Report on the activities of the Citizens Network Watchdog Poland performed in 2019

The objective of the Association is to promote and protect human rights and freedom, and civil liberties, as well as activities supporting the development of democracy, and to support monitoring and education activities, in particular those taken by members of the Association and individuals cooperating with them, in order to increase the transparency and integrity of public life, including:

  • to promote free access to public information;
  • to promote public asset management and public policy management that is effective, lawful, transparent and open to civic control;
  • to provide expertise and financial support to individuals and organisations exercising civic control;
  • to take action to promote ethics in public life and anti-corruption activities.
Data relating to the activities of the Association

The General Members’ Meeting was held on June 8-9, 2019. It was a reporting-election meeting during which a new Scrutiny Committee was elected. The new Committee was composed of: Katarzyna Krześniak-Dęga, Krzysztof Kowalik and Zenon Michajłowski. Due to the elections to the Scrutiny Committee, positions on the Ethics Committee remained vacant. The composition of the Management Board, elected in 2017, remained unchanged: President: Szymon Osowski, members: Katarzyna Batko-Tołuć and Bartosz Wilk The Board met on February 11-12, March 19 and November 26, 2019.

The General Members’ Meeting amended the Articles of Association as well. It clarified the obligations of a suspended member (§16a), adjusted the name of the statutory function of director to the actual situation (§26 para. 1) and eliminated the discrepancy concerning the election of the Ethics Committee by removing the option of an open vote (§31 para. 2).

Brief summary of 2019 activities

In 2019, we conducted our regular activities related to broadening transparency – we filed information requests, wrote texts and went to court several times. We took a stand on public issues and influenced legislation somewhat less frequently than in previous years. Admittedly, there were opportunities to do so, but the citizens’ impact had diminished so significantly that we devoted more energy to empowering citizens than to our own attempts at influencing the actions of the government. Taking into account our limited resources for two-pronged action, at the end of 2019, we expanded our team in order to be able to perform advocacy activities with equal effectiveness.

To empower citizens, we promoted transparency awareness and sought to reach new audiences and engage people outside our regular circles of local activists and organizations. We used a data analysis tool ( based on the idea of crowdsourcing, and addressed topics of interest to a wide audience, such as health and clean air. We relaunched the School of Watchdog Initiatives, which had not been organized since 2015. It consists of five training conventions for people who are not involved in exercising public authority but check the authorities’ actions locally. We extended our classroom training activities (other than the Watchdog Initiatives School) to include councillors, officials and people who have stood in elections.

Our activities in figures:
  • 2 804 is the number of total public information requests we sent. This is less than half the number of requests sent in 2018. This number is largely dependent on serial mailings and means that in 2019 we asked more questions to entities other than municipalities, such as hospitals and museums, of which there are fewer.
  • This number of requests includes the number 319. It is the number of individual requests which we sent to specific institutions in 2019. This is much less (47%) than in 2018. The reason for this trend is the increased emphasis placed on data analysis and media outreach.
  • 935 – this is how many cases we received at our free legal clinic. This is 32% more than in 2018. The number of pieces of advice we gave orally, by telephone and on social media, which are not counted by any system, is at least as great.
  • 187 – this is the number of court hearings in the cases we were involved in. This is a 18% increase over 2018.
  • 150 is the number of texts that appeared on our websites. This is more or less as much as in 2018, when we wrote 146 texts. The most read texts had about 3,700 unique views, and a half had at least 370. 28 articles reached more than 1000 views. The time spent on the site is paying off – you can see that readers who enter our website from social media platforms take the time to read the whole text, or at least a large part of it. They can focus on one text even for more than 7 minutes. The texts on which our readers spent more time, on average, are older. They probably see these articles as guides, figuring out how to use them for their purposes. In 2019, sizeable amount of traffic was also generated by the first enrolment for the School of Watchdog Initiatives – nearly 1,200 unique views.
  • 250 is the number of media mentions of our activities, 66% more than in 2018. We also reached out to trade media (22 mentions) and local media (54 mentions). We were mentioned 174 times by national media.
  • 150 is the number of people who attended our training courses and stationary meetings about the right to information and residents’ rights. In 2018, we usually participated in such meetings as guests.
  • 170 is the number of attendances at the webinars we organize. Many people attend several webinars. We did not conduct webinars in 2018.
  • 1500 or more is the number of people we met with at festivals and events we participated in at someone’s invitation. This number is similar every year.
  • 240 is the number of people who helped us analyze documents on and analysed 828 documents in four thematic campaigns. The tool for document analysis was launched in April 2019.

