Tbilisi City Court fully granted the appeal of IDFI against the Ministry of Internal Affairs. As a result, the Ministry was directed to completely provide the Institute with the information on salary supplements and bonuses received by Minister, Deputy Ministers and Heads of Departments, indicating their names and surnames (by month).
It should be noted that IDFI requested the information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 13th of June, 2014, however, the entity failed to respond to our FOI request and ignored an administrative appeal, after which the Institute referred to Tbilisi City Court with the aim of protecting its rights and freedoms.
While the case was under consideration at Tbilisi City Court, the Ministry tried to lengthen the trial duration in different ways. In several cases the Ministry representatives were absent from hearings. Besides the abovementioned hearings were postponed several times, after the statements were made in the courtroom, according to which representatives of MIA were willing to provide requested information in complete form in the nearest future. In spite of postponing the hearing several times, the Ministry provided the information indicated in the appeal only partially and in incomplete form. Particularly, despite the fact that IDFI requested detailed information on individual salary supplements and bonuses received by public officials (i.e. Minister, Deputy Ministers and Heads of Departments only), Ministry provided us with summed information on the remuneration (salaries, salary supplements and bonuses) received by all high officials of the Ministry, (including heads of Ministry sub-entities and the Border Police) , which made it impossible to get the picture on the information requested by us. Hence, IDFI pursued the claim with the aim of obtaining information on bonuses and salary supplements received by public officials (indicating their names and surnames, by month).
In the given dispute the Court fully granted the appeal of IDFI, referred to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as to the provisions of the Constitution of Georgia and other domestic legislation and made several important rulings particularly:
- The court emphasized a regulation enshrined by the law of Georgia on Personal Data Protection, according to which, personal data processing is possible for specific, clearly defined legal purposes, if this is provided by law, is necessary for the protection of the legitimate interests of a third party, or is essential to protect significant public interest under law.
- According to the rationale of the court, society has the right to be informed on the amount of remuneration paid by public institutions to civil servants. This is an information of high public interest, hence public officials have the obligation to submit asset declarations. In addition article 41,1 of General Administrative Code of Georgia highlights that public bodies have the obligation not to publicize information containing personal data, except for the personal data of high officials.
- The court ruling highlighted that since the Minister, Deputy Ministers and Heads of Department are high officials and submit asset declaration, it is not debatable that remuneration received by for conducting public constitute open public information and must be available to any interested person.
- In addition, the decision emphasizes that job related income includes not only salary, but also bonuses and other economic benefits provided by law. Accordingly, information on salaries. as well as salary supplements and bonuses received by public officials should be available to anyone interested.
We hope that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia will fully enforce the court decision and provide us with complete information on salary supplements and bonuses received by high officials as requested by the Institute. We would also like to express the hope that the following decision will finally set high standard for the openness and accessibility of the information on incomes received by high public officials in Georgia, as this has proved to be one of the problematic issues over the years.
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