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Albania

Improvement of Database/Portal with Coordinators’ Data of the Right to Information and Transparency Programs (AL0044)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Albania Third Action Plan 2016 – 2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data

Support Institution(s): “Soros” Foundation

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Records Management, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Albania End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Albania Progress Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Currently the Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data has established a central portal for access to information through which citizens are able to make requests for information online and if this right is not fulfilled, they will be able to also complain online. In this portal there will be an expanded database of transparency programs of public authorities through which public information is provided without request, data for coordinators on the right to information and records of such requests and responses. Under this action plan, the portal will improve its module for the publication of complaints and responses that citizens have addressed to institutions under their programs for transparency, portal will also stay up to date with the latest information for these coordinators at each institution. This commitment means providing the possibility to track electronically information and complaints from the interested parties themselves. In this portal there will be an expanded database of transparency programs of public authorities through which public information is provided without request, data for coordinators on the right to information and records of such requests and responses. Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment: The lack of a central registry of applications, the lack of a database with records of the coordinators of the right to information and transparency programs. Main Objective: Providing the possibility of an electronic tracking of requests for information and complaints from the interested parties themselves. In this portal will be an expanded database programs transparency of public authorities through which will be ensured public information without request, as well as data for coordinators’ rights to information and records of requests and answers.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Improve portal for access to information

Commitment Text:

Title: Improvement of database/portal with coordinators’ data of the right to information and transparency programs

Currently the Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data has established a central portal for access to information through which citizens are able to make requests for information online and if this right is not fulfilled, they will be able to also complain online. In this portal there will be an expanded database of transparency programs of public authorities through which public information is provided without request, data for coordinators on the right to information and records of such requests and responses.

Under this action plan, the portal will improve its module for the publication of complaints and responses that citizens have addressed to institutions under their programs for transparency, portal will also stay up to date with the latest information for these coordinators at each institution.

This commitment means providing the possibility to track electronically information and complaints from the interested parties themselves.

Responsible institution: Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data

Supporting institution: Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA)

Start date: 2016 End date: 2018

Editorial Note: For full commitment text, please refer to https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Albania_NAP3_ENG.pdf.

Context and Objectives

The portal http://pyetshtetin.al (in English 'ask the state') was launched by the Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA) in 2015 following the adoption of the new Law on the Right to Information in 2014.[Note45: CFIPPD 2015 annual report states that a number of activities have been implemented with OSFA during 2015, such as training of public authorities’ coordinators of the right to information, Regional Conferences in korca, Vlora, Shkodra etc. The development of the portal was also reported as under way. See Annual Report 2015, http://www.idp.al/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Raporti_Vjetor_2015.pdf.] This is an online platform designed to facilitate procedures for public access to information. The portal was designed and coordinated in close cooperation with the Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data (CFIPPD).[Note46: Information provided by OSFA representative Klodian Seferaj.]

However, the Law on the Right to Information was only recently adopted and there are concerns over the lack of a central registry of applications for access to information and the lack of an updated database with the names of the employees and their contact details (i.e. telephone number and email), both of which would facilitate the implementation of the law. This commitment addresses these concerns by improving the current portal to allow citizens to electronically track their information requests and also track their complaints (if their right to information has not been fulfilled). The portal will also be updated to contain an expanded database on transparency programs and contact information for coordinators.

This commitment is expanding data available to citizens and is improving a module for tracking complaints; therefore, the commitment is relevant to OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation.

While this commitment clearly states its intended outcome, it does not specify how the lead implementing agency will take measurable and verifiable steps to achieve its objective (i.e. creating a complaints mechanism, expanding the current database, etc.). Therefore, the IRM researcher considers this commitment to be of medium specificity.

Although it is a legal obligation to publish and regularly update transparency programs and data of the right to information coordinators, many state institutions especially at local level do not fully comply with this obligation. While the law creates basic preconditions, it does not establish a proactive approach when publishing information. Hence, the potential impact of this commitment is moderate in that it facilitates the implementation of the law. A more transformative commitment, however, would include the guarantee of the government response to public complaints. It is important to mention that the impact of the full implementation of this commitment is largely dependent on the extent to which interested parties—citizens and non-state actors—make use of it and on the extent to which responsible institutions respond to the requests and complaints.

Completion

This commitment was fully implemented within the first year of the OGP action plan, due to the support provided through the project of the Soros Foundation (OSFA) in Albania.

During 2016 the portal incorporated the tracking function, which enables interested parties to check the status of their request for information or complaint if their request has not been fulfilled.[Note47: For access to information requests citizens can use the following link, http://pyetshtetin.al/kerko-informacion/, while for complaints, http://pyetshtetin.al/ankohuni-tek-komisioneri/. ] The portal includes a section on the register of requests which is connected to the register of each state institution at central or local level.[Note48: OSFA portal, http://pyetshtetin.al/rregjistri-i-kerkesave/. ] A register of complaints is also part of the portal and both tools include a search engine.[Note49: OSFA portal, http://pyetshtetin.al/rregjistri-i-ankesave/. ] Few institutions publish what the request was about on the register. An annual register of complaints (searchable) is also available on the portal.

