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 standards
In 2012, seven institutions were nominated for the Padlock anti-award.
1. The Ministry of Environment and Waters is traditionally open and accountable and provides information requested by citizens, NGOs, and journalists. It scored well at the Active Transparency Index launched by AIP in March 2012. In most cases, the MEW works well with citizens, journalists and NGOs, and provides requested information. Moreover, the MEW and all its regional inspections join the celebration of the Right to Know Day by holding an “Open Doors” event on September 28.
The grounds for this nomination are a specific case of refused access to information related to a completed project for technical assistance for the construction of a regional waste depot in Yambol. The documents were requested from the Ministry of Environment and Waters, though the Municipality of Yambol had implemented the project.
Other criticism to the MEW with regard to the provision of information was that with the update of the institutional web site, the ministry has moved the information about forthcoming public discussions and Environmental Impact Assessments in a subsection Industry, making the finding of this information not straightforward. Also, the conflict of interests declarations of the MEW officials have been removed, according to the nomination.
2. The Regional Geodesy, Cartography and Cadaster Service in Varna was nominated for the 2012 Padlock anti-award for the incident with the citizen Kancho Bonev, who had requested information about the order by which the status of the Sea Garden of Varna had been changed.
The specific case was that 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.
3. In relation to the above case, the Varna Regional Prosecution Office was also nominated as an institution which violates citizens’ access to information right. The nomination was grounded in the Prosecution’s Indictment Act against the citizen Kancho Bonev for hooliganism. The nomination was sent by another active citizen from the town of Varna, Ms. Kalina Pavlova, who was accompanying Mr. Kancho Bonev in his visit to the Regional Geodesy, Cartography and Cadaster Service – Varna on April 24, 2012.
4. The Sofia Municipality has been traditionally nominated for the anti-award. The reason is that despite the high level of active transparency and the big volume of information on the institutional web site, the administration often does not answer information requests, leaving active citizens of the capital disappointed or determined to litigate against silent and factual refusals.
The 2012 nomination for the Sofia Municipality was made by Ms. Tsvetana Gotcheva, who was also nominated in the category for an active citizen who persistently and consistently uses the Access to Public Information Act. The topic of interest of Ms. Gotcheva is the allocation and sale of municipal grave land. Gotcheva has initiated more than 15 court cases against silent and factual refusals of the Sofia Municipality on her requests. Besides that, her nomination was grounded in the non-execution of court decisions and sending partial information to the requestor with no decision for provision, which makes the appeal before the court difficult or impossible.
5. The Municipality of Harmanli was nominated by AIP coordinator in the region of Haskovo, Bozhidar Sabev.
6.The Council of Ministers was also nominated for a 2012 Padlock anti-award. The nomination came from the Association for Optimization of Justice and Administration – Varna and was specifically for 5 successive refusals, all repealed by the court. The first request dated May 2005, and the last court decision delivered in August 2012.
The requestor inquired about the beginning of the practice to treat pre-election or other correspondence of the ruling party by the Council of Ministers administration, the grounds on which the Council of Ministers processed such kind of correspondence, and the number of letters, petitions, complaints filed by citizens which had been referred by regional headquarters of the party to the Council of Ministers for treatment and response, and how many responses were prepared and sent during 2005.
7. The Supreme Administrative Court was also nominated for its regress with regard to transparency. Information has been removed from its web site, particularly – information about the judges of the SAC, the conflict of interests declarations of the recently appointed administration of the SAC, there is not even information about the Deputy Chairperson of the SAC.