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Finland

Access to Information Knowledge in the Public Administration (FI0026)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, Fiscal Openness, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Finland Design Report 2017–2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Taking care of the know-how of the access to information legislation and of the legal praxis that guides its interpretation. This is a way to secure that the interpretation principles are as consistent as possible in the administration. Access to information needs to be the main rule also in practice. Here it is important however to note that there are special areas and special legislation, as an example the security issues of police related to general and individual security. Supporting the know-how of access to information legislation by taking care that it is included in civil servants training and education. At the same time attention will be paid to understandability. Information is not genuinely public if it is not presented in an easy to understand way.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Strengthening the skills and knowledge of access to information legislation in the public administration

 

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

“Taking care of the know-how of the access to information legislation and of the legal praxis that guides its interpretation. This is a way to secure that the interpretation principles are as consistent as possible in the administration. Access to information needs to be the main rule also in practice. Here it is important however to note that there are special areas and special legislation, as an example the security issues of police related to general and individual security.

Supporting the know-how of access to information legislation by taking care that it is included in civil servants training and education. At the same time attention will be paid to understandability. Information is not genuinely public if it is not presented in an easy to understand way.”[Note : Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019 (in English), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/finland-national-action-plan-2017-2019-all-languages/.]

Start Date: Not identified             

End Date: Not identified

Context and Objectives

The commitment seeks to improve understanding of the access to information legislation and principle among government officials. According to two journalists interviewed for this report, there is a need for improvement in the application and know-how of access to information legislation.[Note : Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland. Email interview 20.02.2019. Jyrki Räikkä, Journalist, Helsingin Sanomat. Member of the Open Government Support Group. Email comment 20.02.2019.] According to the international ombudsman of the Union of Finnish Journalists, civil servants are sometimes unknowledgeable of access to information legislation or might interpret the law in a confused manner.[Note : Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland. Email interview 20.02.2019.] Understandability of information is also an issue, along with long response times for access to information requests and potential high fees for information services.[Note : Ibid.]

The commitment addresses the lack of know-how to respond to access to information requests in public administration and the issues surrounding understandability of information. However, it does not directly address the problem of long response times or the high fees associated with access to information requests. The commitment is not verifiable, and it concerns the inner workings of the government without a clear public-facing element. It could be made more concrete by identifying responsible agencies and specific milestones and by increasing its outreach through the inclusion of a public-facing element. The commitment addresses a specific problem in public administration. However, because it only seeks to ensure the adequate execution of the current legal standard, its potential impact does not go beyond minor.

Next steps

The IRM researcher suggests that:

  • The government could provide indicators through which the completion of this commitment is measured, such as data on the decisions made by the Administrative Court on access to information requests.
  • The government could collect feedback on government communication and access to information requests from the civil society and media organisation to better assess the impact of this commitment.[Note : Summary of comments on Finland’s third national action plan submitted during the consultation period 2 February –3 March 2017, p.38, https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/06/Lausuntoyhteenveto-III-toimintaohjelma.pdf.]
  • If this commitment is carried forward, the government could identify government agencies whose funding depends on access to information requests and seek to decrease this dependency.


IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Strengthening the skills and knowledge of access to information legislation in the public administration.

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

“Taking care of the know-how of the access to information legislation and of the legal praxis that guides its interpretation. This is a way to secure that the interpretation principles are as consistent as possible in the administration. Access to information needs to be the main rule also in practice. Here it is important however to note that there are special areas and special legislation, as an example the security issues of police related to general and individual security.

Supporting the know-how of access to information legislation by taking care that it is included in civil servants training and education. At the same time attention will be paid to understandability. Information is not genuinely public if it is not presented in an easy to understand way.” [24]

Start Date: Not identified

End Date: Not identified

IRM Design Report Assessment IRM Implementation Report Assessment
  • Verifiable: No
  • Relevant: Access to information
  • Potential impact: Minor
  • Completion: Complete
  • Did it Open Government? Marginal
  • This commitment sought to improve the level of understanding on access to information legislation among civil servants, through increased training. According to the interviews conducted for the 2017-2019 IRM Design Report, there is currently a clear need for improvement in the application and know-how of access to information legislation in the Finnish public administration. [25] The commitment sought to ensure the adequate execution of the current legal standard set by the Act on the Openness of Government Activities.

    During the implementation period, the Finnish government facilitated in-person and online training for civil servants on access to information legislation. [26] In June 2019, the government committed to strengthening the public administration’s compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities “by setting a stricter obligation for authorities to comply with the Act and the related legal practice and case law in a manner that promotes transparency and by clarifying the sanctions that can be imposed for violations of the Act”. [27] Because the commitment does not outline measures other than civil servant training and education, its implementation status is complete.

