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Georgia

Development of the Freedom of Information Law (GE0048)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice of Georgia; Anti-Corruption Council

Support Institution(s): Parliament of Georgia; Open Society Foundation – Georgia; Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Policy Areas

Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Development of the Freedom of Information Law. Improving legal framework of freedom of information and elaborating new provisions in compliance with international standards which are gradually being implemented, is one of the top priorities for the government of Georgia. In the framework of the first Action Plan of Georgia, decree of the government of Goegira “About the Form of the Electronic Request of Information and Proactive Disclosure of Public Information” was adopted. Through this reform, Georgia became one of seven finalist countries at the “Bright Spots” competition held by the OGP Global Summit in London. The goal of the competition was to demonstrate successful reforms implemented as a result of civil society-government cooperation. At the next stage, the government started more ambitious project of elaborating a stand-along act on freedom of information. To carry out a wide-scale consultations, a special working group comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, civil society, and independent experts was created. This working group carried out an important work: (1) to identified key problematic issues in the field, thematic working groups were established; (2) the first version of the project with potential amendments was drafted and submitted to the Anti-Corruption Council; (3) meetings with the focus groups (judges, journalists, persons responsible for information disclosure) were held; (4) the draft law prepared by the working group was presented to the Ministry of Justice; (5) the draft project underwent primary international expertise. Ministry of Justice will negotiate the draft law with all governmental agencies in the framework of the given Action Plan. After the detailed review of the draft law, in the framework of the Anti-corruption Council activities, Ministry of Justice will conduct one more consultation round with governmental and civil society organizations to finalize the text of the draft law. Implementation date: 2016-2017;

IRM Midterm Status Summary

7. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

Commitment Text:

Improving legal framework of freedom of information and elaborating new provisions in compliance with international standards which are gradually being implemented, is one of the top priorities for the government of Georgia.

In the framework of the first Action Plan of Georgia, decree of the government of Georgia 'About the Form of the Electronic Request of Information and Proactive Disclosure of Public Information' was adopted. Through this reform, Georgia became one of seven finalist countries at the 'Bright Spots' competition held by the OGP Global Summit in London. The goal of the competition was to demonstrate successful reforms implemented as a result of civil society-government cooperation.

At the next stage, the government started more ambitious project of elaborating a stand-along act on freedom of information. To carry out a wide-scale consultations, a special working group comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, civil society, and independent experts was created. This working group carried out an important work: (1) to identified key problematic issues in the field, thematic working groups were established; (2) the first version of the project with potential amendments was drafted and submitted to the Anti-Corruption Council; (3) meetings with the focus groups (judges, journalists, persons responsible for information disclosure) were held; (4) the draft law prepared by the working group was presented to the Ministry of Justice; (5) the draft project underwent primary international expertise.

Ministry of Justice will negotiate the draft law with all governmental agencies in the framework of the given Action Plan. After the detailed review of the draft law, in the framework of the Anti-corruption Council activities, Ministry of Justice will conduct one more consultation round with governmental and civil society organizations to finalize the text of the draft law.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice of Georgia, Anti-Corruption Council

Supporting institution(s): Parliament of Georgia, Open Society Foundation – Georgia, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Start date: Not provided

End date: December 2017

Context and Objectives

This is a pre-existing commitment under which the government pledged to draft a separate Freedom of Information (FoI) law and submit it to Parliament for adoption. As reported in the previous progress report, a working group led jointly by Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) shared the first draft in October 2014. This draft included important innovations, such as introducing an independent oversight body, Freedom of Information Commissioner, with the authority to issue administrative fines to agencies that violate the FoI legislation; creating a unified registry to categorize and manage public information, and allowing quick and simple access to it; expanding the list of agencies responsible for granting access to information, including state-owned enterprises; reducing the number of working days from ten to three for issuing readily available information; and obliging public agencies to explain the damage that could be inflicted on the state and society by publishing the classified information, as well as their obligation to declassify secret information that is in high public demand.[1]

If the provisions of the existing FoI draft are enforced in their current form, specifically those on the new oversight body, sanctions for violations, public interest test, and public agencies’ obligation to publish their data on data.gov.ge, this commitment would have a transformative impact on improving access to information in Georgia.

Completion

At the midterm point, the commitment saw limited implementation since the updated draft was not submitted to the Government. The MoJ put the initial draft, presented in October 2014, on hold for more than two years. Only in May 2017, the Ministry shared the updated draft with all relevant stakeholders, including the Anti-Corruption Council and the members of the working group and the OGP Forum. As mentioned above, the new draft includes many of the provisions from the previous draft, most importantly the enforcement mechanism in the form of the Information Commissioner and the sanctions (administrative fines ranging from GEL 200 to GEL 1000) for violating the obligation of responding to public requests for information and proactive publication among other provisions. In response to the IRM recommendation from the previous progress report, the draft also obliges public agencies to publish and update their information on the unified open data portal, data.gov.ge. Further, citizens will be able to use this portal for submitting online requests for public information that is not proactively published.[2] The MoJ received numerous comments on this draft and they are currently in the process of addressing those comments. The Ministry also holds bilateral meetings with different public agencies to explain them the novelties proposed. The MoJ planned to submit the new draft to the Government by the end of 2017, after which it was to be sent to Parliament.[3]

Next Steps

Stakeholders positively assessed the fact that the updated FoI draft shared by the MoJ is largely based on the previous draft developed by active participation of local civil society and the field experts.[4] They especially commended the government’s commitment to establish an independent oversight body in the face of Freedom of Information Commissioner and to oblige public agencies to publish and update their information in open data format on data.gov.ge. They also prioritized the introduction of public interest test and the unified registry of public information.[5]

That said, stakeholders provided their recommendations for improvement.