In addition, in 2019, we won the Sector 3.0 Award for our use of technology in the organization’s operations and won the national World Summit Award competition in the “Citizen Engagement” category for our app available at [more in an interview Citizens Network Watchdog Poland checks the facts]


 One of the important directions of our activities is the formation of disclosure-related case law. In 2019, we achieved some important victories.

We are particularly pleased with the ruling concerning video recordings from cameras in front of the Sejm building, which belong to the Marshal’s Guard. It relates to the events of 16 December 2016, when a major crisis took place in the Sejm. The Sejm Chancellery’s Press Office announced that journalists’ access to the Sejm’s work will be restricted. During his speech, one of the opposition MPs put a sheet of paper with Free Media written on it on the lectern, for which the Speaker excluded him from the session. Opposition MPs blocked the lectern in protest, demanding that the MP be reinstated. The Speaker failed to meet this demand and moved the parliamentary session to another room, where MPs voted on bills by raising their hands and without the presence of journalists. It was unclear whether a quorum was attained during that session. At the same time, demonstrations began in front of the Sejm and the police intervened. The ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court stating that recording from the cameras in front of the Sejm constitute public information overturned long-standing case law on “internal documents” to which citizens do not have access, even if they concern very important public matters. A month earlier, in a similar case, the Marshal’s Guard’s recordings of the session itself (i.e. other than recordings from the cameras registering the session) were deemed by the court to be a “technical document”. The problem is that these recordings could constitute evidence of whether or not law was being made according to the rules. The only legal basis for withholding such a document is the existing judicial practice, as the phrases “internal document” or “technical document” do not appear in the law, and the Constitution provides that limitations on disclosure may occur in strictly defined cases of protecting the rights of other persons and entities, as well as public order, security, and the economic interest of the state. The ruling, which states that the recording – since it concerns public affairs – is public information, is a welcome novelty, although it did not have the desired effect and the recording was not made public. This is because the recording of 16 December was overwritten with a different video, although our motion was filed two days after the events at the Sejm, and the recording was probably submitted to the prosecution files of the protesters. We have filed a criminal complaint regarding the destruction of the requested recording. [Another dimension of that topic is the pressure on judiciary – Will Judge Igor Tuleya become martyr of transparency?; How much will the authorities do to hide their abuses of power?]

We noticed positive changes in political parties as well. In 2019, several parties assumed that transparency of funding, which derives from Article 11(2) of the Polish Constitution, is an essential part of their activity.

These included Modern (.N), Left Together (LR), the Greens and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). The approach of the Polish People’s Party (PSL) also changed significantly. We asked these parties about their bank account history and expenditures. We had problems with the two biggest parties – Law and Justice (PiS) and Civic Platform (PO), as well as with Robert Biedroń’s newly established Spring. We have already won court cases against the former two, the case against the latter is still open.

Another important phenomenon is the public interest, weighty questions and changes triggered by the winning cases on the transparency of local government awards. Cases from city halls in Bytom, Elbląg and Wrocław may serve as examples. In Bytom, after years of court proceeding and a criminal case, the new city president disclosed information concerning the awards and their justifications. Elbląg, which was initially willing to share award information on 61 people, eventually disclosed award data related to 400 employees. In Wrocław, on the other hand, due to large discrepancies in the amounts, information about the awards caused a huge media coverage and raised the interest of trade unions.

There was also a lot of local buzz about municipal companies booking VIP lounges at the Energa Gdańsk Stadium. Of course, companies do not brag about it too much. We wanted to receive such information from Gdansk Buses and Trams. The case lasted for over 2 years.

We are proud of our victories related to the disclosure of questions from previous years’ constitutional law exams at the Jagiellonian University and architecture exams at the West Pomeranian University of Technology. Courts extensively discussed the issue of why the disclosure of such questions is important.

We also won against the Polish Football Association. According to the court’s ruling, the Association had to disclose their budgets from numerous years. We received the budgets. This case was pending for eight years.

