Project period: July 2022 – June 2025
Financed by America for Bulgaria Foundation










The America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonpolitical American grant-making foundation working in partnership with Bulgarians to strengthen the country’s private sector and related democratic institutions.
ABF builds on the success of the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund, an investment fund created in 1991 by the U.S. Congress with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. For more information, please visit www.us4bg.org.
The statements and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the Access to Information Programme and do not necessarily reflect the views of the America for Bulgaria Foundation or its affiliates.

 

The goal for the project is to continue the advocacy and pressure for more transparent and accountable institutions and encourage citizens to form informed opinion.

 

Activities:

  • Advocacy for legislation and policies
  • in compliance with international standards and court practices
  • Provision of legal aid in access to information cases with a potential to increase government accountability and improve the conditions for business and investment in Bulgaria.
  • Monitoring and advocacy for better access to information implementation practices.
  • Audit on the web sites of the administrative courts and SAC
  • Raising awareness campaign and education on access to information.
  • Communication of all access to information achievements, success stories via the AIP communication channels and the media
  • Participation in national and international networks to exchange experience and increase the scope of advocacy work.

 

 

 

On January 12, 2023, the Access to Information Programme presented certificates to students from the professional program “Public Communications and Information Sciences” at the New Bulgarian University for successfully passing the practical course “Access to Information Public Communications.” 

 

AIP delivers the course in an eigth consecutive year, encompassing the period November 2023 - January 2024. Chairperson of the Board of AIP Dr Gergana Jouleva, AIP executive director Alexander Kashumov and the lawyers from AIP legal team Kiril Terziiski and Stephan Anguelov were the course lecturers. 26 students from BA "Journalism" and "Public Relations" were acquainted with legislation in the field of access to information and with examples from APIA implemention. 

 

The students prepared requests for access to public information and sent them electronically to various institutions. The topics referred to existing problems in the areas in which they live or questions of interest for them. AIP lawyers advised on the formulation of applications and the identification of responsible institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
On December 12, 2023, AIP presented the audit results on the web sites of the administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court at online conference.
 
In the period 16-30 October 2023 the legal team of the Access to Information Programme reviewed and evaluated the websites of the 28 administrative courts in the country and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC). The purpose of the study is to assess how the administrative courts and the SAC perform their obligations for active publication of information on the Internet, as well as obligations related to transparency and accountability.
 
2023 Audit results were launched online on AIP website. On the base of the assessment results of the audit on the websites of 28 administrative courts in the country and the Supreme Administrative Court, the web-based audit system generates a number of ratings:    
Rankings 
Comparative Rankings
Responses to electronic information requests
Provided information
Statistics

During the online conference, representatives from the SAC, administrative courts, the Association of Bulgarian Administrative Judges, the Union of Judges, lawyers, journalists, and citizens actively participated.

 

 

 

21st award ceremony for the International Right To Know Day – 28 September 2023

 

Access to Information Programme presented the annual Freedom of Information Awards to mark the 21stInternational Right to Know Day.  

 

 

 

Call for nominations for Right to Know Day!

The Access to Information Programme has opens the nominations for the six categories of awards to celebrate the International Right to Know Day.

The electronic form for each category and the corresponding nomination criteria are available on the special webpage for September 28 - International Right to Know Day: http://www.righttoknowday.net/nominations/.

We look forward to receiving your nominations by September 15, 2023!

The awards will be presented at a ceremony organized by AIP on September 28, 2023.

 

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AIP presents the Annual report "Access to Information in Bulgaria 2022"

The Access to Information Programme Foundation invites you to an online press conference on July 19, 2023, Wednesday, from 11:00 to 12:00, where the twenty-third annual report on the access to information in Bulgaria will be presented.

The 2022 report includes:
► Recommendations related to the legal framework for access to information and its implementation;
► Assessment of regulations in the field of access to information;
► The state of active transparency for 562 authorities in Bulgaria;
► Analysis of legal assistance provided by AIP in 2022;
► Trends in judicial practices regarding access to information cases supported by AIP in 2022;
► 7 appendices.

REGISTRATION ☞ The press conference will take place on the Zoom platform. Please register your attendance by following this link: https://shorturl.at/clqrW.