    According to the international ombudsman of the Union of Finnish Journalists, journalists continue to face issues regarding inadequate compliance with access to information legislation. [28] Some areas of government work better than others in this policy area, [29] but it is difficult to establish a systematic cross-government evaluation of the current practice or its improvement over the implementation period. [30]

    Overall, the implementation of this commitment saw some change in government practice, but its effect on government openness was marginal.

    [24] Open Government III Action Plan (2017-2019): Finland, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Finland_NAP_2017-2019_EN.pdf [25] Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Finland Design Report 2017– 2019, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Finland_Design-Report_2017-2019_EN.pdf [26] Avoimen hallinnon III toimintaohjelman toimeenpano: Vahvistetaan julkisuuslakiosaamista hallinnossa, Ministry of Finance, https://avoinhallinto.fi/toimeenpano/vahvistetaan-julkisuuslakiosaamista-hallinnossa/ [27] Programme of Prime Minister Antti Rinne’s Government, 6 June 2019, https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/161664/Inclusive%20and%20competent%20Finland_2019_WEB.pdf?sequence=9&isAllowed=y [28] Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland, 7 October 2019. [29] Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland, 7 October 2019. [30] Transparency International – Finland, 30 October 2019.

    Commitments

    1. Improving Understandability and Inclusion of Government Information

      FI0030, 2019, Capacity Building

    2. Open Government Strategy

      FI0031, 2019, Capacity Building

    3. Register of Government Decision-Making

      FI0032, 2019, Anti-Corruption

    4. Open Data and AI Policy

      FI0033, 2019, Access to Information

    5. Supporting Everyone’s Possibility to Participate.

      FI0023, 2017, E-Government

    6. Clear Government Reforms and Services

      FI0024, 2017, Fiscal Openness

    7. Access to Information on Incorporated Public Services

      FI0025, 2017, Access to Information

    8. Access to Information Knowledge in the Public Administration

      FI0026, 2017, Access to Information

    9. Publishing State Procurement Data to Citizens

      FI0027, 2017, Access to Information

    10. Regional Reform Information

      FI0028, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

    11. Training Regional Administration in Open Government Principles

      FI0029, 2017, Capacity Building

    12. Clear Administration

      FI0019, 2015, E-Government

    13. Government as an Enabler

      FI0020, 2015, Access to Information

    14. Open Procedures

      FI0021, 2015, Access to Information

    15. Engage Children, Youth, Elderly

      FI0022, 2015, Open Regulations

    16. Enhancing the Openness of Preparatory Processes

      FI0001, 2013, E-Government

    17. Emphasizing Dialogue Skills in the Job Descriptions of Civil Servants

      FI0002, 2013, Capacity Building

    18. Strengthening Proactive Publishing and Communication

      FI0003, 2013, Capacity Building

    19. Promoting Participatory Budgeting

      FI0004, 2013, Fiscal Openness

    20. Increasing Openness and Customer Orientation in ICT and e-Services Development

      FI0005, 2013, E-Government

    21. Increasing the Number of Open and Online Meetings

      FI0006, 2013, E-Government

    22. Standard Language Titles and Resumes Will Be Drafted of the Government Proposals.

      FI0007, 2013, Capacity Building

    23. Visualization of Decisions

      FI0008, 2013, E-Government

    24. Training Will Be Organised for Civil Servants in Use of Clear Language and Plain Language In- Cluding Committing to Use of Terms Already Known.

      FI0009, 2013, Capacity Building

    25. The Comprehensibility of the Texts Produced by Public Administration Will Be Tested To- Gether with Citizens and Service Users.

      FI0010, 2013, Capacity Building

    26. Standardizing and Clarifying the Terms and Concepts Used in Public Administration and Ser- Vice Production.

      FI0011, 2013, Capacity Building

    27. The Comprehensibility of Customer Letters and Decisions Will Be Enhanced, Especially When Using Standard Texts.

      FI0012, 2013, Capacity Building

    28. Opening and Publishing New Data and Changing Existing Open Data Into a Machine- Readable Form.

      FI0013, 2013, Access to Information

    29. Clear Terms for Use of for Open Data and Knowledge

      FI0014, 2013, Access to Information

    30. Strengthening Skills Needed to Understand Combining Privacy and Open Data and Strength- Ening the Citizen’S Right to His/Her Own Personal Information “The Right to Be Anonymous”

      FI0015, 2013, Access to Information

    31. Tearing Down Barriers of Action of the Civil Society

      FI0016, 2013, Capacity Building

    32. The Proactive Presence and Accessibility of Civil Servants

      FI0017, 2013, Capacity Building

    33. Providing Tools and Training to Organizations

      FI0018, 2013, Capacity Building

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