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Croatia

Implementing Right to Information (HR0026)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Croatia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Information Commissioner

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Administration, State Public Administration School, Central State Office for the Development of the Digital Society, NGO, Units of local and regional self-government

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, Justice, Justice for OG, Legislation & Regulation, Legislative, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Croatia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Measure 1. IMPROVING THE MEASURE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE ACT ON THE RIGHT TO ACCESS
INFORMATION
Implementation of the measure is under way and will be conducted until 21 August 2020
Leader of the measure INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
Description of the measure
Which public issue does the measure address? In spite of the increased quantity of publicly accessible information on
the internet pages of public authority bodies, and the availability of
information on demand to citizens, they and other users cannot yet rely
on the fact that all information will be easily or quickly accessible. This
is clear from the number of complaints due to administrative silence or
misrepresentations of the provisions of the Act on Access to Information
when approaching public authorities. In effect, this is the consequence
of a lack of knowledge of the pertinent provisions and the inadequate
competences of public authorities, but also the lack of awareness on
the part of citizens regarding their rights. It is necessary to invest in
further structured efforts in the education and standardisation of the
procedures of public authorities, raising the level of awareness of the
Constitution and Act on the Right to Access Information, in order to
guarantee its effective use by citizens, NGOs and the media, and other
social actors. It is necessary to continue to encourage and monitor the
proactive publication of information by public authorities and their
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competent conduct according to the exigencies of existing legal
deadlines.
What does the measure include? The application of the Act on the Right to Access Information and the
exercise of this right depend on proper conduct by the information
provider or public authority, and also on the level of citizens,
associations, and media awareness on how to use the appropriate
mechanisms afforded by the Act. Since most of the educational and
promotional activities of the Information Commissioner from 2013 to the
present day have related to facilitating the capacities of information
providers, an analysis of practice by the Commissioner has revealed
that it is necessary to invest extra efforts in educating citizens, NGOs
and the media.
The main aim is to improve and standardise the conduct of public
authorities according to the Act, reduce the number of user complaints
and level of non-response on the part of administrations, while at the
same time raising the level of knowledge and awareness of the media,
citizens and NGOs on the mechanisms provided by the Act, and how to
use it more effectively.
By implementing training cycles, it is expected that over 200 information
officers and others who participate in creating web content and IT
support will be trained in applying the Act in the first instance procedure,
and that the level of knowledge and awareness of the Act among users
will be raised.
How does the measure contribute to resolving the public
issue?
The measure will contribute to resolving the issue by achieving the
planned indicators of implementation of individual activities within the
measure. It is expected that the implementation of the measure will
raise the awareness of the media, NGOs and citizens regarding this
right. In addition, it is expected that training the staff of public authorities
responsible for providing information on the implementation of the Act
will result in fewer user complaints. Thus, access to information will be
made easier and quicker.
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Why is this measure relevant to the values of the Open
Government Partnership?
The improvement and standardisation of the implementation of the Act
on the Right to Access Information contribute directly to the public
accountability and transparency of public administration.
Additional information The total costs of implementing the measure are HRK 330,000.
The measure responds to problems recognised within the framework of
the Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2015-2020. One of the strategic areas
identified as a horizontal goal is the right to access information. In
addition, the following issue has been highlighted: the lack of respect for
legal provisions relating to official procedure deadlines and the lack of
applying such provisions to resolving requests for access to information
and the reuse of information by public authorities, along with
procedures according to other legal provisions (particularly in regard to
publishing information, public consultations and public debates); the
lack of the institutional capacities of public authorities: the lack of
knowledge of the Act by public authorities and information officers who
are competent for its implementation, the lack of monitoring the
provisions of the Act which would allow problems to be defined and
solutions to be found to correct these, and cooperation with the
Commissioner and submitting reports: the lack of awareness on the part
of citizens on their right to access information and how to protect this
right: the lack of awareness on the part of citizens, the civil and private
sectors on opportunities to reuse information as a new right guaranteed
by the Act; insufficiently regulated access to information for the media,
and the lack of training among journalists regarding the procedure and
their rights in terms of accessing information.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Implementing Right to Information

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

"Measure 1. Improving the Measure for Implementing the Act on the Right to Access Information" [1]

"The main aim is to improve and standardise the conduct of public authorities according to the Act, reduce the number of user complaints and level of non-response on the part of administrations, while at the same time raising the level of knowledge and awareness of the media, citizens and NGOs on the mechanisms provided by the Act, and how to use it more effectively. (…) The total costs of implementing the measure are HRK 330,000."

