Publication

Right to public information

The section is prepared by M. Petrov, the candidate of political science, UHHRU analyst.

 

According to “Global Right to Information Rating”, Ukraine is on the list of the most successful countries of the world in terms of legislation perfection in the sphere of access to information (108 points out of 150 and it holds 18th place)[1]. In terms of the level of openness and transparency of powerful structures we hold 19th place in the world[2].

On September 30 representatives of the community network “OPORA” presented the results of another All-Ukrainian measurement – Index of the local government publicity. According to the results of this monitoring, 5 city councils refer to the category of cities with the satisfactory level of publicity: Ivano-Frankivsk (71%), Vinnytsia (70%), Kyiv (69%), Lutsk (67%) and Sumy (63%).

The same day the openness rating of the researched court web-sites was declared, where the leader was Vinnytsia Administrative Court of Appeal of Ukraine web-site with the coefficient of 60.98%, the second place was held by the Court of Appeal of Zhytomyr region (55,83%), the third place – Kharkiv Commercial Court of Appeal (54,71%)[3].

On March 18, 2015 was presented the Transparency International research “Open government in Ukraine: how is it in reality”. The research showed a great disparity between the assessment of legislation quality and its completion. Indeed, laws fully or partially provide 68.4% standards of open government, whereas their appropriate completion – only 51.7% of standards. 40% of legislation norms in Ukraine are not fulfilled at all. The research proved the existent inactivity of people, who almost never appeal against violation of their right to socially important information[4].

Quite an important thing for experts is the review of law enforcement practice regarding access to public information and transparency of government actions, which can be found in the second subject collection of UHHRU “Legal cases that change Ukraine”.[5]

In 2015 Parliament adopted four laws in this sphere. The first one related to amendments to some laws of Ukraine on access to public information in the form of open data. The law provides creation of a unified state web-portal of open data and states that any information released in such web-portal is public information in the form of open data and it is allowed to be used and disseminated. Taking into consideration opportunities offered by this law to public, the value of its adoption is hard to underestimate for further development of Ukrainian society.

The second law “On amendments to article 28 of the Budget Code of Ukraine concerning access to information about budget indexes in the form of open data” provides disclosure of budget requests, quarter and annual reports on Ukrainian State Budget fulfillment, passports of budget programs and reports on fulfillment of passports of budget programs, decisions on local budgets, information about fulfillment of State Budget of Ukraine and local budgets (except for budgets of villages and settlements).

An adopted law “On access to archives of repressive authorities of communistic totalitarian regime of 1917-1991” governs the main principles, guarantees, and ways of realization of state policy on access provision to archival information of repressive authorities.

The fourth law “On amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On address of the citizens” about electronic address and online petition” introduces the mechanism for making individual and collective addresses in electronic form [6].

According to the official website of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine collecting full statistical information on execution of the Law of Ukraine “On access to public information”, 1 mln. 181 thous. addresses from all regions of Ukraine were recorded over the phone and via the Internet in 2014[7]. 1 mln. 727 thous. such addresses were recorded for the period of 10 months of 2015[8].

According to the interview results of 85 executive authorities (17 ministries, 41 central and 25 local executive authorities) they received 41260 requests for information from January 1 to August 31, 2015. Among them: 19291 requests to ministries, 11099 requests to central and 10870 requests to loal executive authorities.

In comparison: from January 1 to August 31, 2014 executive authorities received 28071 requests for information, among them: 14027 requests to ministries, 8971 requests to central and 5073 requests to loal executive authorities.

The biggest number of requests was received by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (6643), Ministry of Justice (3472), Kharkiv Regional State Administration (3092), State Border Guard Service Administration (2901), Kyiv Municipal State Administration (2598), Ministry of Health (1598), State Statistics Service (1556), Ministry of Social Policy (1426), State Fiscal Service (1237), Ministry of Defense (947), Ministry of Education and Science (855), Pension Fund (654), State Enforcement Servicе (663).

A majority of people in 2015 were interested in reference information (9238), information on natural persons (5385), legal information (5228), statistics (4080) and information on goods, work and services (2557).

In 2014 information was quite different: a majority of people were interested in legal information: 15,1% (of the total number of requests), information on natural persons (11,8%), information on natural persons (10,9%) and reference information (9,6%)[9].

