Access to Information Programme
CASES REFERRED TO AIP FOR LEGAL ADVICE AND CONSULTATION DURING 2015  
 
In 2015, in some cases the AIP provided legal assistance at the initial stage of seeking information, when the legal team provided advice and/or prepared a request for access to information. In another category of cases legal help was provided following an already issued refusal of access to public information.
 
An essential part of the legal aid provided by the AIP’s legal team is the preparation of complaints to the court and representation of requesters in court.

 

Number of Cases Referred for Legal Help


The number of cases referred to AIP for legal help within the period January – December 2015 is 321.[1] 16cases were referred from AIP coordinators in the country. In the rest, the information seekers have requested assistance in our office, by e-mail, or by phone.

Depending on the characteristics and the legal qualification, three types of cases are identified:

  • The majority are related to practices of non-fulfillment of the Access to Public Information Act obligations by public bodies – 290 instances;
  • Next largest group of cases is related to violations of the right of personal data protection granted by the Personal Data Protection Act – 13 instances;
  • In a few cases, we have given legal advice with regard to violation of the fundamental right to seek, receive and impart information – 11 instances.

Most Active Groups of Information Seekers

 

AIP experience shows that most frequently the APIA is used by citizens, journalists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In 2015, the largest number of consultations was provided to citizens who had sought the assistance of AIP in 141 instances. In 86 cases, NGOs asked for legal assistance, while 67 cases were referred to AIP by journalists and AIP coordinators (all of them journalists) from central and local media. In 19 cases, the legal team of AIP was approached for legal advice by public officials.
 
From Which Public Bodies Do Information Seekers Mainly Request Information?

The number of cases in which information seekers request information from the central executive bodies and the local self-government bodies (mayors and municipal councils) is the largest - 117 and 96 cases respectively.
Less frequently, information was sought from public-law bodies and organizations – in 16 cases, regional units of the central executive bodies – 13 cases, the judicial power bodies – 25, independent government bodies – 9, etc.
There are 25 registered cases in AIP data base with no corresponding institution. These are cases in which our team has been approached for a generalal advice on the law or on the litigation process.
 
Most Frequently Used Grounds for Refusal

 

In 2015, the number of registered silent refusals remains high – 24. Out of the grounded refusals, the most are related to the third party interests’ exemption – 24, and the personal data protection – 15. The preparatory documents exception under Art. 13, Para. 2 of the APIA gave grounds to 10 refusals and the trade secret exemption – to two.
 
Frequently sought information

 

During 2015, the AIP team provided legal help in cases which aimed to reveal different types of information, the most frequently sought being in the following areas:
 
Information of Public Money Spending

  • A request to the Regional Healt Insurance Fund about the amounts paid to the medical institutions in the Region of Smolyan in 2014;
  • A request to the Ministry of Interiror about the amount of money spent for the seeking of the former Chairperson of the State Agency for National Security Petko Sertov;[2]
  • A request to the Ministry of Culture regarding the exhibition “The Saga of the Thracian Kings” held in the Louvre in Paris in April 2015 – budget, sponsors, etc.
  • A request to the Regional Governor’s Administration – Vratsa about its new official web site – which is the company that developed it; what was the budget spent, etc.
  • A request to the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works about the allocated funds for the emergency repair of the water line Dobridol – Lom and the measures undertaken by the ministry against the incompliance with the contract by the contracted company;
  • A request to the Municipality of Pernik about the documentation on the terms of reference and the implementation of the project „The Family in Focus”, supported by a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development;
  • Municipal subsidy spending by the community center “Ivan Vazov” in the municipality of Sofia;
  • Contracts and annexes signed by the Municipality of Pernik with local, regional, and national mass media for the period encompassing the two terms of government of the former mayor;
  • The contracts between the State Company Bulgarian Maritime Training Center and the private company Navigation Maritime Bulgaria for the rent of two ferries;
  • Information about the results from the implementation of the national program “Security” of the Ministry of Labor and Social Assistance and the Ministry of Interior from the Regional Governor’s Administration – Lovech;
  • The total amount of funds spent on the storage and processing of equipment for the protection of the population, stored by the Municipality of Pernik;
  • A request to the Municipality of Panagyurishte for the budget within the contract for cleaning of the bed of the river of Elishka;
  • A request to the Municipality of Tsarevo about the money collected from concession and rent contracts of the Black Sea Beach Koral and their respective spending in line with the purposes provided by Art. 22a of the Law on the Management of the Black Sea Coast.
  • A request to the Ministry of Finance about the funds allocated from the state budget to the Ministry of Justice for annual support of NGO project related to protection from domestic violence, as well as the financial reports on the implementation;
  • The contract between the Social Assistance Agency and the Bulgarian Posts with regard to the payment of supplementary social welfare benefits to disabled people;
  • A request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regard to the state budget money spent on the holding of the national referendum in October 2015 for Bulgarians abroad.