Milestones:

1.1. Strengthening the awareness of NGOs, journalists and citizens on their right to access information

  • Promotional/educational videos produced (4x3 minutes)
  • Online educational material produced, distributed and published
  • Profiles opened on social media networks with the aim of communicating with users on the right to access information
  • Four online training sessions held annually for users
  • Regular responses to queries from NGOs, the media and citizens received in writing and via the info-telephone
  • Information Commissioner's newsletter for the media distributed four times a year

1.2. Implementing training on the right to access information for officials who apply the provisions of the Act in their work

  • Five training sessions per year held on the right to access information
  • Five webinars per year held on the right to access information
  • Education material distributed and available on the web pages of the Information Commissioner
  • Instructions and opinions on the application of individual provisions of the Act drafted and published
  • At least 200 officials to undergo training

1.3. Encouraging and monitoring the proactive publication of information by public authorities

  • At least four analytical studies produced regarding monitoring the publication of information, covering at least 100 public authorities
  • A self-assessment tool produced for proactive publication
  • Informing officials and public authorities of the findings of the analytical monitoring, which include recommendations for improvements (web publications, email distribution)

Start date: Underway

End date: 21 August 2020

Context and Objectives

The Croatian Parliament adopted the Law on the Right to Access Information in 2013. [2] The law guarantees citizens the right of access to and re-use of information. However, despite the increased quantity of publicly available information, it is not quickly or easily accessible. Difficulties in implementing the law have resulted in unanswered information requests and an increasing number of user complaints, which is attributed to a lack of user awareness as well as lack of literacy on how to apply the regulation among public authorities.

This commitment builds upon activities from the previous two action plans, as well as the 2015–2020 Anti-Corruption Strategy and the accompanying Action Plan. [3] The commitment aims to improve implementation of the Law on the Right to Access Information and reduce the number of government non-responses through: public awareness-raising activities (1.1), training public officials (1.2), and establishing compliance monitoring by public authorities (1.3). The commitment contains specific activities with verifiable outcomes.

The commitment is relevant to access to information as it will improve the release of government-held information. If fully implemented, this commitment has a minor potential impact. While the commitment gives quantitative targets in terms of the number of trainings to be conducted, the number of officials to be trained, and the number of public institutions to be covered in the monitoring, it is unclear if these targets are a major improvement compared to current training and monitoring conducted by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Activities to educate public agencies and the public on this law are continuously undertaken by the Commissioner’s Office. New activities envisaged by the commitment include promotional/educational videos, social networking to promote access to information and communicate with users more directly, drafting and publishing instructions and opinions on particular provisions of the law, analytical studies, and self-assessments.

Next steps

When implementing this commitment, it will be important to ensure that the Information Commissioner’s Office has adequate funding and human resources. It will be particularly important to ensure sufficient resources for monitoring the proactive publication of information by public authorities (Milestone1.3). Implementation of the activities was already underway when the OGP action plan was adopted, and the Information Commissioner’s Office representatives [4] warned that there might be a revision of some milestone activities (e.g., the self-assessment instrument might be revised due to the complicated methodology and technological constraints).

To increase awareness and capacity building, decision-makers from high-level executive agencies should be included in the promotional programs. Additionally, an online platform could collect reports from the monitored public bodies in real-time, thereby facilitating  gathering data on access to information requests and the responses.

[1] Editorial note: The text contained herein is the abridged version of the commitment. The full text is available at: Action Plan for Implementation of the Open Government Partnership Initiative in the Republic of Croatia up to 2020 (OGP, Dec. 2018) 13−18, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Croatia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf. [2] Consolidated text of the law (Croatia), "Right to Information Act," Official Gazette, 25/2003, 85/2015 (Narodne novine, 9 Aug. 2015), https://www.zakon.hr/z/126/Zakon-o-pravu-na-pristup-informacijama. [3] Croatian Parliament, "Anti-Corruption Strategy from 2015-2020" (Narodne novine, 9 Mar. 2015) §5.1.6, https://narodne-novine.nn.hr/clanci/sluzbeni/2015_03_26_545.html; "Right to Information Act" Measures 1 and 3; "Action Plan for 2017 and 2018 accompanying the Anti-Corruption Strategy from 2015-2020" (Ministry of Justice, Jun. 2017) 16 (Activities 42−43), https://pravosudje.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Pravo%20na%20pristup%20informacijama/Akcijski%20plan%20suzbijanja%20korupcije%202017_2018.pdf. [4] Zoran Pičuljan (Information Commissioner), Ina Volmut and Lucija Jadrijević (Office of the Information Commissioner), interview by IRM researcher, 21 Feb. 2019).

