The right of access to information is an important human right, necessary
for the enjoyment of other human rights.
The right to information is essential for transparent and accountable
government. The right of access to information makes possible the public
involvement in formulating social policies and in the decision-making
processes of governance
The right to information can only be effectively exercised and implemented
on the basis of laws, regulating this right in accordance with international
Citizen, who has most actively used the Access to Public Information Act (APIA)
Evaluation criteria for citizens:
- Consistency in the search for information;
- Persistency—have all procedures under the APIA been used?;
- Public impact.
Nominations received for the 2012 Right to Know Day Awards:
1. Mr. Ivan Atanassov from the town of Harmanli
Nominated by AIP coordinator in Haskovo, Bozhidar Sabev
Mr. Ivan Atanassov is an owner of the “Sacar news” website and the local “Novini” (News) newspaper. He won two cases under the APIA against the mayor of the town.
The first case was against a refusal of the Mayor Mihail Liskov to provide information on the municipality’s financial audit. Assisted by AIP, Atanassov won the case before the second instance as well– the Supreme Administrative Court.
The second case was initiated against a silent refusal of the mayor of the Municipality of Harmanli to provide information on fees, travel expenses and business trip expenses paid to a lawyer firm from the capital, which was hired by the municipality. A second instance decision is pending on this case.
In addition to the two cases, Atanasov worked actively and has exercised civic and journalistic pressure on all institutions in Harmanli to provide information in due time. The reason for this nomination, made by AIP coordinator in Haskovo, is not just winning the two cases, but the long-lasting and purposeful activity of Atanassov in this direction.
2. Mr. Todor Boychev from the town of Haskovo
Nominated by AIP coordinator in Haskovo, Bozhidar Sabev
Mr. Boychev is a former officer in the army. He has initiated 6 cases under the APIA against different institutions in Bulgaria in order to push his cause that charges to the state may be paid with state stamps which are legitimate means of payment. So that people can avoid commissions to banks for transfer to the institutions.
Boychev is really active as a citizen, constantly bringing actions for access to information. He has won a case against the Minister of Defense regarding information on layoffs in the Bulgarian Army. He has two other dismissed cases on specific requests under the APIA regarding cuts in certain positions.
He has three other cases on different procedural stages against the Regional Prosecutor of Haskovo. One of the litigations is about privacy of personal correspondence of the citizens, the other one is about a refusal for access to information from the prosecutor’s office regarding an investigation of police officers on issuing a false act for a traffic violation. His sixth case is on a refusal for access to files led in the Ministry of Interior.
Actually, Boychev is preparing a seventh case under the APIA again against the Ministry of Defense. He had requested data on the accident with the MiG-29 combat jet, but the answer was brief and did not satisfy him. Todor Boychev is actively working for stopping the vicious practice of passivity and silence of the Bulgarian institutions.
3. Mr. Kancho Bonev from the town of Varna
ominated by AIP coordinator in Varna, Krastina Marinova.
Mr. Kancho Bonev is president of the association “Varna – free economic zone.” He is one of the most active citizens, exercising the right under the APIA regarding the problems with the Sea Garden in Varna which led to a number of civil protests.
On April 24, 2012, the citizen Kancho Bonev went to the Regional Geodesy, Cartography and Cadaster Service in Varna to get the information which he had been granted access by a decision. Eventually, Bonev did not get factual access to the requested information and decided to write his objections in the protocol which was to be signed by the requestor and the provider at the receipt of the information. The Head of the Service declined to countersign the protocol. And when Kancho Bobev tried to leave the building with the protocol unsigned by the Head of the Service, she called the security officer. The meeting ended with Kancho Bonev’s eye-bruise, a night at the arrest and charges for hooliganism raised against him by the Varna Regional Prosecution Office.
The case was described in an article in AIP Newsletter, issue 4, April 2012: Fight and Arrest for a Documents under the APIA
4. Architect Tsvetana Gotcheva, President of the SC of Bulgarian Association for Funerary Culture from Sofia
Nominated by Borislav Petrov – President of the SC of the Association of the Companies in the Burial Industry – Funeral.
Borislav Petrov sent the following nomination letter:
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are nominating architect Tsvetana Gotcheva for the “Golden Key” award in two categories – citizen and NGO. She is a person with clear civic, professional and public views, which she is consistently and tenaciously defending through the years. This is corroborated by the numerous actions under the APIA initiated by her.
Her organization and resilience in litigating on 10-15 of these cases in the same time, winning most of them, fighting for the correct execution of court decisions by using all legally allowed means, even the prosecutor’s office, impress. And all this with a sole purpose – getting to the necessary public information, and further including it in articles, written opinions, texts to different institutions – local, state, judiciary - through APIA requests, filed in her capacity of a citizen, architect, doctor of sciences and President of the SC of Bulgarian Association for Funerary Culture.
We are not aware, even in other industries, not only in our community, of such an erudite defender of justice, who is searching the truth with such conviction as architect Gotcheva. We are not aware of a richer and more purposeful experience with the APIA than hers. We have many times turned to Tsvetana Gotcheva for an opinion, advice, consultation on industry and other problems. We receive an exhaustive answer, useful advice, good-intentioned criticism. This is not only because architect Gotcheva is competent, but because of her ambition to contribute to a positive change in the field of funeral services. Unfortunately, this field is permanently deprived of public attention.
