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Serbia

Amend existing right to information legislation (RS0050)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Serbia Action Plan 2020-2022

Action Plan Cycle: 2020

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government

Support Institution(s):

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Anti Corruption and Integrity, Legislation, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Serbia Action Plan Review 2020-2022

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Pending IRM Review

Potential Impact: Pending IRM Review

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance was adopted in 2004 and amended in 2007, 2009 and 2010, with amendments aimed at improving the text in order to improve implementation or to balance the text with the changes in other regulations in the legal system, for example in connection with the execution of the Commissioner's decisions, changes in the competent ministry for supervision (due to changes in the Law on Ministries), and changes in penal provisions. And if the Law is rated as one of the best in the world in this area by eminent international NGOs, practice has shown that there exists a need to further improve the Law to ensure its full implementation in practice including strengthening the Office of the Commissioner, as we are keeping pace with the principles of Open Administration, in accordance with the new regulations (new LAP, protection of personal data, etc.). One of the most important issues is the proactive publication of information by the authorities in the newsletter, but also the expansion of Contact Information Name of responsible person from implementing agency Mihailo Jovanović Title, Department Director Email and phone mihailo.jovanovic@ite.gov.rs Other Actors Involved State actors involved Government Working Group for Peer Violence CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups Association of Lawyers AEPA 44 the circle of persons covered by the Law, specifying the procedure for election and dismissal of the Commissioner, improving the enforcement of commissioner's decisions, increasing penalties with a law relevant to improving the exercise of the right of access to information of public importance. The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance received a similar number of complaints in 2016, 2017 and 2018, amounting to about 3,500, while during 2019 there was a noticeable increase in the number of complaints filed. The reasons presented in the complaints mostly refer to the cases of the so-called silence by the management, but also submission of a negative answer, without issuing a decision with the reasons for rejecting the request and a lesson on the legal remedy. High percentage of well-founded complaints (above 85%), but also a large percentage of suspended proceedings (over 50%) after the authorities act upon the request of the applicant in the meantime, after learning about the complaint and the required statement by the Commissioner, and before making a decision on the complaint, indicate that the changes in the legal framework make it necessary to influence the administrative bodies to better and more promptly perform their legal obligations. A special working group for the preparation of the text of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance was formed, by the decision of the Minister of State Administration and Local Self-Government, on November 3, 2016. In accordance with the proclaimed principles of transparency in the adoption of regulations and the involvement of the non-governmental sector, the professional public and independent bodies, the Working Group prepared a Draft Law on Amendments to the Law. Cooperation with the Commissioner, meetings with representatives of state bodies, independent bodies, and civil society speak in favor of a transparent and inclusive process. On the working version of the Draft Law on Amendments, public online consultations were held from February 5 to February 15, 2018, which collected over 100 suggestions and proposals by the public and civil sector representatives. Taking into account the received suggestions, the Working Group finalized the Draft Law, after which a public debate was held, from March 22 to April 19, 2018, and within it a Round Table on March 27, where, in addition to members of the Special Working Group, representatives of state bodies, business entities, academia, professional associations, eminent experts in this field, as well as representatives of more than 30 civil society organizations were present. Comparing the number of obligations received on certain proposed solutions and the importance of the issues they regulate, the Ministry did not send the Law to the competent authorities to give their opinions and to the Government to determine the proposal immediately after the public hearing, but rather decided to 45 organize a new round of meetings with activity holders, and together they came up with the best solutions. In the rules of procedure for collecting the opinions of the competent institutions, the text of the Draft Law, given the importance of the area it regulates, was sent to a wide range of state bodies and institutions (a total of 26). The Ministry received all opinions of competent bodies and institutions by April 2019, including the opinion of the European Commission (prepared by SIGMA for the needs of the EC on December 19, 2018). The new Commissioner, Mr. Milan Marinović, was elected in July 2019 and the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government left room to comment on the Draft Law, and the new Commissioner sent new proposals in September that were not subject to previous changes, for which reason the procedure is ongoing.

What is the commitment? It is necessary to amend the Law on Free Access to Information in order to ensure the improvement of respect for the right to access information, as well as the deadlines prescribed by law. At the same time, the obligation to proactively publish information should be improved – through an electronic Information Booklet. The following provisions need to be included in the future Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance: 1. Ensure effective control of the legality of the work of state administration bodies and other subjects of administrative-inspection supervision due to violation of the right to access information of public importance, while respecting the principle of independence of the control body and the principle of good administration; 2. Increase the circle of bodies/persons to which the application of the law applies, both to the newly established ones and to some that have not been covered so far and whose scope requires it; 3. Reduce the number of reasons for rejecting requests due to abuse of rights stated in the Law, such as frequent submission of requests and scope of information; 4. Improve the procedure for the election and termination of the Commissioner’s mandate, the position of the Deputy Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner; 5. Determine the whether or not it is mandatory to obtain the opinion of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection in the process of passing the law if the act contains issues within the scope of this body; 6. Improve the situation in the field of enforcing the Commissioner’s decisions for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection; 46 7. Balance the severity of fines with the Law on Misdemeanors and establish a protective mechanism so that the realized level of the right to access information could not be reduced by other regulations; 8. Establish the obligation of the bodies that are obliged by this Law, to proactively publish information of public importance through the introduction of an electronic Fact Sheet and a single portal that would ensure better implementation.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem? Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance would improve the proactive publication of information of public importance through the introduction of an electronic fact sheet aimed at proactive, timely, complete, uniform publication of information by public authorities. One of the most important amendments to the law envisions the expansion of the circle of persons who are legally obligated to natural persons as executors of public authorities and city municipalities, as well as the introduction of full application of all legal obligations to all persons covered by this law which will, together with the introduction of an electronic fact sheet, contribute to more transparent work of public authorities and the consequent reduction of complaints to the Commissioner for the violation of the right to access information of public importance and at the same time increase respect for the right to access information, which also represents a constitutional category. Adequate supervision over the application of the Law and the application of the institute of enforcement of the Commissioner's decisions would facilitate the exercise of the right to access information. Also, amendments to the Law, in the direction of giving the Commissioner the authority to give an opinion within the law-making process, would prevent the possible reduction of the existing level of exercise and protection of the right to free access in other/special laws. The current weak efficiency of penalties for non-compliance with the law will be solved by doubling the range of fines (from 5,000-50,000 to 10,000- 100,000 dinars), which will provide higher prevention and a more effective purpose of punishment.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? Improving access to information of public importance by amending the Law enables raising the level of exercising freedom of access to information, which is also one of the basic values of the Partnership. Also, a true commitment to better public administration and the fight against corruption necessarily implies transparent work of government bodies. It is precisely through the mentioned amendments to the Law that it would be possible to adequately resolve these issues.

Additional information Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable Start date: End date: 47 1. Finalizing the text of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance In progress IV quarter of 2021 2. Submission of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance to the Government, for consideration and determination of the Draft Law IV quarter of 2021 IV quarter of 2021

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Commitment 8: Access to Information Law Amendment

  • Verifiable: Yes
  • Does it have an open government lens? Yes
  • Potential for results: Modest

  • Commitments

    Open Government Partnership