The portal also contains up-to-date information on the coordinators of access to information and transparency programs of state institutions. Easy-to-digest information (manuals, videos etc.) is offered through this portal for the public on how to use the platform and how to exercise their right for free access to information.

Early Results

A comparative analysis of the number of the complaints from 2015 to the first half of 2017 suggests that the number of parties submitting requests and/or complaints through the pyetshtetin.al portal is increasing. A total of 684 complaints were submitted to public authorities in 2016, while in the first five months of 2017 there were nearly 270 complaints, which is almost the same as the number of entries in 2015 for the whole year. The majority of complaints have been solved through mediation, which means that the Commissioner gets in touch with the respective institution and later offers the information to the person submitting the complaint.

Next Steps

In the next action plan, the government should develop a commitment to ensure that the responsible body responds no later than 30 days upon reception of a comment regarding the reason for acceptance or rejection. Furthermore, the law states that the responsible public body should take immediate corrective measures following legal violations. However, it does not provide administrative sanctions for responsible persons who may violate the law. Article 21 should be amended to specifically indicate the administrative measures that should be undertaken by the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data to proportionally reflect the violation.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1. Improve portal for access to information

Commitment Text:

Title: Improvement of database/portal with coordinators’ data of the right to information and transparency programs

Currently the Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data has established a central portal for access to information through which citizens are able to make requests for information online and if this right is not fulfilled, they will be able to also complain online. In this portal there will be an expanded database of transparency programs of public authorities through which public information is provided without request, data for coordinators on the right to information and records of such requests and responses.

Under this action plan, the portal will improve its module for the publication of complaints and responses that citizens have addressed to institutions under their programs for transparency, portal will also stay up to date with the latest information for these coordinators at each institution.

This commitment means providing the possibility to track electronically information and complaints from the interested parties themselves.

Responsible institution: Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data

Supporting institution(s): Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA)

Start date: 2016 End date: 2018

Editorial Note: For full commitment text, please refer to https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Albania_NAP3_ENG.pdf.

Commitment Aim:

In 2014, Albania adopted a new law on the Right to Information. A year later, an online platform (http://www.pyetshtetin.al) was designed and launched by the Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA) and the Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Data (CFIPPD) to simplify procedures for submitting freedom of information requests. This commitment included proactive publication of transparency programs of authorities, as well as creation of an updated database with the names of officials responsible for handling freedom of information requests and their contact details, with the possibility to track responses to submitted requests.

Status

Midterm: Complete

This commitment was fully implemented within the first year of the action plan due to the support provided by OSFA.

As foreseen by the commitment, the portal http://pyetshtetin.al (“Ask the State”) was improved to include tracking of information requests and related complaints from citizens. It incorporated a register of information requests, connected to the register of each state institution at central or local level. [1] The portal also incorporated a register of complaints. Both tools include a search engine. [2]

The portal includes up-to-date information on the coordinators of access to information and transparency programs of state institutions.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

As a result of the new registers, the portal includes statistical data on the number of requests received, the number responded to and the number rejected. In comparison to 2015, the number of requests and/or complaints received through the portal has increased. The majority of complaints (395 out of 560) in 2017 were addressed through the mediation of the Commissioner, for another 66 a decision was issued by the Commissioner, 77 complaints did not fall under the authority of the law, 8 missed the deadline and 14 complaints were incomplete. [3] In 2017, civil society organizations (CSOs) submitted 130 complaints out of 560. Officials from the office of the Commissioner [4] note that in 2018 the number of citizens’ requests has increased significantly and almost equals the number of requests submitted by CSOs, media and other non-state institutions. [5] However, while the portal provides statistics about information requests, it does not provide information on the content of these requests or any other type of overall analysis.

In addition, according to the Commissioner, the central government institutions showed a problematic state of transparency in 2017. Some of the concerns relate to the lack of updated transparency programs, unclear language used in responses or missing attachments in the transparency programs. Therefore, the progress made by the commitment in relation to access to information and the implementation of the Right to Information Law is considered marginal.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report, Albania had not published the next action plan. The IRM researcher recommends that in the future the Albanian government needs to further improve the implementation of the right to information legislation and the functionality of the transparency portal, through complementing the quantitative information with qualitative information about the requests and complaints submitted.

[1] Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA), http://pyetshtetin.al/rregjistri-i-kerkesave/

[2] Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA), web portal, http://pyetshtetin.al/rregjistri-i-ankesave/

[3] Annual Report 2017 of the Commissioner for Freedom of Information, http://www.idp.al/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/RAPORTI_VJETOR_2017.pdf

[4] Amarilda Xhyheri, interview by IRM researcher, 11 December 2018

[5] Online register at https://pyetshtetin.al/rregjistri-i-ankesave/


Commitments

Open Government Partnership