5. Mr. Dimitar Dimitrov from the town of Pleven
Nominated by AIP coordinator in Pleven, Ivanka Vateva.
Mr. Dimitrov is consistently and actively using the Access to Public Information Act for years.
In 2009 and 2010, Dimitrov filed 2 requests under the APIA to the Municipality of Pleven for the number, conditions of use and income generated of the coffee vending machines in town. Although he did not get an exhaustive answer, undoubtedly his request along with the media publications on the subject, was the reason for the local administration to finally put in order the installation of these machines and propose to the Municipal Council to determine a tax for that.
In other three requests for access towards the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Interior – Pleven (RD of MoI), the citizen Dimitrov sought information with which to insist before the Municipality of Pleven for taking decisions in the public interest. The first one is of 2009 about crimes against the property of citizens of some of the villages on the territory of the municipality, notorious for the numerous thefts and robberies in them. The exhaustive information that he received was serving him for insisting for decrease of the funding, given by the municipality, for security in the villages, since the expected effect was not obtained.
The second request to the RD of the MoI is from 2011 about the number of traffic accidents at one of the most neuralgic places in Pleven – the roundabout near the residential area “Storgozia”, because one of the walkways, according to Dimitar Dimitrov, is dangerous for the citizens. In 2012, he requested new information on the same issue but with a broader time period and perimeter, after which he made an inquiry at a session of the Municipal Council of 26 July 2012. As a result of his initiative, the decision was taken and a commitment was made to move the walkway, secure it and make it accessible to people with disabilities, according to Regulation 6 of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, until the start of the new school year in the mid of September 2012.
Reading: Citizen Inquires: Do 10 meteres Count for a Saved Human Life?, “Posrednik” newspaper, 31.07.2012.
Mr. Yulian Tsankov from Sofia
Nominated by Fany Davidova from AIP team.
Mr. Yulian Tsankov seeks information regarding the pricing of thermal energy and in particular how Toplofikacia Sofia (Sofia Central Heating Company) has calculated his heating bill for a certain period of time. He is well acquainted with the regulations on the subject and has led for a long time correspondence with the company, trying to receive specific data on the so called “k-factor”, which is calculated for every single building and is serving for a basis of the calculations of separate bills.
In 2011, with the support of AIP, the citizen filed a request for access to public information to the company, demanding the provision of specific data related to the heating bills calculations. Toplofikacia Sofia refused to provide access to the data, basing its refusal on the assertion that being a trade company it has no obligations under the APIA.
Again with AIP support, Mr. Tsankov filed a complaint against the refusal. With Decision No. 2598 of 14.05.2012 the Administrative Court- Sofia City (ACSC) recognized Toplofikacia Sofia as an obliged subject under the APIA and ordered the executive director of the company to issue an explicit act on the request for access to information. Currently, the company has launched an appeal before the second instance against the decision of the ACSC.
The reason for the nomination is related to the large public effect which is achieved by recognizing Toplofikacia Sofia as an obliged subject under the APIA. Moreover, the citizen has shown tenacity and consistency in seeking information. The problem is that the case is still pending.
7. Ms. Diana Boncheva from the town of Yambol
Nominated by Community Center “Umenie” (Skill) – Yambol.
Although Diana Boncheva is a journalist, the Community Center nominated her for the award in this category because of her active civic stance regarding transparency of the institutions.
As a coordinator for the AIP, Diana Boncheva organizes a number of campaigns and informational meetings with citizens and NGOs in order to promote the Access to Public Information Act and the Protection of Personal Data Act in the region of Yambol. She is helping citizens and associations to receive access to documents related public issues. Furthermore, she is tenaciously and systematically using the act not only as a journalist, but also in order to uncover information and documents on painful issues for the local community like the use of local taxes, the budget and European funds for public works in the city.
In 2011, the Municipal Council – Yambol decreased the waste tax for individuals and companies as a result of uncovered facts and documents by Diana Boncheva, through the APIA, showing that the municipality has unlawfully collected higher taxes and paid to an illegally formed private company. This started a criminal case against the Yambol mayor for malfeasance in office and defrauding the municipal budget for around 1.6 million BGN. Diana Boncheva, again, revealed that a private company has built a water supply pipeline in the city prior to the issuance of a building permit – the mayor was sentenced to jail twice by the Yambol Regional Court for malfeasance in office and damaging the municipal budget for over 2 million BGN. With Boncheva’s cooperation, through a lawsuit against a refusal of information, was opened all the documentation on a scandalous public procurement in Yambol for the renovation of a social facility for 5 million BGN of European funds.
Boncheva is defending in a court case the right of all citizens and organizations to access to the elections protocols. Much more could be added to her successful actions like the case against the Bulgarian National Audit Office on the asset declarations of the people in power – now published online in a digital register, etc. With the help of Boncheva, the Yambol NGOs are able to obtain useful information and documentation related to their work and the implementation of projects.