Information on inspecions and control activities

  • A copy of an inspection report of the Public Inspection Financial Agency following reported alleged wrongdoings in the Municipality of Sevlievo;
  • A request to the “General Labor Inspectorate” Executive Agency for inspection records and decisions ascertaining alleged wrongdoings from the;
  • Ø  Three reports of the General Inspectorate at the Council of Ministers on inspections held in the government residential and relaxation complex Boyana;
  • Ø  Results from an inspection carried by the Children Protection Agency after a report for alleged domestic violane;
  • A request to the mayor of the Region of Vitosha – Sofia for a copy of an order for removing illegal construction;
  • A request to the Ministry of Economics for permissions for transfer of firearms  issued by the Interministerial Commission for Export Control and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction with regard to the Videks JSC.
  • A request to the Consumers’ Protection Commission regarding the signal sent to the Prosecutor’s Office on the case of children’s shoes with erotic pictures;

Transparency and accountability of the administration

  • A copy of the conflict of interests declaration of a municipal official from the Municipality of Plovdiv;
  • The names and the positions of the members of the Single Authority for Management of the Mineral Resources at the Ministry of Energy;
  • Information about the 2014 salaries (the highest, the lowest, the average) corresponding to specific positions within a certain institution, as well as the bonuses distributed by type of position held;
  • A copy of the order of the Sofia Municipality Mayor for appointing the Chief Architect of the capital;
  • The renumerations of the Governor and the members of the Governing Council of the Bulgarian National Bank;
  • A request to the Sofia Municipal Council (SMC) for access to a specific mayor’s official trip order of the Chairperson of the SMC  - purpose, destination, report;
  • A request to the Mayor of Ruse for access to the 2014 reports on the Operational programe Communal Activities;
  • A request to the mayor of the Sofia municipality about the sanctions imposed on municipal officials for incompliance with regulations of the municipality for the past five years;
  • A request to the Ministry of Interior about the career performance of the head of Criminal Police Department at the Regional Directorate of the MoI – Varna and the head of the 3rd District Police Station at the Regional Directorate of the MoI – Varna;   
  • A request to the Municipality of Bozhurishte about the job descriptions of officials in the municipal administration from 01.10.2014 to 21.07.2015, as well as information about the civil contracts signed after 01.10.2007 to 2015;
  • A request to the Minister of Culture for the protocol from a competition for a Director of the State Puppet Theater;
  • Information from the Ministry of Interior aboit the gender balance in the ministry and its regional structures;
  • A request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the level of implementation of the 2014 National Strategy for the Bulgarian citizens and the Bulgarian communities around the world;
  • A request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the diplomatic staff, for which there was information of being linked to the former State Security Services.

Urban Planning and Road Infrastructure

  • A request to the “Road Infrastructure” Agency for information about the repair and maintenance activities performed by the Regional Road Management – Vratsa – types of activities; budget spent, etc.
  • Copy of the contract between the Municipality of Varna and a company for painting the bicycle lane in the city;
  • Information about finishing works on the water sewerage network in a street of the city of Pernik;
  • A request to the Municipality of Plovdiv for the implementation of a project for the reconstruction and renovation of the Central Park (Tsar Simeon’s Garden) in the city and Ruski Boulevard;
  • Reconstruction of the tram tracks on the Bulgaria Boulevard in the Sofia Municipality – implementation of the public procurement, inspections, sanctions, etc.;
  • A request to the Sofia Municipality about the project for reconstruction of the underpass at the National Palace of Culture in 2012, including information about the current maintenance, warranty periods, sanctions, etc.

