Georgia Access Regime Needs Fixing, OSI says

8 December 2010

A variety of legislative and administrative recommendations to remedy perceived weaknesses in Georgia’s access to information practices are made in a new report by the Open Society Institute.

The recommendations are an outgroeth of a four-country study in which requestors sought information, with mixed success.

The section on Georgia says the public institutions were not delivering information on time and that their  interpretation of legislation was “poor.” The report says it identified “unreasonable refusal on gaining access to information” and “violation of procedures classifying information as a state or commercial secrecy.”  The process of filing administrative complaints in “complicated,” according to the report and there is “limited availability of public information online.”

The report recommends legislative amendments to impose  administrative fines when information is not delivered within the period prescribed by law and to improve internal procedures regarding public information release described in procedural rules of the public agencies.

The report calls for “reasoned decisions” for denials and liability for public officials who unreasonably refused to provide access to information. It urges disclosure of salaries, bonuses and business trip expenses of public officials.

“Public institutions have to follow the rules of procedure regarding the classification of information related to state or commercial secrecy,” according to the report. It also supports, “Rectification of the 3rd Chapter of the General Administrative Code of Georgia (chapter on Freedom of Information) in which all above propositions and an international practice and experience will be taken into account.”

“Gradual development of the new initiative, The Public Online Information Act, with an aim to expand the public information accessibility onto a official web-space and to enable the development of the public information online resource database by the government,” the report also states. Public officials need to be better trained and agencies should be obligated to define procedures for making requests.

Four-Country Study

The recommendations are contained in a report prepared by the Open Society Institute-Assistance Foundation, Azerbaijan. OSI affiliates in four countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan – made requests for public finance information and contributed to the report.

Hundreds of requests for information were made in the four countries and the results were tabulated and evaluated. The requests were submitted in each country during 2009 and 2010 by journalists, NGOs and citizens. They sought documents, descriptions of procedures and statistics, according to the report.

The highest level of responsiveness was in Georgia (80%) and the lowest in Ukraine (38%). The number of complete answers was the highest in Georgia and Azerbaijan, while in Ukraine only 38 out of 151 inquiries were responded to completely. Georgia also had the highest percentage of timely responses.  In looking at responses from ministries, the report found that “the situation was the best in Ukraine.”

The report is available in Azerbaijani, English and Russian at www.osi.az.

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