The Citizens Network Watchdog Poland presents its opinion on the new legislation entitled: Openness/Transparency of Public Life.
This opinion mostly focuses on the part of the draft act that concerns access to information. The draft bill concerns much broader phenomena. Overview of the opinions on that by Polish NGOs can be read on the Citizens Observatory’s website.
In our opinion the draft law, in its part concerning access to public information, repeats the existing legislation to a large extent. Howover there is a few significant changes.
There is no necessity to cancel the existing access to information legislation. This causes unnecessary uncertainty and obstacles.
We also refer to two new concepts largely limiting access to information. Introduction of a concept of „persistent requesting”. Institutions may refuse to disclose information if they deem the request has been filed in a ‘persistent’ manner and it would ‘significantly burden the operation of the target entity’. Another problem is that access to public information may be conditioned by payment of a processing fee. A processing fee can be charged under the existing law as well but failure to pay or an appeal against the amount will not prevent access to information. It is not reasonable to make access to information contingent upon a fee because public institutions have other effective instruments of collection after the information has been disclosed. Amendments regarding the fee in the law may effectively discourage citizens from using their right to information.
It is also surprising that old/already processed cases will be considered under the new, less favourable for citizens, law.
We also refer to the unused chances to correct the existing law, i.e. correction of the “public information” definition, definition of the ‘official document” and ordering priority of different access to information procedures.
A good solution connected with a proactive publication of contracts and spending is too limited on the other hand.
We recommend excluding access to information provisions from the draft law and we are open for public discussion on amendments in the existing access to information law. in depth, includes citizens and is based on facts and values. This is something that has been lacking in Poland for several years.
(Post scriptum: Government without explanation stopped working the on the draft law in January 2018)