Environmental Information

  • The decision of the Ministry of Environment and Waters for allowing the issuing of an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) permit of the “Thermal Power Plant Bobov Dol” EAD, as well as a copy of the permit;
  • A request to the MEOW for information about the contract between the ministry and the  Municipality of Yambol for the construction of a regional system for waste management in the region of Yambol;
  • A request to the Regional Inspections on Environment and Waters for the coordination of an investment plan under the Environmental Diversity Act;
  • A request to the Regional Inspections on Environment and Waters – Sofia for access to the measurement data from the automatic measuring station on the quality of the air for the period January 1 – May 31, 2015;
  • Information about the method of measuring the background radiation in Bulgaria in relation to the fire in the area around the Nuclear Power Plant – Chernobil in July 2015;
  • A request to the Director of National Park Vitosha for information about the oversight of the implementation of the contract under the Operational program Environment for drafting a new management plan for Vitosha.

Animal Protection

  • A request to several municipalities about the undertaken measures under the Animal Protection Act for the decrease of the number of stray animals in their regions;
  • A request to the Direcor of the Regional Directorate on Food Safety– Varna about the internal operational regulations of the stray animals shelter in the city, its activity schedule, copies of the contracts with the municipalities served by the shelter; copy of the contract with the vet that is working in the shelter;
  • A request for access to information to the Municipality of Kuystendil related the euthanasia of stray dogs during the spread of brucellosis;
  • A request to the Regional Health Inspection about the number of people being bitten by stray dogs in the city of Varna for the period 2013 – 2015;
  • A request to the Food Safety Agency about the registration and activities of a mink farm in the territory of the village of Luyben Karavelov, the Region of Varna.

Management of state and municipal property

  • A request to the Mayor of the Region Lozenets – Sofia Municipality regarding the ownership of a property located in the Park “Dyado Slaveykov’s Place;”
  • A request to the Commission for Protection against Discrimination about the location, condition and use of the building, which houses the CPD ;
  • A request to the Municipality of Pernik regarding the procedure of renting parking-places under the so called “official subscription;”
  • A request to the Municipality of Bozhurishte about the revenues for the municipal budget from renting municipal property for a certain period of time;
  • A request to the Municipality of Bozhurishte for a copy of a rent contract for municipal property;
  • A request to the Mayor of the Region Lozenets – Sofia Municipality for access to decisions defining specific property as municipal property;
  • A request to the Ministry of Healthcare regarding the alleged sale of a piece of land, part of the yard of the Regional Multi-profile Hospital for Active Treatment “Doctor Stephan Cherkezov” JSC – Veliko Tarnovo.

Access to Information and Judiciary

  • A request to the Regional Court – Razlog about the number of cases initiated by the Yulen JSC;
  • A request to the Supreme Judicial Council for access to the prosecutor's decision on the case of murder of the jaguar Alonso who had escaped from the Lovech Zoo in the summer of 2014 ;
  • A request to the Supreme Judicial Council about the ensuring of social and living conditions and meeting housing needs of members of the Supreme Judicial Council, who do not have housing in the city of Sofia – total budget, copies of signed contracts, etc.
  • A request to the Prosecutor’s Office for information about the establishment of an anti-corruption unit within the prosecutor’s administration, its staff and performance, etc.

Information about decision making processes

  • A request to the Chairperson of the Municipal Council – Sliven for the minutes from the sessions of the council;
  • A request to the Municipality of Krivodol for access to the record of proceedings from the past three sessions of all commissions, councils and other bodies at the municipality with community members;
  • A request to the Chairperson of the Municipal Council – Bozhurishte for access to all minutes from the sessions of the council for the period 2005 – 2015;
  • A request to the chairperson of the National Assembly for access to the transcripts of the Ad Hoc Committee for examination and assessment of the energy situation in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Access to Information for the Purposes of Specific Journalistic Investigations

  • A request to the Ministry of Interior for access to an order of the head of the 1st Regional Police Station of the Sofia Directorate of the MoI to cancel the order imposing penalty - an investigation of "Lords of the Air" for wrongdoings of the police officers;
  • A request to the General Labour Inspectorate for access to the collective contracts of several energy companies – the Nuclear Power Plant Kozloduy, the Thermanl Power Plant Maritsa Iztok -2, Maritsa Iztok Mines, etc. 
  • A request to the Ministry of Finance for access to the correspondence between the MF and the (State) Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Economics and Energy and the European Commission regarding the case of alleged illegal state assistance, stemming from the long-term contracts signed with the Thermanl Power Plant Maritsa Iztok -1, Thermanl Power Plant Maritsa Iztok -3 and the Hydroelectric Plants for the period since 2014 to 29.06.2015.


[1]The number of consultations is twice higher – 804, since in some cases more than one consultation was provided.

[2]The former Chairperson of the State Agency for National Security Petko Sertov was announced as a missing person for 38 days in December 2014.