TI BiH: Progress has been made in access to information, but it is still insufficient

TI BiH: Progress has been made in access to information, but it is still insufficient

SARAJEVO, September 28 (FENA) – On the occasion of the International Day of Freedom of Access to Information, Transparency International in BiH (TI BiH) presented the results of research on the transparency of public institutions and public companies, as well as the assessment of COVID-19’s impact on access to information of public importance.

The findings show that progress has been made in accessing information held by public institutions and public enterprises (information on the composition of management bodies with compensation amounts, number of employees, financial reports with accompanying annexes, external audit reports, budget amounts, etc.) compared to previous years, but that this is still insufficient.

TI BiH states that this year slightly less than half of public companies (44.5 percent) submitted answers to the requested information within the legal deadline of 15 days, which is a similar result as in previous years.

In the first year of the survey (2016), only one-third of public companies submitted answers within the legal deadline.

TI BiH, as they say, was forced to file complaints due to the silence of the administrations, or complete ignoring of requests, against little over 100 out of a total of 737 public institutions.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the work of institutions, so it took more than five months to access certain information, while it was virtually impossible to access information on the conditions under which donated medical care has been stored.

TI BiH has not gained access to information on the conditions and manner in which the company Krajinagroup from Banja Luka was hired,  which first offered its premises free of charge for the storage of donated medical care, and finally, at the suggestion of the RS Ministry of Health, the entity Emergency Situations Headquarters made a conclusion on paying rent in a monthly fee of 21,500 KM.

It is added that in the same way, TI BiH could not access information on the procurement of ventilators in the Federation of BiH, “because the FBiH Civil Protection Administration stated in its response that all documentation related to this procurement was seized on May 5 this year by SIPA and Prosecutor’s Office of BiH”.

TI’s global findings show that unhindered access to information of public importance is key to gaining citizens’ trust in the authorities.

The greatest resistance of citizens to comply with health recommendations that reduce the spread of the infection was recorded in cases where authorities had not been transparent in the circumstances of the pandemic.

On the International Day of Freedom of Access to Information, TI BiH reminds the authorities and citizens that the fight against corruption and participation in democratic procedures are impossible if the authorities do not share information about their work with the public.

TI BiH proposes that finally, all laws on freedom of access to information in BiH provide for provisions that oblige public authorities to proactively publish most of the information in their possession. In this way, the inquiries of citizens will be reduced, the work of public administration will be rationalized and transparency and efficiency in their work will be increased,” stated TI BiH.