The messenger logo

IDFI claims access to public information has increased

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 13
On September 12th, the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) gave their list of the most of transparent and opaque public institutions in Georgia. The organization made estimates on the availability of public information in Georgia as part of the Public Information Database project supported and financed by the Open Society Georgia foundation. The meeting was attended by the prime minister of Georgia, ministers, state officials and civil sector representatives. The survey conducted by IDFI covers the period from July 2012 to July 2013.

IDFI representatives claimed that the period enabled them to assess the situation regarding access to public information before and after the parliamentary elections of October 2012.

The organization stressed that the presentation was the first time that high-ranking government officials had taken part. According to IDFI, the former UNM government disliked their activities.

"Delivering public information has improved under the current government of Georgia." IDFI member Levan Avalishvili stated. He explained that as part of the project, 5625 applications were sent to 224 government institutions asking for public information.

Avalishvili stated that IDFI received complete answers to 3830 applications, incomplete answers to 389 requests, rejection in 42 cases, no answer in 576 cases and 788 cases where institutions reported that they did not have the requested information. IDFI claimed that the maximum legal time for delivering information was 10 days. Avalishvili explained that some institutions delivered information but not in the appropriate time frame.

"According to our data, since the parliamentary elections a positive trend in releasing public information has been observed. The 51% share of complete answers that existed before the elections has increased to 81% and unanswered requests reduced from 30% to 11 %. Significant progress has been made as well in terms of the 10 day compliance. The 10 day time limit was violated in 54% of cases of requests sent before the parliamentary elections and in 27% of cases since the elections." Avalishvili stated.

IDFI cited a number of ministries as having released information within the 10 day limit. Among those were the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Reintegration, the Ministry of Health of Adjara and the Ministry of Education of Adjara. The municipal governments of Kvareli, Dmanisi and Tkibuli were also cited as being transparent. The Georgian Public Defender's Office, the Police Academy and the Service Agency of the Ministry of Finance were also listed among the most transparent public institutions in Georgia.

The Georgian Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission, Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University and the municipal governments of Bolnisi and Gardabani were cited as the most opaque public institutions.

Keti Khutsishvili, head of Open Society Georgia, welcomed developments. However, she cautioned that the relative transparency of public information given might be linked with the fact that the requested information was mainly related with the activities of the previous government. Khutsishvili stated that public information should always be easily available so that public institutions can be held accountable for their actions. She said that the issue should be regulated through legislation.

IDFI Director Giorgi Kldiashvili stressed government goodwill and its openness towards the civil sector.

He emphasized that the civil sector should always be alert to state institutions and the government should support and encourage the activities of the civil sector.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili thanked the organization for the interesting and helpful survey, stating that the main aim of the current government is to be transparent, open and fair.

"Controlling transparent government is much easier...the former government released information that would not implicate them of wrongdoing. Millions of lari were spent illegally and the relevant documents were filed as classified." Ivanishvili stated.

The United National Movement has frequently stated that the former UNM government always acted transparently and legally. They have always stressed that the UNM government did not use state funds for personal profit. The Messenger has tried to contact UNM representatives regarding this issue but has not been able to get an answer yet.

Journalist Zviad Koridze stated that any negative hint or statement from the officials regarding delivering of public information should be reacted from the very beginning. He spoke on the article in Batumelebi reported how much money the Adjarian government spent on Batumoba. Koridze explained that certain employees of the Adjara government negatively assessed the article, calling it unpatriotic. Koridze added that the article cited public information about the Adjaran government's budget.