Commitments

  1. Implementing Right to Information

    HR0026, 2018, Access to Information

  2. Fiscal Transparency

    HR0027, 2018, Access to Information

  3. Political Finance Transparency

    HR0028, 2018, Capacity Building

  4. Commercial Regulations of Companies Owning Local Governments

    HR0029, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  5. Transparency in NGO Project Finance

    HR0030, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Protection of Persons Reporting Corruption

    HR0031, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  7. Parliamentary Transparency

    HR0032, 2018, E-Government

  8. Media Regulations Framework

    HR0033, 2018, Civic Space

  9. Data Opening

    HR0034, 2018, Access to Information

  10. Raising Awareness About Open Data

    HR0035, 2018, Access to Information

  11. Central State Portal

    HR0036, 2018, E-Government

  12. Public Consultations

    HR0037, 2018, Capacity Building

  13. Implementation of Anti-Corruption Policies by NGOs

    HR0038, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  14. Local and Regional Open Government

    HR0039, 2018, Access to Information

  15. OGP Sustainability

    HR0040, 2018, Capacity Building

  16. Right to Access Information Legislative Framework

    HR0010, 2014, Access to Information

  17. Improving the Implementation of the Right of Access to Information Act

    HR0011, 2014, Access to Information

  18. Starred commitment Proactive Release of Information and Opening Data

    HR0012, 2014, Access to Information

  19. Fiscal Transparency

    HR0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Starred commitment Improvements of Transparency and Efficiency in Public Administration Work

    HR0014, 2014, Capacity Building

  21. Improvement of Transparency of Election and Referendum Campaigns

    HR0015, 2014, E-Government

  22. Transparency in the Area of Youth Policy

    HR0016, 2014, E-Government

  23. Media Transparency

    HR0017, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  24. Improving Transparency of Information on Members of Parliament and Their Work

    HR0018, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  25. Improving Transparency of Data on Assets of Officials

    HR0019, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  26. Starred commitment Improving the Consultation Process with the Interested Public in Legislative Procedures

    HR0020, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Ensuring the Sustainability of Values and Content of the OGP Initiative

    HR0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  28. Starred commitment Participation in Drafting the New Anti-Corruption Strategy

    HR0022, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  29. Regulation of Lobbying

    HR0023, 2014, Capacity Building

  30. Improving Efficiency of the Ministry of Interior's Complaints Commission

    HR0024, 2014, Justice

  31. Promoting Civil Participation in the Work of Civil Society Organizations

    HR0025, 2014, Civic Space

  32. Improving the Content and Transparency of Budgetary Documents: Publish and Update the State Budget Proposal

    HR0001, 2012, Fiscal Openness

  33. Improving Transparency of Business Activity of the Companies of Special State Interest

    HR0002, 2012, Private Sector

  34. Making the Contents of All Budgetary Documents Understandable and Accessible to Citizens

    HR0003, 2012, Fiscal Openness

  35. Improving Accessibility of Local Budget Contents to the Citizens and the Public: Give Recommendations to Local Units to Publish Budget Documents

    HR0004, 2012, Fiscal Openness

  36. Starred commitment Improving the Legislative Framework for Exercising the Right of Access to Information: Amend the Act on the Right of Access to Information

    HR0005, 2012, Access to Information

  37. Starred commitment Improving Access to Information on Expending Public Resources and Contents of Relevant Registers: Implementation of Acts on Political Activity and Campaign Financing

    HR0006, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  38. Ensuring Transparent Work of Public Authority Bodies in the Service of Exercising Citizen Rights: Enhancement of Web Portal with Info on Exercising Rights

    HR0007, 2012, E-Government

  39. Starred commitment Setting up a System of Participatory Drafting and Monitoring of State and Local Budget Implementation: Public Discussions on Budget Allocation

    HR0008, 2012, Fiscal Openness

  40. Starred commitment Improving the Practice of Consulting the Interested Public in Procedures of Adopting New Laws: Amend Procedural Rules

    HR0009, 2012, E-Government

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