  • Transparency International Georgia suggests that provisions of the new FoI law should also apply to companies founded by the state or having 50 percent or more state ownership shares as well as to individual state-funded entrepreneurs performing public functions.
  • The government needs to expand the list of information that needs to be published proactively, including broken-down data on individual salaries, bonuses, and business trip allowances of public servants.
  • Persons appealing against the agency’s refusal to grant information should be able to appeal directly to the Information Commissioner and then to the upper level administrative body and the court. Fourth, the Commissioner’s decisions should be enforced immediately and not within 10 days as envisaged by the draft.[6]
  • The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) recommends the government to define more clearly what type of information can be classified and under what reasons; to declassify personal information in high public demand if the benefit received from disclosing such information is higher than that of keeping it secret; to raise the legitimacy of the Information Commissioner by announcing a new call for competition for this position in case none of the candidates garners the support of the majority of Parliament members; and to impose reasonable sanctions for the repeated violation of the law, which should be higher than those imposed for the first time offense.[7]
  • Stakeholders suggested defining clearly who will be responsible for making the decision on disclosing the classified information based on the public interest test and what specific criteria will be applied in such instances.[8]
  • Finally, although outside of the evaluation period, current ongoing draft amendments to the constitution proposed by the MoJ and having passed the second hearing in December 2017, has been pointed out by CSOs as something problematic[9] since they envision broadening the scope of restrictions to the access to public information through listing additional grounds for denying this access.[10]

[1] Georgia’s IRM Midterm Progress Report 2014-2015, http://bit.ly/2wdTJow.

[2] Ministry of Justice, Draft FoI Law as of May 2017, shared with IRM researcher on 11 September 2017.

[3] Zurab Sanikidze, Head of the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, interview with IRM researcher, 27 July 2017.

[4] Levan Avalishvili, Programs Director at Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), interview with IRM researchers, 25 July 2017.

[5] IRM researchers’ focus group meeting with journalists and researchers, 27 September 2017.

[6] Transparency International Georgia, comments on the FoI draft shared with IRM researcher, 11 August 2017

[7] Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, comments on the FoI draft, 23 May 2017, http://bit.ly/2vRWWPg.

[8] Focus group, September 2017.

[9] Open Society Georgia Foundation, comments on the draft progress report of 2016-2017, December 21, 2017.

[10] Civil.ge, 'New Constitution to Specify Grounds for Restricting Access to Public Information', 15 December 2017, http://bit.ly/2EYw6Fg.


Georgia's Commitments

  1. improved public services

    GE0066, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. citizen engagement platform

    GE0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. unified authentication system

    GE0068, 2018, E-Government

  4. economic governance

    GE0069, 2018, E-Government

  5. environment portal

    GE0070, 2018, E-Government

  6. strengthen anti-corruption institutions

    GE0071, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  7. Monitor SDGs

    GE0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. citizen engagement legislation

    GE0073, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  9. publish court decisions

    GE0074, 2018, E-Government

  10. Increasing transparency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

    GE0075, 2018, E-Government

  11. citizen participation in public finance

    GE0076, 2018, Audits and Controls

  12. transparent public funding system

    GE0077, 2018, Fiscal Transparency

  13. public procurement improvements

    GE0078, 2018, E-Government

  14. housing policy planning

    GE0079, 2018, Land & Spatial Planning

  15. Openness and accountability of state-owned enterprises

    GE0080, 2018, E-Government

  16. transparency and good governance

    GE0081, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  17. open data collection and publication

    GE0082, 2018, E-Government

  18. participation for disabled individuals

    GE0083, 2018, Infrastructure & Transport

  19. Participatory budgeting

    GE0084, 2018, Capacity Building

  20. Your idea for the Zugdidi Mayor

    GE0085, 2018, Capacity Building

  21. electronic services

    GE0086, 2018, E-Government

  22. I. Gov. Zugdidi

    GE0087, 2018, Capacity Building

  23. service and citizen satisfaction assessment

    GE0088, 2018, Capacity Building

  24. Promoting and Monitoring SDGs

    GE0089, 2018, Legislature

  25. Citizen involvement in budget

    GE0090, 2018, E-Government

  26. Technology for Transparency

    GE0091, 2018, E-Government

  27. Citizen Engagement Center

    GE0092, 2018, Capacity Building

  28. Raising Public Awareness about Parliamentary Democracy

    GE0093, 2018, E-Government

  29. Electronic innovations for more transparency and efficiency of Public Procurement

    GE0056, 2016, Capacity Building

  30. Starred commitment Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

    GE0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Introduction of a mobile app as an alternative channel to connect to “112”

