Increased Proactive Transparency – one more step towards accountable public sector
The right to freedom of information is fundamental human right recognized in international law and guaranteed with the Macedonian Constitution. Freedom of information is connected to better transparency and holding the government to account. The Law on free access to public information provides solid basis for requesting and obtaining information from the institutions i.e. enabling reactive transparency. However, transparency and access to information is also measured by making information available proactively, on the web pages of the institutions.
Article 10 from the Law on free access to public information sets the standards for transparency i.e. lists the type of information that should be made available to the public by information holders. However, the law does not define whether this information should be made public by default i.e. to be published proactively online, or only if requested by citizens. The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information has published Guidelines for proactive transparency, as a two-page document stating the benefits of this proactive transparency. However, the document is not obligatory for the holders of information and there is no information whether the Commission promotes and advocates for implementation of those provisions.
Research on the topic so far shows that Macedonia ranks very low when it comes to proactive transparency. The regional project ACTION SEE,1 showed that Macedonian ministries have been assessed to be the most closed in the entire region, with average of 32% completion under the general indicators of openness.2 The rate for access to information is 37% as the lowest rate in the region.3 The NGO ESE from Skopje is also monitoring reactive and proactive transparency. Their research showed that in 2016, institutions published only 15% of the monitored documents which was even lower by 5% when compared with the availability of documents in the previous 2015 year.4 According to ESE, the Law on free access to public information is being implemented only partially, while the level of proactive transparency is much lower than reactive transparency.5
Looking at the websites of the ministries, it is evident that there is no unified approach towards promoting the right to access to information. Only few institutions have direct link/banner that leads to more information about requesting information (including information about the official mediator persons for implementation of the right to free access to information, the procedure for requesting information, list of available information etc). These institutions are the Government, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. A more common practice is that that this information is found in the section for contact or public relations. At the same time, the quality of information presented varies.
However, the last few months brought positive developments and commitment for improved transparency. The Plan of the Government for urgent democratic reforms called 3-6-9 recognizes the need for opening up information of interest to the public and involves certain measures. In this line, on 31 October 2017 the Government adopted information from the Ministry of Information Society and Administration referring to lists of documents that all ministries are obliged to publish on their websites. These include: strategic plan, budget, adopted reports for budget execution, audit reports, plan for public procurement, organogram, rulebook for systematization of workplaces, list of employees with information on their position and contact email and phone, consolidated texts of laws and bylaws in the area of work of the ministry, any forms that citizens might need in communication with the ministries, tariff list for obtaining real acts, list of information of public character, contact details of the person responsible for public information, rulebook for protected internal reporting contact details of the official person for protected internal reporting, information and contact details about the officer for personal data protection, general contact information of the ministry, list of active registers administrated by the ministry, biographies of the minister, deputy minister and state secretary and online calendar for events. There are certain exceptions for the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of defense due to security reasons.
Moreover, the Government set an obligation for all ministries to publish the requested information within two weeks of the adoption of the decision. Even though with some delays, most of the ministries have published the requested information online. Still, there is no unified approach among the ministries and those documents can be found in different sections. Also, the quality of information varies from institution to institution.
While these steps are indeed a very positive development towards increasing the transparency of the public sector, there is no monitoring mechanism whether the ministries are indeed going to implement this request completely and whether the information is going to be regularly updated or not. In such situation, the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information should step up and start monitoring if all ministries are publishing and updating the necessary information. Also, similar guidelines should be provided to the other information holders. Given that the Commission was set as a safeguard of the right to free access to public information, there is a need of more active engagement and further promotion of the need for proactive transparency in front of all information holders.
Prepared by: Magdalena Lembovska, Research Fellow, Security Policy Programme
1* ACTION SEE stands for "Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in South East Europe”, more can be found on http://opennessindex.actionsee.org
2* Naumovska Nada, Danilovska Dance, Proposal for the improvement of the current state, ACTION SEE,
4* ESE, Reactive transparency, http://www.esem.org.mk/pdf/Publikacii/2017/Reaktivna%20transparentnost%202016.pdf