We also indirectly participated in the case concerning a citizen who was to be punished for recording local council sessions.. We submitted our opinion on the case as an amicus curiae and took care to publicize it. In August 2019, three council committees met in the rural commune of Bielsk Podlaski to debate about revitalization. The meeting was also attended by a resident of the village of Haćki, which is beautifully located and rich in archeological heritage, but also neglected in terms of infrastructure, ageing and poor. No wonder that the topic of revitalization – which, according to information available online, should mean economic and social recovery – might have seemed interesting to him. However, as it turned out, the councillors present at the meeting lay down conditions for the resident’s attendance. And when he pulled out his phone to record the meeting, they called the police. The police, in turn, sent the Court a request to punish the resident for disturbing the meeting. And the summary court issued a reprimand. The resident submitted an objection to the summary judgment and won his case in the district court. The court pointed out that there is a statutory right to attend a municipal council commission meeting. Thus it concluded that a resident may attend council sessions in any way they choose to, and councillors cannot arbitrarily restrict this right. The case from Bielsk Podlaski is an exaggeration of the problems permeating contemporary Polish democracy. Locally, we’ve been seeing such situations for years. And this is the reason why the Polish civil society is insufficiently developed. People are afraid to exercise their rights, and those who do it suffer the consequences. And they rarely have allies. Meanwhile, the authorities have time and money. And unchecked discretion.


Planning a system for data analysis – The masses of data we gather require a huge analytical effort. Looking for a way to improve the analysis of the collected data, we started to cooperate with the social enterprise Gerere Fun for Good, which specialises in gamification, i.e. using game elements for projects involving people in various undertakings. Together we created a service that has elements of a game and is based on crowdsourcing, i.e. on engaging a large group of people in data analysis. In our case, it consists in performing small tasks (reading single answers), which after summing up will produce a solution, i.e. the analysis of all answers from a given monitoring. In 2019, we launched 5 campaigns – topics. We would analyse documents related to these topics together with users. 2 campaigns were finished in 2019; they were summarized by a report and followed by other actions.

Our finished campaigns and follow-up actions concern: the functioning of the ePuap platform in local governments. Recommendations based on the analysis were sent to the Supreme Audit Office and the Ministry of Digital Affairs.

Blocking users on social media pages operated by local governments Thanks to the monitoring, the topic was publicized. Our counselling center started receiving reports. Some of the problems were also dealt with by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which is working on the development of case law on this issue.

In 2019, approximately 240 people joined and analyzed nearly 828 documents in total.

In addition, we take up cross-cutting topics, for which we have so far analyzed data on our own. The biggest topic of 2019 was child and adolescent psychiatry. We won’t give up on this issue; we’re constantly searching for new facts. Now it’s not as much about the state of affairs, as it is about the effectiveness of the government’s actions. We were also involved in the topic of employing people with disabilities in public institutions. We hope that our skills will empower the work of other organizations in this area. We also dealt with the issue of clean air in health resorts. Following the release of the report, we met with Client Earth for further coordinated action.

Topics which we constantly monitor include: transparency in public companies, awards in public institutions and transparency of political parties.


We also provided legal counselling. We register a half of all the pieces of advice we give – the ones given through the on-line system In 2019, we registered 935 pieces of advice. The other half was given orally – on the phone, at training sessions, on Facebook (these concerned simple matters). They were not recorded. Our areas of expertise are residents’ rights, self-government and the right to information. In 2019, we were also able to tag all the pieces of advice collected in the system. This will allow us to carry out analyses and prepare an open Q-and-A for residents, something our clients have been requesting for years.

The first analyses appeared at in 2019. They concern the following topics:

  1. When can an office extend the deadline for responding to a request?
  2. Does age matter when exercising one’s right to information?
  3. Is it always permitted to publish disclosed public information?
  4. Using ePuap before administrative courts
  5. Access to the case file and access to public information
  6. Free access to public information
  7. How much does it cost to file a public information complaint?
  8. Who can have access to applicant data?
  9. Can a law firm respond to a request instead of an institution?
  10. Filing a complaint via ePuap

In 2019, 75% of the cases filed by counselling clients were related to access to public information. In other cases, advice was sought on the sołectwo fund, the powers of councillors, the civic budget and other residents’ rights. In about 5% of cases, we were unable to help because the questions went beyond the scope of our counselling.

The most common problem concerning access to information reported by the clients of the counselling centres was the conviction of public offices that the request concerned processed information (9% of reported cases) and that the data requested by the applicant is not public information (8% of cases). Sometimes there were also people who simply wanted to make sure that the request they had prepared was correct and that they would not encounter the above problems (6% of cases).