    GE0058, 2016, E-Government

  32. Development of local councils for crime prevention

    GE0059, 2016, Public Service Delivery

  33. Development of a Guidebook for Economic Agents

    GE0060, 2016, Capacity Building

  34. Development and introduction of the quality control program of commercial service

    GE0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  35. Presentation of company reports in an electronic form and provision of their accessibility

    GE0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  36. Introduction of an electronic petition portal and “Zugdidi-INFO” on the webpage of Zugdidi Municipality Assembly

    GE0063, 2016, Capacity Building

  37. Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly meetings

    GE0064, 2016, Capacity Building

  38. Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe

    GE0065, 2016, E-Government

  39. Adapting the Public Service Hall to the needs of the people with disabilities

    GE0042, 2016, Capacity Building

  40. Launch of the unified healthcare system information portal

    GE0043, 2016, Capacity Building

  41. Introduction of electronic licensing system in the field of natural resources application

    GE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  42. Creation of spatial (Geographic) data web-portal for the energy sector

    GE0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  43. Creation of innovation ecosystem

    GE0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  44. Electronic portal for registering and disposal of State Property – Customer’s Module

    GE0047, 2016, E-Government

  45. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

    GE0048, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Development of a monitoring and assessment system of the Government policy and legislative acts

    GE0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  47. Starred commitment Introduction of the public officials’ asset declarations monitoring system

    GE0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  48. Establishing unified regulations to publish court decisions

    GE0051, 2016, Judiciary

  49. Development of transparency and integrity strategy and action plan in the field of regional development and infrastructure

    GE0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  50. Improvement of the database of the convicted and transfer of the penitentiary department entirely onto the electronic workflow management

    GE0053, 2016, Capacity Building

  51. Publication of phone tapping data according to the nature of the crime and geographic area

    GE0054, 2016, E-Government

  52. Starred commitment Increasing citizen participation in supervision of public finances (Public Audit)

    GE0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  53. "Voice of the Consumer"

    GE0013, 2014, Public Participation

  54. JUSTdrive

    GE0014, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  55. Educational services

    GE0015, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  56. Citizen's Portal (www.mygov.ge)

    GE0016, 2014, Capacity Building

  57. Transformation of public libraries for regional development

    GE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  58. Digital signature and online authentication

    GE0018, 2014, E-Government

  59. Open data portal (data.gov.ge)

    GE0019, 2014, E-Government

  60. Freedom of information act (FoIA) draft

    GE0020, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  61. Georgia's OGP forum

    GE0021, 2014, OGP

  62. I-Change.ge

    GE0022, 2014, E-Government

  63. Transparency of public service recruitment

    GE0023, 2014, E-Government

  64. Asset declaration monitoring system

    GE0024, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  65. Starred commitment Political party financial declarations

    GE0025, 2014, E-Government

  66. Accessibility of Ministry of Interior's webpage to people with special needs

    GE0026, 2014, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Proactive publishing of surveillance data

    GE0027, 2014, Civic Space

  68. Public awareness of the electoral process

    GE0028, 2014, Capacity Building

  69. Transparency of budgetary processes

    GE0029, 2014, E-Government

  70. Electronic system of procurement

    GE0030, 2014, E-Government

  71. Digital human resource management system

    GE0031, 2014, E-Government

  72. Digital preservation system: E-archive

    GE0032, 2014, E-Government

  73. Openness and accessibility of national archives

    GE0033, 2014, E-Government

  74. Electronic catalogues of Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) archives

    GE0034, 2014, E-Government

  75. Public finance management system

    GE0035, 2014, E-Government

  76. Alternative channels to "112"

    GE0036, 2014, E-Government

  77. Interactive statistics and crime mapping

    GE0037, 2014, E-Government

  78. Travel insurance services

    GE0038, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  79. State property registration

    GE0039, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  80. Development of community centers in Georgia

    GE0040, 2014, E-Government

  81. Introduction of e-governance in local self-governments

    GE0041, 2014, E-Government

  82. Public Service Hall-Hub of Public Services

    GE0001, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  83. E-Governance in Local Governments

    GE0002, 2012, E-Government

  84. Citizens’ Portal

    GE0003, 2012, E-Government

  85. Easily Accessible and Better Healthcare

    GE0004, 2012, E-Government

  86. Launch Ichange.ge and Data.gov.ge

    GE0005, 2012, E-Government

  87. Platform for Participating in the Legislative Process

    GE0006, 2012, E-Government

  88. Citizens and Justice

    GE0007, 2012, Judiciary

  89. Starred commitment Transparent Party Financing

    GE0008, 2012,

  90. Home-grown concept of E-procurement

    GE0009, 2012, E-Government

  91. E-declarations

    GE0010, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  92. Technology Cares for Safety: ICCMS, Crime Mapping, and Safety in Your Neighbourhood

    GE0011, 2012, E-Government

  93. NGO Forum

    GE0012, 2012, Capacity Building