The Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has recently published a report for the third round of monitoring of anti-corruption efforts in Georgia. The report covers a wide range of topics directly related to anti-corruption policy, criminalization of corruption and different methods of preventing it. The last part of the report contains a section entirely dedicated to freedom of information. The previous recommendations regarding these issues included designating a public authority responsible for access to information, systematically training officials, determining the list of information to be published proactively and ensuring its implementation, and setting up a centralized electronic system for automatic publication and access to court decisions. The authors of the report found that Georgia is largely compliant to this recommendation, especially since the legislation regarding proactive disclosure of public information went into force on September 1st, 2013. However, a number of issues still need to be resolved to make access to public information easier and more effective. The report incorporates recommendations by several NGOs of Georgia, including the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). IDFI in particular highlighted several problems that need to be resolved. First of all, the legislation needs to specify which institutions and organizations are covered by the duty to provide information; to clarify circumstances under which the fee for requesting information can be waived; giving additional responsibilities to public institutions in regards to access to information and to define exemptions from openness in the legislation. The above issues remain problematic to this date, and the OECD recommends that the Government of Georgia take these suggestions into consideration to achieve higher standards of transparency and openness. The conclusion of this section contains several recommendations, largely based on those provided by IDFI. Specifically, OECD recommends the adoption of a separate Freedom of Information Act that will not be part of the General Administrative Code of Georgia any longer. Secondly, as the Public Defender’s Office is not a very effective oversight institution for enforcement of FOI provisions, a separate public authority should be created to regulate these. The list of information to be published proactively should be expanded and incorporated into the law about proactive disclosure. Lastly, the form of requesting public information electronically should be defined and established in law to ensure uniform practice and easy access for requesters.
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