The provision of legal aid continues to be а priority activity of the AIP. In 2017, the AIP provided legal assistance at the initial stage of the information seeking process when the legal team provided advice and/or drafted a request for access to information. In another category of cases, legal aid was provided after a refusal to grant access to public information had already been issued.
An essential part of the legal aid provided by the AIP is the preparation of complaints and appeals to the court and provision of legal representation in access to information cases on behalf of requestors who have turned for assistance to the organization.
Number of Cases Referred for Legal Aid
The number of cases in which legal aid was provided during 2017 is 215. 15 out of these were sent by the AIP coordinators – journalists in all regional cities of Bulgaria. In the remaining cases, requestors have sought assistance in person in our office, by e-mail, or by phone.
Depending on their characteristics and legal qualification, the cases are categorized in the following three types:
- related to practices of non-fulfillment of obligations under the Access to Public Information Act by public bodies – 205 instances;
- related to violations of the right of personal data protection guaranteed under the Personal Data Protection Act – 5 instances;
- related to violations of the fundamental right to seek, receive, and impart information – 4 instances, etc.;
The Most Active Information Seekers
The experience of AIP shows that the APIA is most frequently used by citizens, journalists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In 2017, the largest number of consultations was provided to citizens who sought the assistance of AIP in 102 instances. In 32 cases, NGOs asked for legal assistance, while 53 cases were referred to AIP by journalists and AIP coordinators (all of them journalists) from central and local media. In 17 cases, the legal team of AIP was approached for legal advice by public officials, in 7 – by business persons, etc.
The Most Frequently Addressed Public Bodies
The number of cases in which information seekers requested information from local self-government bodies (mayors and municipal councils) is the largest – 88 cases, while information was sought from central executive bodies in 64 cases.
Less frequently, information was sought from regional units of the central executive bodies – 14 cases; from public-law bodies and organizations – in 14 cases; from judicial power bodies – 10, etc.
There are 13 registered cases in the AIP data base that do not involve an institution. These are cases in which our team has been approached for general advice on the law or on the litigation process.
The Most Frequently Used Grounds for Refusal
Although still high, the number of registered silent refusals in 2017 is lower than the previous year – 15. For comparison – in 2016, that number was 31. Most of the grounded refusals are related to the preparatory documents exemption provided by Art. 13, Para. 2 of the APIA – in 8 cases, the protection of personal data – 8 cases, and the protection of third party interests – 4 cases. The official secret exemption was invoked – in 4 instances, and the state secret exemption – also in 4 instances, etc.
The tendency of a decrease in the number of consulted cases remains – 215 in 2017, while 296 in 2016, and 322 – in 2015. The number of consultations provided on referred cases, however, remains high – 525 in 2017.
The interest towards information related to the work of local self-government bodies remains high in 2017.
There is a tendency of decreasing number of cases of silent refusals. The number of refusals grounded on the third party’s interests exemption (APIA, Art. 37, Para.1 item 2) also decreases (4 in 2017, while 15 – in 2016). We have observed a slight increase in the number of refusals grounded in the state or official secret exemption (APIA, Art. 37, Para.1 item 1) – 8, as well as of the refusals grounded in the exemption of preparatory work and negotiations (Art. 13, Para. 2 of the APIA) – also 8.
Most frequently, consultations have been provided by e-mail – in 241 instance, followed by those provided in the AIP office – 216, and by phone – 63 instances.
The Most Frequently Sought Information in 2017
In 2017, the information sought was mostly related to inspections and oversight activities of control bodies. Also, public money spending; transparency and accountability of public bodies; decision making process; urban development and road infrastructure; environmental issues, judicial system, etc.
Topics of Access to Information Requests
Information concerning Inspections and Control Activities
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for information about the persons sanctioned in the last year for illegal disposal of large-scale and construction waste in violation of the Regulations on Waste Management and Maintenance and Protection of the Cleanness of the Territory of Sofia Municipality;
- Request to the Center for City Mobility – Sofia for access to statistics for short-term parking in Green and Blue Zones in Sofia;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for the number of all issued permits for passage of cars in the “Borisova Gradina” Park, as well as the placement of the so called "Smart barriers;"
- Request to the Sofia Municipality for information about the number of certain lines public transport buses which had broken down during operation;
- Request to the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank for access to two supervisory inspection reports on the First Investment Bank / Fibank / AD, performed respectively in 2012 and 2015;
- Request to the Executive Agency “General Labor Inspectorate” for access to materials from an inspection carried out after a submitted signal;
- Request to the Financial Supervision Commission for access to information related to the audit of the assets of pension funds as at 31.12.2016;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Tsarevo for information related to the signals against camping sites at the Coral beach and respectively the results of the inspections carried out by the police and the Municipality of Tsarevo;
- Request to the Financial Supervision Commission for information about all acts establishing infringement and punitive rulings issued by FSC from the beginning of 2016 until September 2017;
- Request to the Road Infrastructure Agency for measures taken by RIA to reduce the number of animals killed on the road;
- Request to the Medical Audit Executive Agency for the performed inspections and the issued acts on the activities of the Multifunctional Hospital for Active Treatment Blagoevgrad AD and “Puls” Hospital – Blagoevgrad for the period January 2017 to November 2017.
