Proactive Disclosure of Public Information on Georgian Public Institution Websites

News | Good Governance | Analysis 18 June 2020

Proactive disclosure of public information is one of the most significant commitments taken by Georgia within the framework of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The importance of proactive disclosure of information became even more apparent this year due to the crisis created by the COVID 19 pandemic when the risks of opaque and irrational disposal of budget funds increased significantly. These risks were further increased by the restrictions imposed on the disclosure of public information during the state of emergency in the country as well as by the emergency procurement procedures (without tender), etc.

 

The list of mandatory proactively published information specified in the Resolution of N219 of the Government of Georgia of August 26, 2013, includes a list of minimum information that should be available to any interested person and ensure proactive transparency of the activities, plans, funding and accounting, procurement and privatization of property, as well as other important information. With this resolution, a certain standard of proactive transparency was established in the country at the initial stage, which needed to be improved in the future. Since 2013, despite numerous recommendations provided by IDFI, the Georgian government has not taken significant steps for improvement. It is important to mention that IDFI's multiple research outlined that most public institutions were unable to ensure the proper fulfillment of the obligations imposed by the government decree.

 

The need to improve the standard set by the government of Georgia has become even more apparent in the light of current events when properly informing the public has become one of the most important mechanisms for preventing the spread of the virus. Taking into account the main challenges in the country as well as international practice, IDFI has developed a list of information that can be proactively published by public institutions during the Covid-19 crisis. It is important to mention that so far, no changes have been made to the existing standard for proactive disclosure of information. Accordingly, under the present report, no changes have been made to the methodology for the study of proactive access to public information.

 

Key Findings

 

- Since 2013, the Georgian government has not taken any significant steps to improve the standard of proactive disclosure of information;

 

- As of May 2020, 17 out of 121 monitored public institutions did not have websites;

 

- 14 public institutions did not have a public information section on their website or did not publish any information in this section;

 

- In 2020, the average compliance rate of proactive accessibility of public information is 55% that is 2% higher than in 2019 and it is 16% lower compared to the same indicator of 2014;

 

- In 2020, only the Parliament of Georgia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had fully (100%) published information in compliance with the requirements of the relevant legal act;

 

- Among central public institutions the lowest compliance was demonstrated by the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture of Georgia (38%) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (40%);

 

- Compared to 2019, 6 out of 13 central public institutions have worsened the rate of proactive disclosure of information;

 

- The average rate of proactive disclosure of public information of subordinate entities and legal entities under public law is 50%, while the average rate of their superior agencies (ministries) is 75%;

 

- Approximately 30% of the agencies subordinated to the Ministries had less than 30% of the required information published on their website;

 

- The most problematic issue remains the publication of information related to the management of finances;

 

- None of the evaluated public institutions had published information in open formats (CSV or XML). 30 public institutions had published specific financial information in Excel format;

 

- The archives of proactively published information in the past years were accessible on the websites of only 59 public institutions.

 

Good Practices and Recommendations

 

Monitoring results of May 2020 strongly outline, that most agencies still fail to provide high standards of public information and consistent publication.

 

The attitude of public institutions towards the completely new, proactive standard of transparency of state agencies introduced in Georgia in 2013 significantly affects the prospects for the further development of the reform.

 

As a result, IDFI's initiatives such as improving the current standard of proactive disclosure of information and implementing the second wave of the reform; posting information in the open data format and committing to posting data on the open data portal - data.gov.ge; Bringing the list of information proactively published by public institutions during the Covid-19 crisis in compliance with the challenges of the pandemic and more; remain without a proper response from the Georgian authorities.

 

In order to improve the quality of proactive disclosure of information, public institutions should take into account IDFI's core recommendations for improving the list of mandatory proactively published information, including defining flexible commitments in crises. Additionally:

 

- Public institutions should provide access to any public information of public interest based on the specifics of their activities. Moreover, it should be required to publish any information that was requested by at least 3 or more individuals within a year;

 

- Public institutions should not be limited to the minimum standard set by the government decree and should publish the information in detail (for example: indicating the names and surnames of officials);

 

- The practice of publishing public information in an open data format and placing it on the data portal on data.gov.ge should be introduced.

 

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This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.

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