21 June 2012
By Giorgi Kldiashvili
Kldiashvili is the Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information based in Tbilisi.
The General Administrative Code of Georgia, which regulates the Freedom of Information in Georgia, was adopted in 1999 and was pretty advanced at that moment. Nowadays is a little bit outdated and has some very significant imperfections in means of technological achievements, mostly related to e-Governance and e-Transparency.
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has been advocating for e-Transparency and proactive disclosure of information for more than 3 years. The main project of the IDFI is “Monitoring of Information (Internet) Resources of Public Authorities of Georgia” and the main focus is on proactive disclosure of information.
Websites represent one of the most convenient ways of proactive disclosure. It is important that websites of public agencies are kept updated and provide access to the most important information and documents related to their public services.
Such information, as a minimum standard, includes the structure, charter and the budget of public agencies; information on procurements; contact information of key employees, their remuneration and other information which according to the General Administrative Code of Georgia, belongs to the category that must be made available.
In September 2011 Georgia joined the Open Government Partnership Initiative. CSOs in Georgia focused on freedom of information used the opportunity for pushing forward the issue of legislative regulation of proactive publication of information in the frameworks of OGP.
IDFI, together with the partner organizations (Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and other SCOs) worked with the Ministry of Justice of Georgia on drafting Georgia’s Action Plan for OGP. One of the major accents was made on proactive disclosure of information and legislative regulation of it.
In April 2012 Georgia published its Action Plan for OGP and proactive publication of information was included.
Proactive disclosure of the information is increasingly seen as a tool of decreasing the amount of FOI requests submitted to public agencies while making the information available to significant amount of potential requestors. That’s why it is important that certain information is made available by public agencies prior to submission of the requests.
After first Annual Meeting of OGP member countries in Brazil, where Georgia presented its Action Plan, the process of monitoring of implementation of commitments started in Georgia. Several SCOs formed a forum that has to gather monthly and discuss achievements related to OGP. As one of the very first steps consultations were held at the Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament of Georgia and Ministry of Justice of Georgia on legislation amendments related to proactive disclosure of Information.
New Additions to Code
In May 2012 amendments were made in the General Administrative Code of Georgia (Chapter III) regulating proactive publishing of information.
According to the new amendments new terms were adopted such as “proactive publishing”, “electronic resources” and so on.
Article 27(l) – “Proactive Publication- Placing of socially important public information by public authority on electronic resources according to standard defined by the particular subordinate legislation.” (Unofficial translations by author)
According to the amendments a person responsible for provision of access to public documents at public authorities will also be responsible for proactive publishing of information:
Article 36 - “Administrative body is required to appoint a person responsible for provision of access to public documents and proactive publication of information.”
One of the most important changes was made regarding the form of requesting public information. Before the amendments, request of information was only possible by submitting signed letter of request of information. According to new changes, request of information can be submitted electronically:
Article 37(2) – “Request of information is possible in electronic form by means of electronic resources of public authorities.”
Standards of information that public authorities will be required to publish proactively and also the format of electronic request of information that will be defined by subordinate legislation must be drafted by September 1, 2013:
Article 218 (4) - “Particular administrative bodies (governmental officials) must provide drafting of subordinate legislation defined by Article 28(2) and Article 37(4) of this Code.”
Obligations of public bodies regarding the proactive publishing of information will go into force from September 1, 2013.
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