Our clients were most interested in topics related to the functioning of public institutions (20% of cases) e.g. contract registers, use of official cars or employees’ vacation and spending public funds (16% of cases) e.g. awarding prizes, scanning invoices or costs of organizing picnics and concerts. There are also other kinds of questions, concerning e.g. the minutes of school board meetings or the purchase of a rescue and firefighting vehicle for a volunteer fire brigade.

We received requests for legal advice from individuals, informal groups, journalists, councillors and officials.

The public institutions most frequently controlled by the clients of our counselling service were municipal, city and district offices (almost half of all cases reported to the counselling service in 2019).

Schools, ministries, universities and the police were asked far less frequently.

We had 11 people on our legal team giving advice, but some of them only worked a few hours a month. We all devote a total of 1.75 FTE to counselling. Our work includes the following activities: answering incoming questions, preparing drafts of letters, joining proceedings, filing amicus curiae briefs, sending speeches to various institutions, including the Ombudsman, and assisting with cassation appeals. In addition, if the client consents to it, we write articles related to the issues we deal with in the counselling center.


In 2019, we took relatively little action to influence the decisions of the government. Together with other organisations, we called for Mr Balázs Hidvéghi not to be appointed as a deputy on the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in the European Parliament. The appeal was addressed to the members of the LIBE Committe

We have also signed a letter to the President of the European Commission, requesting that they immediately file a complaint with the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the Polish disciplinary regime and the provision of security for the duration of the trial.

In 2019, the ruling coalition also introduced changes to increase transparency. In our public speeches we pointed out that the first change, which concerned the transparency of salaries at the National Bank of Poland, was an unnecessary duplication of law. These salaries had already been public under the Polish Constitution and the Access to Public Information Act. We initiated legal proceedings in this matter. The second change concerned the transparency of the property of politicians’ families. The ruling party introduced impossible but impressive solutions. The timing of these changes coincided with parliamentary elections in Poland. After the elections, the President referred the law to the Constitutional Tribunal. We began to investigate where the proposed regulations came from. When it comes to the third law – on the flights of the most important persons in the country – we have submitted our opinion in the legislative process, and after that we undertook a study of the new regulations’ functioning.


One of our main focuses is educating citizens about their rights. We do this in many ways.

The most classic form of education are meetings and trainings. In 2019 we relaunched the School of Watchdog Initiatives. It’s a training course for activists concerned with the quality and transparency of local governments. The training is extensive – it consists of 5 weekend conventions lasting 3 days each. We had completed one edition and started the next one. In total, we recruited 45 people. The first edition was completed by 15 people (out of 21 recruited), 12 of whom are considered graduates meeting all the conditions. Participants must meet excessive independence and impartiality requirements.

In addition to the School, we held longer local meetings – accessible to more people, including councillors and officials. Such meetings took place in Leszno and Żywiec. In addition, we organized several meetings dedicated to specific groups – for young people in Żywiec and for clients of the counselling centers in Warsaw. In total, more than 100 people participated.

We often educate participants at meetings organized by other entities. In 2019, we had the opportunity to participate in 13 such meetings, targeting students, seniors, organizations, street movements, active residents in rural areas and urban movements. These meetings took place in Białobrzegi, Lublin, Lubartów, Ostróda, Ślesin and Sieniawa Żarska, in Warsaw with a group from the Czerwionka-Leszczyny municipality, at the Congress of Urban Movements, Mazovian NGO Forum and at the following universities: Warsaw School of Economics, University of Białystok, Warsaw University of Technology and at the Ombudsman’s Office. A total of about 250 people attended these events.

Another action aimed at active residents were two webinars which we held in 2019. Since one person can attend several webinars, we count “attendances” instead of people. There were 170 attendances in total.

We also conducted educational activities at youth festivals such as Open’er Festival in Gdynia and Pol’n’ Rock (formerly called Przystanek Woodstock) in Kostrzyn nad Odrą and during the celebration of the 30th anniversar of 4 June 1989 in Gdańsk. During each of these events, for several days, our stand is visited by several hundred people. During such meetings we talk a lot, discuss the right to information, give legal advice.

Another form of education are the do-it-yourself tools. In 2019, our legal team updated the public information access pathway at, which tells you what to do in a specific situation related to requesting public information.

Also the app is a tool for educating participants on what to ask the authorities and how various public institutions in Poland function. This is often a motivation to keep going.


