Transparency and accountability are cornerstones of democratic governance. The Access to Information Programme Foundation (AIP) has been working to provide easier access to government information in Bulgaria for the past 20 years. This year, AIP conducted an audit of governmental websites to determine how proactive the Bulgarian government is in issuing public information, and used its findings to create the “2016 Active Transparency Ratings” and the “2016 Budget, Financial Transparency, and Integrity Map of Municipalities” for Bulgaria.
“AIP was the first in the Central and East European region to develop and apply a website audit methodology with the purpose of pushing for greater active government transparency,” AIP said in a statement about the audits. “The civil audits on active transparency in Bulgaria are part of AIP’s long term strategy to raise public awareness on the right to know and motivate effective implementation of the access to information legislation in the absence of a responsible public body.”
After conducting the audits, AIP published Active Transparency Ratings for the central government, regional governors’ administrations, and municipal governments. Through the audits, 565 government organizations’ websites were assessed on the basis of 118 indicators (126 indicators for municipalities), and 565 electronic requests were made to obtain copies of the documents that regulate the internal record management of each government institution surveyed.
“The AIP audit has created a stimulus for public bodies to implement their obligations for proactive publication of information and to perform better in the Active Transparency Ratings,” AIP continued. “Audited institutions can check their results, comment on them by contacting the AIP research team, and use the indicators to improve their score. Often public bodies contact AIP for specific recommendations for improving their performance. Some have progressed 200 positions ahead in a year.”
AIP measures its mission success by holding the public apparatus of the state accountable and proactive in disseminating information. To celebrate the movement toward greater transparency in Bulgaria, AIP hosted the 14th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Sofia, where it recognized individual citizens, nongovernmental organizations, and journalists who were involved in freedom of information success stories.
“The Golden Key Award for the most efficient use of the APIA by a journalist was presented to Mr. Spas Spasov, a correspondent of Dnevnik daily and Capital weekly in the region of Varna,” AIP said. “He was recognized for his consistent and efficient use of the APIA in his investigation about the municipal budget funds allocated to private media in 10 Bulgarian municipalities and the series of analytical articles he has published as a result.”
The Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony also recognized those governmental bodies performing well in the proactive provision of public information.
“The Municipality of Sliven was recognized as the winner of the 2016 Golden Key Award in the category for an institution which has most efficiently organized the provision of public information,” AIP continued. “The municipality ranks first in the AIP 2016 Active Transparency Rating and has duly and efficiently implemented the new obligations under the APIA introduced with amendments as of December 2015.”
AIP also used the platform of the Right to Know Day to castigate institutions doing a poor job in conforming to public information laws.
“The Padlock anti-award was given to the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers for persistently ignoring the obligations under the APIA for creating and maintaining an Access to Information section on their website, for not responding to the electronic request filed by the AIP within the 2016 Audit on Active Transparency of public bodies, and for not publishing budgets and financial reports on its web site.”