 

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Nearly 200 organizations support AIP's position on amendments to the APIA

A total of 192 non-governmental organizations, businesses, and professionals have expressed their support for the critical statement of the Access to Information Programme regarding the draft for amendments to the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) during its second reading.

According to AIP, the proposed texts, which introduce requirements for legal interest from applicants, the obligation to provide personal identification numbers (EGN), and the exclusion of primary accounting documents from the scope of "public information," contradict the Constitution and international standards and significantly diminish the quality of the law.

On June 26, the issue of problematic amendments to the APIA was also raised at a meeting of the Rule of Law Council, of which AIP is a member. In this context, Minister of Justice and co-chair of the Council, Atanas Slavov, assured that the Ministry of Justice would express a negative opinion on these changes. During the meeting, Alexander Kashmov, AIP Executive Director, stated, "None of the 47 European countries requires 'legal interest' to grant access to public information."

AIP's position has also been supported by the reputable international organization "Reporters Without Borders," which released an article expressing concern about the proposed amendments to the APIA, citing AIP's statement.

 
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"The Cost of Access to Information"

The Access to Information Program, in collaboration with the Institute for Market Economics, has prepared a brief report on the topic of "The Cost of Access to Information".

The study was conducted based on interviews with representatives of public institutions obliged under the Access to Public Information Act. The obligations of administrations were examined in three areas:

  • Processing of requests;
  • Active provision of information on the institutional websites;
  • Preparation of annual reports.


The study can be seen as a subsequent assessment of the impact of the Access to Public Information Act. Based on the cost analysis presented in the report, it can be concluded that the benefits of legislation guaranteeing and regulating access to information far outweigh the associated costs.
 
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The aim of the audit is to evaluate the level of compliance of the executive bodies to fulfill their obligations for proactive disclosure of information online under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) and other legal regulations and to assess whether and how they respond to electronic requests.
 
In the lack of a specific public body empowered to coordinate the implementation of the APIA and exercise control, including as relates to the obligations for proactive publication of information, the AIP Audit serves as a model publication scheme for public bodies to increase their active transparency.
 
Audit Methodology
 
The 2023 audit was performed within the period April 1 - June 5, 2023 by AIP team. The web sites of 562 executive bodies on a central, regional, and local level, as well as public-law entities and independent state bodies were reviewed and assessed along a checklist of indicators (see below).
 
Within the audit, 562 electronic requests were filed with the request to provide information about the number of court cases initiated against decisions of the respective public body under the Access to Public Information Act for the year of 2022.
 
The 2023 transparency level was assessed along a checklist of 108 indicators for the primary budget-managing bodies, 118 indicators for the municipalities, and 94 indicators for the territorial units of the central government bodies and for the secondary budget managing bodies.
 
The results were sent for feedback to all the audited institutions on June 6, 2023. The AIP considered all received statements within a given time-frame and reflected all 78 feedback responses in the audit results.
 
The assessment indicators in the checklist are combined in four groups, reflecting:
 
Availability of institutional, organizational, operational, and contact information under Art. 15, Para 1 of the APIA
 
Availability and content of the Access to Information web Section under Art. 15a, Para 2 of the APIA
 
The obligation for launching and maintaining an Access to Information web section with specific content that aims to facilitate the exercise of the right to information is effective since 2008. The 2015 APIA amendments introduced the duty to publish additional information categories online in the ATI web section.
 
Availability of budgets, financial reports, conflict of interest declarations, public procurement information under the Public Finances Act, the Public Procurements Act, the Law on Prevention and Ascertainment of Conflict of Interests
 
Response to the e-request
 
As already mentioned, in this year’s audit AIP’s researchers requested information about the number of court cases initiated against decisions of the respective public body under the Access to Public Information Act for the year of 2022.
 
Results
 
2023 Active Transparency Ratings

 
AIP's internal web based system generates separately the Active Transparency Ratings for the different categories of administrative bodies.
 
The comparative rating of the institutions indicates the positions up or down in the rating, taking into account the results of each institution from the two previous years.
 