Information regarding Public Expenditure
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Dobrich for information about the remunerations received by the employees of the municipality within the EU projects during the second programming period;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Lovech for access to information about the restoration of the monument of Vasil Levski in the town;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Dobrich for information about the contracts signed for media information services: the way the media were selected, the term of the contracts, amount, etc.;
- Request to the National Revenue Agency at Plovdiv for information about the budget of the Agency for 2017: total amount and per items;
- Request for information related to the failure of payment of due sums, approved by a decision of the Council of Ministers, to the City of Plovdiv for being a hosting city as the European Capital of Culture;
- Request to the Municipality of Haskovo for information about the money spent by the municipality for the construction of the traffic lights near the theater;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Vidin regarding the financial statements of the sports clubs on the territory of the municipality for the last two years;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Plovdiv on the amount paid for parking places by different institutions in the city;
- Request to the Ministry of the Interior for information on the budget (financing) of detention centers for foreigners in the city of Sofia and the village of Busmantsi;
- Request to the Municipality of Stara Zagora for information about the costs incurred for the referendum on the future of the “Bedechka” Park in Stara Zagora;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Lesichovo for information about official trips expenses, expenditures for organizing rural fests, etc.;
- Request for information on the revenues of the Sofia Municipality from the “Blue Zone” parking areas and more specifically on the expected revenues from the new blue zone in the capital district "Yavorov";
- Request to the Regional Administration - Sofia, requesting information on all the costs incurred in relation to the reparation works at the "Georgi Asparuhov" complex;
- Request for the expenditures made by the Regional Administrations of Varna, Dobrich and Bourgas for the maintenance of Black Sea beaches – water and sanitary and hygienic activities;
- Request to the Bulgarian Deposit Insurance Fund for the amount of money spent for the management of the Corporate Commercial Bank AD by the temporary syndic and the bank bankruptcy syndic, appointed by the Fund;
- Request to the Municipality of Dobrich for access to the projects implemented by the municipality and the remuneration received by the municipal officials working on them;
- Request to the Municipality of Haskovo for information on the amount of funds paid to the municipal officials working under Euro programs;
- Request to the Chairperson of the Committee for Combating Corruption and the Withdrawal of Illegally Acquired Property to provide information on the costs incurred during an inspection of the property of Tsvetan Vassilev (the majority owner of the bankrupted Corporate Commercial Bank) and his family;
- Request to the State Fund Agriculture for copies of the financial assistance contracts concluded between the Municipality of Chirpan and the State Fund Agriculture under measure "Basic services for the population and the rural economy" of the Rural Development Programmes;
- Request to the Mayor of Aytos regarding the incomplete reparation of a sports hall in the city;
- Request to the Mayor of Kostenets for rehabilitation of the municipal hospital in the town of Kostenets with funds from the municipal budget;
- Request to the Ministry of Interior about the occupied and available positions, with corresponding salaries of the employees, etc.
- Request to the Ministry of Healthcare for information about the working group drafting amendments to the Health Act in the purpose to improve the controls on the compliance with the ban on indoor and some open public places smoking;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for an Order for the Formation/ Appointment and the List of Members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Traffic Organization and Safety of the Sofia Municipality at the "Transport and Transport Communications" Directorate of Sofia Municipality;
- Request to the Municipality of Varna for information about the Deputy Mayors of the Municipality: their number, job description and a copy of the order for their appointment with deleted personal data;
- Request to the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in the region of Varna for access to the job description of a former employee of the Directorate;
- Request to the Municipality of Svilengrad for information concerning municipal housing of the former chairman of the regional court in the town;
- Request to the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the composition of the Evaluation Committee for a competition held by the Ministry, as well as the points received by the finalists in the procedure, summaries of the approved for funding projects, information on the capacity of the organizations, etc.
- Request to the Sofia Municipality for a copy of the orders of the Deputy Minister responsible for the Transport and the Director of the “Transport Infrastructure” Directorate;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality to indicate the Internet address on the Sofia Municipality website, where the texts of the normative acts and the general administrative acts are published;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for access to the issued general administrative acts by the Sofia Municipality in the period 01.05-31.07.2017;
- Request to the Minister of the Interior concerning the powers of the ministerial officials to issue driving licenses.
