Slipping Compliance Prompts Call for Georgia FOI Reform

3 June 2015

The rate of response to freedom of information requests by the Georgian government has dipped recently, according to a new report that urges the government to follow through on a promise to pass a new FOI law.

The description is contained in a chapter of a report,“Government: Georgian Dream’s Performance Review,” was presented on May 28. It covers 20 different areas and was prepared 15 Georgian nongovernmental organizations. The chapter on “Open Governance” was prepared by the Institute for Develoomet of Freedom of Information (IDFI). View the report here.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice made comments on IDFI’s assessments. To read about Ministries’ comments and IDFI’s responses follow this link.

IDFI recalls that prior to 2012, Georgia experienced serious problems in terms of open and accountable governance. “There was a lack of transparency in state projects, and systemic limits on access to public information….” According to the report.

Following political changes resulting from the October 2012 parliamentary elections, “remarkable positive trends were identified in terms of access to public information.”

Studies by IDFI (See latest report) found that before the 2012 elections only 39% of responses to freedom of information requests were provided in full. IDFI summarizes:

This indicator considerably improved during the period between October 2012 and September 2013, reaching 85%. Yet, since October 2013, the percentage of full responses has declined to 71%. In 2014, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance did not provide information that they had themselves publicized in detail at the initial stage of political changes, in the beginning of 2013.

Some recent reform moves were noted, including the adoption of a plan (Resolution 219) for proactive publication of information and a change to the law stipulating that public information can be requested electronically.

The report says:

The number of persons submitting property declarations has expanded, and for the first time includes heads of non-commercial legal entities and limited liability companies founded by the state. Information on simplified procurements is published online on the system of procurements webpage. Information on monies allocated from the reserve funds are proactively released.

IDFI praises the Government’s “continued and active work in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative.”

Georgia’s second action plan, published in September 2014, “reflects proposals proposed by civil society including the development of an online platform for petitions, proactive publication of statistics on secret surveillance, introduction of a monitoring mechanism for property declarations, and enactment of an open data portal.”

“Most importantly, as part of the Open Government Partnership, the Government of Georgia has taken the obligation to elaborate a new Law on Freedom of Information. Adopting this Law is of vital importance for avoiding current and future statutory and practical problems and for introducing high standards of transparency and accountability.”

IDFI recommended passage of a new FOIA law, urged agencies to fulfill their obligation to proactively publish public information, and to development of “mechanisms of effective communication with citizens to secure their participation in the decision-making process.”

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