September 28 is the international day of freedom of information. In Georgian several organizations work for improving the quality of the freedom of public information. One of them is the Institute of Development of the Freedom of Information (IDFI). Since 2009 this organization has been implementing several projects aimed at better public availability of information.
In 2009, by funding from the Open Society - Georgia Foundation IDFI developed the "Database of Public Information" (opendata.ge), were IDFI uploads the obtained data from public offices about salaries, bonuses, budget, or business trip expenses of authorities. The data is being summarized at the end of each quarter and unified statistics are being created. Anyone interested can see which state body issued public information fully and which did not; or which of them satisfied IDFI's request partially; five people in total work for obtaining public information and uploading it to the website.
"Main reason of requesting the information is to determine weather or not the public agencies feel accountable to the society and to what extend they understand the given responsibility," IDFI Director Giorgi Kldiashvili told media.ge
According to him, two main problems have been identified in the process of requesting public information - first - the incompetence of public authorities: "they just do not know that law obliges them to give out public information" and second - deliberate blocking of issuing information.
According to the data of the first quarter of 2011 the law enforcing bodies are the most closed agencies; these structures name legislation and State interests as the reason of non-issuing information. Kldiashvili says that all the law enforcing bodies receive standard questions and many times it happens that for example the intelligence service issues some information and the defence ministry refrains from issuing the same information. "It is illogical; they are both law enforcing bodies, so if a certain information is of threat for the state security they should both refrain from giving it out," IDFI Director claims.
According to IDFI, cases of inattention to requests happen more often (24%) than refusal of issuing information (3,43%). In such cases IDFI first appeals to an administrative body of the concerned state body and later turns in a lawsuit to court. Currently the organization has turned in four lawsuits to the Tbilisi Court Administrative Board - Lyceum of Cadets, Defense Ministry, Ministry of IDPs, Settlement and Refugees of Georgia and the Ministry of Correction, Probation and Legal Assistance of Georgia. IDFI requests issuing of public information by those state bodies.
NGOs and media representatives often use the data published by the IDFI, but Giorgi Kldiashvili believes that the obtained information is not processed properly; "We are publishing raw data and do not say, for example if certain budgetary expenses are correct or not; those figures can become basis for journalistic investigations; more analysis is necessary," Kldiashvili claims. According to him interest of the society must be increased for improving information availability.
"Population must be interested in knowing for what their taxes are spent for; permanent pressure on public bodies will increase their accountability," Kldiashvili said.
IDFI also works at legislative initiative, in case of adoption of which the state bodies will be obliged to publish public information on their websites proactively.
IDFI has monitored websites of up to 40 public agencies; they have researched the information and electronic availability of the websites: website navigation, search systems, electronic services, security, and integration with social networks and other technical parameters that improves information availability. Analysis of the research results is the basis for summarized rating of electronic transparency. First in the rating is the National Bureau of Execution (36,76%) (www.nbe.gov.ge). Average rating of transparency of other websites is approximately 20%, which according to Kldiashvili is a very low figure, but progress may be seen compared to previous years.
"Last year most of the websites contained presentation type materials; this year they have become more informative," IDFI Director says and claims that one of the main components for improving information availability is operating proper websites and practical publication of data.