Decision Making Process
- Request to the Chief Secretary of the President for access to the minutes and the sound recording of the consultation meeting held by the President on July 24, 2014, with regard to the financial state of the state and especially the bankruptcy of Corporate Commercial Bank AD;
- Request to the Director of the Legal Activities Directorate at the Ministry of Interior to provide information on the detention and surrender of 7 Turkish citizens to Turkey on 15 October 2017;
- Request to the Mayor of Dryanovo Municipality for information about the participation of the municipality in a newly established non-profit association called Local Initiative Group;
- Request to the National Electricity Company for access to information about the "freezing" of the project for realization of the hydroelectric cascade "Gorna Arda;"
- Request to the State Fund Agriculture for access to information about the ranking of municipal projects under sub-measure 7.2 "Investments in the creation, improvement or expansion of all types of small-scale infrastructure" from Measure 7 "Main services and renovation of villages and rural areas" of the Regional Development Program 2014-2020;"
- Request to the Mayor of Varna for copies of documents related to the failure of the integrated urban transport project;
- Request to the Ministry of Defense for access to the “Minutes from the work of the interdepartmental working group for summarizing, analyzing and evaluating the responses to the request for proposals for the acquisition of a new type of combat aircraft, appointed by order of the Minister of Defense, President of the Republic of Bulgaria.”
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for copies of the decisions of the Sofia Municipal Council, based on which monuments, sculptures, memorial plates, art installations, etc. are located at present in the “Zaimov” Park in Sofia;
- Request to the Ministry of Justice for access to information related to the Draft Law for Amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship, which introduces an amendment to the Electoral Code requiring a 3-month seat for voting in parliamentary and presidential elections.
Urban Planning and Road Infrastructure
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for access to the reparations plan of the municipality, after the removal of the tram rails between the Russian Embassy and the TV Tower in Sofia; are those plans in compliance with the future detailed development plan of the Borisova Garden Park;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Sliven for access to the construction permits issued by the Municipality of Sliven for a certain period of time;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Sliven for information about the number of issued tolerance certificates (allowing the existence of illegal buildings) by the municipality for the period 2014-2016 and a copy of the certificates themselves;
- Request to the Architecture and Urban Development Directorate of the Sofia Municipality for access to construction documentation with regard to suspicions for irregularities in ongoing construction works;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Varna for access to copies of old Urban Development Plans of the city;
- Request to the Chief Architect of the Sofia Municipality asking for information on how many entrances are there to the building of the Architecture and Urban Development Directorate, on which streets and under which numbers are they, and how many and which of them have security control;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for information about the so-called "repair of the repairs" carried out by construction companies for a large sum and, in particular, penalties imposed on these companies;
- Request to the Mayor of the Mladost District in the Sofia Municipality regarding reparations failure in playgrounds in the Mladost quarter;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Varna for information about the reparations of the Asparuhov Bridge in the city: terms, contractor and expenses;
- Request to the Mayor of the Novi Iskar District in the Sofia Municipality for information about completed reparations on the square in Kumaritsa in Novi Iskar.
- Request to the Environmental Executive Agency for information about the measured primary and average hourly values of air pollution;
- Request to the Forestry Agency for access to the reports and protocols for inspections carried out in the forestry of Sarnitsa;
- Request to the Sofia Municipality for access to documents from the project for a waste incineration plant at the Central Heating Company Toplofikatsia Sofia;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Nova Zagora for access to the technical documentation for the construction of a biogas plant to work with animal waste in Nova Zagora;
- Request to the Ministry of Environment and Waters on whether a detailed development plan and an investment project for the realization of the site "Restoration of ecological balance along the Dzherman River, in the section from Sapareva Banya to Dupnitsa" is approved;
- Request to the Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo for information on the separate waste collection containers in the city.
- Request to the Prosecutor's Office for access to the decree terminating pre-trial proceedings in 2015 on the docket of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, initiated on the occasion of the leaked records from conversations with the participation of the judges of the Sofia City Court Vladimira Yaneva and Rumyana Chanalova;
- Request to the Deputy Prosecutor General at the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office for the official records of the official meetings held by the Chief Prosecutor;
- Request to the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office concerning the data collected in the Unified Information System for Counteraction to the Crime.
Access to Information Realated to the Protection of Animal
- Request to the Regional Directorate of Food Safety - Varna, requesting information about the results of an inspection carried out after a submitted report for irregularity in the stray animal shelter in the village of Kamenar;
- Request to the Mayor of the Municipality of Dupnitsa to provide a copy of the contract concluded between the municipality and the manager of the animal shelter in the city, on the basis of which he exercises his employment as a manager and a veterinarian of the shelter.
Information Related to the Health, Life and Safety of Citizens
- Request to the Bulgarian State Railway Services – BDZ for information about the accidents in the areas of the stations, mainly in the distribution station - Poduyane;
- Request to the Mayor of the Sofia Municipality for information related to a bomb threat at the building of the Sofia Municipality on 33 "Moskovska" Street and others.