Most of our international activities in 2019 were of solidarity nature. As a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, we observed trials of Russian organizations and shared knowledge about the situation in Russia.

Financing of activities


Financed by citizensFinanced with grants
Donations from individuals, contributions, own funds – PLN 101,995.04

Donations from legal persons, mainly from the company MagoVox Sp. z o.o. – PLN 49,404.70

 1% tax from taxpayers – PLN 563,258.36

 Total amount: PLN 714,658.10 (54% of costs)

 The Stefan Batory Foundation – PLN 239,632.69

Sigrid Rausing Trust – PLN 175,804.11

Open Society Foundations for Europe – PLN 179,276.06

Information Society Development Foundation, Sector 3.0 award – PLN 10,500

 Total amount: PLN 605,212.86 (46% of costs)



Type of financingType of costs covered (detailed descriptions under the next graphic)
1% – PLN 563,258.36

 42% of costs of statutory activities

Litigation costs (staff, representatives, court fees)

Education costs (travel, food, accommodation)

Counselling costs (staff)

Salaries of staff responsible for

communication, advertising, program activities and advocacy

Administrative costs

A detailed list of specific expenditures is available in the BIP (Public Information Bulletin). Path: – Assets, management, organization’s policy – Income from 1% of income tax given to public benefit organizations

Donations, contributions, own funds – PLN 101,995.04

8% of costs of statutory activities

Litigation costs (representatives, postal charges)

Salaries of staff responsible for management and program

Costs of fundraising (bank commissions on donations)

Administrative costs

A detailed list of specific expenditures is available in the BIP (Public Information Bulletin). Path: – Assets, management, organization’s policy – Use of donations

Donations from legal entities, including MogoVox – PLN 49,404.70

4% of the costs of statutory activities

Salaries of staff responsible for communication, advertising and program activities.
The Stefan Batory Foundation – PLN 239,632.69

18% of the costs of statutory activities


Education costs – the School of Watchdog Initiatives (travel, food, accommodation, experts)

Managing staff costs
Program staff costs
Staff training

Sigrid Rausing Trust – PLN 175,804.11

13% of the costs of statutory activities

Costs of staff responsible for management, communication and program

Staff training

Management costs (General Members’ Meeting, Board meetings, the costs of hiring employees – health and safety training and medical examinations) Advertising costs (gadgets, leaflets, announcements)

Administrative costs

Open Society Foundations for Europe

PLN 179,276.06

14% of the costs of statutory activities

Implementation of

Costs of staff responsible for communication, advertising and program activities.

Information Society Development Foundation, Sector 3.0 Award – PLN 10,500

1% of the costs of statutory activities

Implementation of
Total costs of statutory activitiesPLN 1,319,870.96


Litigation costs (16% of the budget) are the fees of the lawyers in the permanent legal team, the costs of court fees and reimbursements, and the costs of external attorneys.

Education (17% of the budget) is the cost of experts, travel, food, accommodation, taining rooms, training materials and webinar platform fees.

Communications, advertising, fundraising (17% of the budget) are the salaries of staff who run our social media and the website, prepare newsletters, edit texts and prepare all communications for the organisation. In addition, the cost of advertisements and online promotion, flyers, gadgets, research, translations.

Civic control (12% of the budget) are the costs of developing the service and travel related to on-site civic control (e.g. in municipalities)

Legal counselling costs (9% of the budget) are the salaries of lawyers and the cost of literature and access to on-line legal databases.

Advocacy and program activities (7% of the budget) are mainly staff and travel expenses for attending parliamentary meetings.

Management and development (11% of the budget) are the costs of managing staff, costs associated with the development of the organization and staff, e.g. access to the media and training, costs of the General Members’ Meeting, Board meetings, regular travel, hiring employees – health and safety training and medical examinations.

Administration (11%) is the cost of maintaining IT infrastructure, accounting, office rental and co-working, printing and copying, telephones, security, office supplies and small equipment.

There is a reason why staff costs appear in most of the types of activities described. Without our staff, we would not be able to dedicate ourselves to contacting courts, counselling, requesting information and analyzing the responses we receive, writing texts, discussing on social media, and educating citizens. In 2019, staff costs accounted for 61% of all of the Association’s operating costs. Our salaries and scopes of responsibilities are available in the Public Information Bulletin – Path: – Majątek, zarządzanie, polityka organizacji – Jawne wynagrodzenia (Assets, management, organisation policy – Public salaries)

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