The web based audit module generates different types of ratings:
 
• Active Transparency Rating of Central Government Bodies
 
• Active Transparency Rating of Local Government Bodies
 
• Active Transparency Rating of the Regional Governors’ Administrations
 
• Active Transparency of Regional Bodies of Executive Bodies
 
Also, Ratings of agencies, commissions, independent state bodies; Ratings of the institutions by region; Ratings of the regional offices of the Ministry of Interior, of the Ministry of Environment and Waters, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, Foods and Forests, etc.
 
Since 2019, the AIP had the web based audit module upgraded which allows for the generation of the Active Transparency Rating of 265 Municipalities.
 
Another upgrade allowed for the Comparative Ratings to indicate the upward or downward motion in the rating of each institution.
 
Map Visualizing Results of Budget, Financial Transparency and Integrity of Municipalities 2023
 
The results from the implementation of the obligations of the 265 municipalities in Bulgaria to proactively publish information on their budgets, financial reports, conflict of interest declarations, public procurements are visualized in the 2023 Budget, Financial Transparency and Integrity Map of Municipalities of Bulgaria.

Responses to the e-requests and information provided

The AIP publishes the answers to the 562 e-requests filed within the audit (in Bulgarian), as well as the provided information.

The web based audit system also allows for following the statistics on the responses and the provision of the requested information (in Bulgarian).
 
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Annual Meeting 2023 with the AIP coordinators
 
On April 28, 2023, the Access to Information Programme Foundation held its annual meeting with the AIP coordinators of the journalistic network from the country regions.

The AIP coordinators presented their reports on information provision practices and outlined the current state of access to information in the country regions. They shared their own experiences in seeking information from local institutions, specific cases they had worked on over the past year, and their observations on active information provision on the institutions' websites.

On the other hand, the AIP team presented the AIP annual report for 2022, including the ongoing projects, results of advocacy activities and observations on practices, provided legal assistance, awareness campaigns and trainings. The coordinators were informed about the organization's positions and participation in discussions and working groups on draft laws and legislative initiatives. A summary of cases that received legal help during the past year and the most significant cases from judicial practice regarding access to public information were presented. A separate panel was dedicated to Bulgaria's progress on the Fourth National Action Plan unther the Open Government Partnership and the transparency report on Bulgaria's National Recovery and Resilience Plan by the Open Spending EU Coalition project, titled "How Eleven EU Member States Ensured Transparency in the Use of Recovery Funds."

 

7th Alumni Access to Information Class

 

On December 16, 2022, the Access to Information Programme (AIP) presented certificates to students from the professional program “Public Communications and Information Sciences” at the New Bulgarian University for successfully passing the practical course “Access to Information Public Communications.” The AIP delivers the course in a seventh consecutive year, encompassing the period November – December 2022. AIP Executive Director Dr Gergana Jouleva and the lawyers from AIP legal team Kiril Terziiski, Stephan Anguelov and Alexander Kashumov were the course lecturers.

 

26 students from BA "Journalism" and "Public Relations" were acquainted with legislation in the field of access to information and with examples from APIA implemention. The students prepared requests for access to public information and sent them electronically to various institutions. The topics referred to existing problems in the areas in which they live or questions of interest for them. AIP lawyers advised on the formulation of applications and the identification of responsible institutions.

 


12 citizens, journalists, NGOs and institutions received AIP's annual Right to Know Day awards

 

Access to Information Programme presented the annual awards to Freedom of Information Champions in Bulgaria to mark the 20th Right to Know Day/Access to Information Day – 28 September 2022.

 
The ceremony was held online with the participation of about 60 citizens, journalists, representatives of NGOs and public bodies.
 
The awards were presented in six categories – 4 “Golden Keys” and two anti-awards.

 

20th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony

 

The Access to Information Programme (AIP) opened the Call for Nominations for the Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony to be held online on September 28, 2022 in Bulgaria.
The Right to Know Day is the strongest tool in the AIP campaign for encouraging the exercise of the right to information and pushing for enhanced government transparency and accountability.
 
At the Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony, the AIP gives the Golden Key awards to citizens, journalists, and NGOs, who have actively exercised their right of access to information, and to the most open and transparent institutions.
To dishonor bad practices, AIP gives anti-awards for the most non-transparent institution (Padlock) and for a most absurd/funny administrative decision on an access to information request (Tied Key).
 
The 2022 Right to Know Day campaign is within the project Access to Information and Transparency Advice Center, supported by the America for Bulgaria Foundation.