8. Mr. Nikolay Tsvetkov from the town of Varna
Nominated by Darina Palova from AIP team
Nikolay Tsvetkov is an activists for transparency of government bodies from Varna city, filing requests under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) for several years already, seeking information from local institutions. In a large part of the cases, his access to information requests are addressed to the Varna Municipality, the Regional Directorate for National Construction Control – Varna, the Regional Directorate of the Police and the Municipal Council – Varna. He usually seeks information related to different questions of public interest. Tsvetkov is persistent in defending the right of access to information – if he is refused information verbally, he files a written request. If this is not enough to receive the information, his approach is to discuss any practices contradicting the law with the administration d.
Thus, due to his intervention and that he warned in a timely fashion about irregularities in the work of two institutions, the practices on access to information, running counter to the law, were corrected.
Tsvetkov was nominated for two specific cases. In the first case, when filing a request to the Varna Municipality in March 2012, it turned out that the municipality administration required the provision of the Personal Identification Number (PIN) by the customers of any kind of services, including on requests under the APIA. The reason was the introduction of new software demanding a PIN for every entry. Thanks to Tsvetkov, assisted by the AIP’s coordinator in Varna – Krastina Marinova, who also went to the municipality and filed a request for which the administration demanded her PIN, the municipality’s practice was corrected and the PIN is no longer required from the access to information requesters. The case was described in an article in issue 3 of the AIP Monthly Newsletter: From the coordinators network: Access to Information Request – Filed only Against a PIN.
The second case is concerning the Regional Directorate for National Construction Control – Varna practice of collecting fees for provision of access to information that exceed those prescribed by the law. The signal was again coming from Nikolay Tsvetkov who was asked to pay 2.50 BGN (around 1.65 USD) per page for requested copy of documents. For comparison the Order No. ÇÌÔ – 1472/2011 of the Minister of Finance provides the price of 0.09 BGN (around 6 US cents) per page copy. The Regional Directorate’s explanation was that the costs for provision of information was regulated by Tariff No. 4 of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works on administrative services. After a few conversations with AIP team initiated by Nikolay Tsvetkov, the Regional Directorate’s administration reviewed its position and now payments for the provision of paper copies of information are done according to the Order No. ÇÌÔ – 1472/2011 ã. of the Minister of Finance.
9. Mr. Ivan Dafinov from the town of Kardzhali
Nominated by AIP coordinator in Kardzhali, Ivanka Lambeva
Ivan Dafinov has brought the first access to information case to the Administrative court of Haskovo. Dafinov challenged the refusal of the mayor to provide information about the amount of the collected waste tax and on its spending for cleaning the city and villages. The reason was the unreasonably high waste tax in the municipality and Dafinov’s suspicion that there is fraud and mismanagement.
The Administrative court of Kardzhali ordered the mayor to provide the information sought. Though the municipality is still refusing access to the information, Ivan Dafinov is not giving up. After over 15 visits to the municipality, he won over the stubborn bureaucratic refusal with an even more tenacious civic position.
On the base of the information finally obtained, Dafinov brought the matter to the National Audit Office and the Public Financial Inspection Agency.
Dafinov’s determination and persistency in using the APIA to obtain information was recognized as this is the first case initiated and won under the APIA by a citizen in Kardzhali. That is why AIP coordinator in Kardzhali nominated Dafinov for the award.
His story is covered by two articles in AIP Monthly Newsletter:
Request Adventure: Ivan Dafinov v. Hassan Azis – The First APIA case in the Administrative court – Haskovo , AIP FOI Newsletter, issue 3 (99), 2012.
Breakthroughs: Ivan Dafinov Won for the Truth: 4 months after the court decision, the municipality disclosed information about the high waste tax in Kardzali, AIP FOI Newsletter, issue 5 (102), 2012.
10. Mr. William Popov from Sofia
Nominated by Alexander Kashumov from AIP team
William Popov has been active in the access to information field for years. As a result of his requests and initiatives positive administrative and court practice has been created. He has won the 2006 “Golden Key” award and three diplomas for 2003, 2004 and 2005. He is continuing the filing of requests and litigating, even though this is ever more difficult, as he has been burdened with the financial costs after losing access to information court cases. The latter approach is the latest tool of the administrative bodies to discourage citizens to use the APIA.
In the beginning of 2012, Popov presented a book , written on the basis of information obtained through the APIA, about the work of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria and his administration.
The reason for his recognition in 2012 is connected to the public effect he has achieved of using the APIA. He has successfully convinced the members of a parliamentary inquiry committee to summon for hearing the President Parvanov by presenting data in reports and other documents obtained through the APIA.
“The ad hoc Inquiry Committee on elucidation of the facts and circumstances published by the media on the lobbying scandal related to the government of the “tripartite coalition” and the 1.5 million euro paid to the Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger, decided to invite to a hearing Georgi Parvanov, BTA reported. The proposal was made by the citizen William Popov, who briefed today the committee members on the documentation that he obtained as a citizen, on the Hochegger contract case. A few days ago it became clear that Popov wrote a letter to the National Assembly and was monitoring closely the process.”