey based on data from the public institutions, ministries and their departments, the President’s Administration, and the government from the Autonomous Republic of Achara. The ministries with leading positions as most transparent state institutions are still those that already enjoyed this status. For example: The Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Ministry of Environment Protection and the Ministry of Sport. Significant deterioration regarding the access to public information was revealed within the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Finance. The President’s Administration has improved in this regard. The situation is also positive in terms of the Ministry of Defense, despite the fact that the Ministry quite frequently deals with very specific and confidential information.
– According to you, what is the reason for this deterioration?
– It is the second survey we presented since the Georgian Dream coalition came to power. The first survey mainly reflected the situation and shortcomings of the previous government and of course the new authorities were happy to deliver the requested information. Our recent survey focuses on the actions of the new government and this time they had to provide information regarding the occurring issues under their rule.
– The issue of salaries and additional benefits has been discussed most these days. How was this topic reflected in your survey?
– It was one of the components of the survey. There are structures, like the Ministry of Environment Protection, which display this information on their web pages. However, some ministries did not give us the data at all, or delivered only round figures and not detailed ones. Thus, it was difficult for us to differentiate between exact salaries and bonuses received by certain officials. The Interior Ministry did not provide any information at all. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Finance gave us round figures.
– What information did ministries generally refrain from giving you and which information was happily provided?
– They were happy to give us any information regarding the diplomas of their officials, proving their degrees. In general, they did not provide us with their official email correspondence.
– What steps are being made to ensure proper access to public information?
– In general, the relevant legislation is not bad. However, the law has not been successfully implemented in practice and gives opportunity to controversy. Thus, the legislation needs to be regulated. A new draft is being elaborated, through the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice and the Open Society Foundation Georgia, which will be more complex with renewed international approaches. We will have an updated draft law regulating public information access. A new institution, the Commissioner of Freedom of Information, will also regulate this issue in the future. We hope that it will be a separate institution empowered with the ability of issuing sanctions.

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