Distinctive features in practice of 2015 was that protocols in cases on access violation to public information or violation of the right to address of the citizens are made not by prosecutors, but by representatives of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights[10]. Thus, within the period of 9 months of 2015 experts of the Office of the Ombudsman completed 145 protocols about acts of violation and only 10 of them were dismissed without prejudice by courts[11].

Analysis of court decision shows that from January to November 2015 courts of Ukraine made 340 decisions (by 63% more than during the same period of 2014) on violation of the right to information; 60 (by 53% more than during the same period of 2014) decisions on violation of the procedure of accounting, storage and usage of documents and other information media containing state owned confidential information; 9 decisions (three times more than during the same period of 2014) on legislation violation in the sphere of protection of personal data and 10 decisions (by 30% less than during the same period of 2014) on illegal usage of information that became known to a person as a result of duty performance.

On June 02, 2015 the official website of Verkhovna Rada introduced a service called “Electronic protocol”, by means of which it is possible to see the agenda of meetings, audio and video files, results of voting etc. Similar initiatives were realized by the civil society in the form of “Electronic office of the local inspector”[12].

Experts dealing with researches in the sphere of access to public information state that there are many problems in modern times in Ukraine, the main of which:

  • Lack of answers. Normally, the lower the level of institution you sent your request to, the higher the possibility you don’t get any answer.
  • Procrastinating with answers. According to the law, officials have 5 days to give an answer. In reality, the access issues can last longer because of procrastination to give an answer. The request is usually readdressed to the acting information controller, but only in the evening of the fifth day.
  • Incomplete answer. As experience shows, receiving an answer is only a half of the task, because the answer itself can be incomplete, or partially refer to the question.
  • Demand for money. Instead of sending electronic versions and scanning documents, officials make copies and issue invoices for printing refusing to provide information in any other form. Moreover, some activists even received invoices for filling printers with ink, which were used to print particular documents[13].

 

Conclusions and recommendations

Taking into consideration problems occurring in the process of realization of rights to public information in Ukraine, we consider it expedient to take the following measures:

  • extend the number of institutions and organizations information campaigns conducted for;
  • keep track and spread information about incidents, when assertion of rights to information improved situation of the citizen (so called “success stories”);
  • carry out more educational events for representative of the legal sphere about the use of statutory regulations in the sphere of information;
  • promote development and usage of IT technologies in order to improve operation of officials and simplify the process of their reporting;
  • speed up implementation of electronic government;
  • start implementation of qualitative approach to decision-making, since the existing system often results in non-fulfillment of statutory provisions about access to public information;
  • contribute to strengthening of trust between government authorities and community organizations.

[1] Access to public information: it is possible to do more

[2] An expert roundtable discussion on “Government openness through access to public information” took place in Kyiv http://radako.com.ua/news/v-kiievi-vidbuvsya-ekspertniy-krugliy-stil-na-temu-vidkritist-vladi-cherez-dostup-do

[3] Rating of information transparency: supreme and appeal courts

http://irrp.org.ua/rating_sudy.html

[4] How to save open government? http://ti-ukraine.org/news/oficial/5176.html

[5] Collection “Legal cases that change Ukraine”. Part two  http://helsinki.org.ua/index.php?id=1427278069

[6] Law of Ukraine “On amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On address of the citizens” about electronic address and online petition” http://zakon4.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/577-19

[7] Information about addresses received by the government hot line in 2014 http://ukc.gov.ua/about/diyalnist/317566/

[8] Information about addresses received by the government hot line in the first half of 2015 http://ukc.gov.ua/about/diyalnist/323469/

[9] Operation of executive authorities with requests for public information in 2015 http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/uk/publish/article?art_id=248582136&cat_id=245633708

[10] Protocols about administrative violations of the right to access will be completed by the Ombudsman http://medialaw.org.ua/news/protokoly-pro-administratyvni-porush/

[11] In Vinnytsia region people talked about “Ombudsman” and “Access to the truth” http://fs.edukit.vn.ua/news/id/500

[12] U.Shadska. Electronic cabinet of a local inspector – what is this and suggestions we made to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine http://police-access.info/2015/05/elektronnyj-kabinet-dilnychnoho-inspektora-scho-tse-take-ta-z-yakymy-propozytsiyamy-my-zvernulys-do-mvs-ukrajiny/

[13] D.Slyzkonis. Encyclopedia of excuses: how do officials avoid responding to requests http://life.pravda.com.ua/columns/2015/08/5/198147/

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