Implementation of the Access to Public Information Act based on the data published in the government reports “The State of the Administration” 2001 - 2016
Pursuant to the requirements provided by the APIA (Art. 15, Para. 2), the reports on the implementation, which the heads of executive bodies should prepare and submit, should contain data on the number of filed requests, refusals to provide access and the grounds for the refusals. During the years, however, besides the legally required data, more and more detailed information has been published about the administrative capacity for implementing the law, the implementation of the obligations for proactive publication of information, the maintaining of registers of received requests, the trainings of public officials, the appeals against decisions under the APIA and the delivered court decisions. The content of the annual reports has been changing with the change of the governments, although the information system for collecting the data was established and operating since 2004, as stated in the 2006 government report, and the data should be available in the data bases of the Council of Ministers. 
(*)There are no data about administrations with established reading rooms in the government reports after 2009
(**) Results from the AIP audit on institutional web sites by indicators. See Indicator B.16: http://www.aip-bg.org/en/surveys/db/2017ii/stats+indicators.php
Imposed administrative penalties to officials who violate the Access to Public Information Act (APIA)
For 17 years of APIA implementation and hundreds of court cases ending with court decisions in favor of the access to information requestors, only 1 penalty has been imposed for administrative violation of the APIA in 2013.
2. Processing access to public information requests
Number of received requests
The total number of requests received by the institutions has been decreasing. The tendency finds it explanation in the proactive publication on the web sites of the obliged bodies of specific categories of information which should have been requested during the first years of the APIA implementation. On the other hand, the decrease in the number of the written requests and the e-requests that have been equaled to them is not so high.
How the access to public information requests are filed?
The tendency observed till 2009 for a large number of oral requests reported by the administrative structures and the remark in the 2009 report that there were no mechanisms for registering the oral requests, shifts sharply during the next years and in 2016 only 222 oral requests were reported.
Who files access to public information requests?
The statistics on the different groups of requestors appears in 2004. It is understandable that the highest number of requests are filed by citizens, since the requestors are not obliged to signify their profession, affiliation to a company, NGO, or media. Those who have filed requests on behalf of a media, company, or NGO fall into the statistics.
What type of information is mostly sought under the categorization of the APIA?
Pursuant to the categorization in the APIA, the public information is official - contained in the acts of the public bodies, and administrative – related to the preparation of the acts (Art. 10 and Art. 11 of the APIA). The chart below illustrates the fact that the enhanced active transparency – explicit obligations for proactive publication of the acts of the authorities shifts the tendency of seeking access to official public information and since 2014 the requests focus on administrative public information, i.e. documents related to the preparation of the acts, which are not proactively published.
What are the topics on which information is sought?
The topics on which information is sought reflect the main elements of the right of access to information. It is necessary for the exercise of other rights, it is fundamental for the civil participation on the public debate for policies, and allows citizens to exercise control over the work of the institutions. The next chart gives more detailed picture of the topics on which information is mostly sought. What is of concern is that requests are still filed for draft normative acts and corresponding documentation, while that type of information should be published in the Internet sites of the institutions pursuant to the obligations given by the Law on Normative Acts (LNA).
Requests and decisions on access to information requests
The reports on the number of requests and the administrative decisions issued on them show the development of APIA implementation during the years. The chart below shows the big difference between the reported requests and the decisions issued on them till 2010. Only since 2010, the number of requests and the number administrative decisions on them start to get closer.
Decisions granting full access to the requested information
The majority of the decisions on access to information requests are those granting full access to the requested information, according to the data published in the government reports.
Decisions granting partial access to the requested information
Decisions to re-send the requests to the relevant administration
Notifications for unavailability of requested information
Requests left without consideration according to the data in the government reports
The chart below shows the discrepancy between the reported number of requests, the issued decisions, and the requests left without consideration till 2009.
Decisions to refuse access to requested information
Decisions taken after balancing protected rights and interests and overriding public interest
After the obligation for balancing protected rights and interests and the overriding public interest was introduced with the APIA amendments (State Gazette, issue 104/2008), data about decisions taken after such a balance appear in the reports since 2009. In order to comprehend these data, we should take into consideration the data about the number of decisions to refuse access and the grounds for these refusals.
Out of the legitimate grounds for refusals, provided by the law, only those stipulated by Art. 37, Para. 1, Item 1 – the requested information is classified or other protected secret, are not subject to balance against the overriding public interest, as the balance of interest has been done by the legislator. The restriction provided by Art. 37, Para. 1, Item 3 of the APIA, is not subject to the public interest balance either, namely, “the requested information has been provided to the requestor during the previous 6 months,” which is a restriction which does not protect rights and interests. If we look at the data about the decisions to refuse access and the decisions after a balance of interests, as well as those subject to the overriding public interest assessment, i.e. third party’s interests, trade secret, preparatory documents (Art. 13, Para. 1. Item 1) and the negotiation process (Art. 13, Para. 1, Item 2), it remains unclear why the cases when balance of interests was made are so few.
Grounds for refusal
The most common grounds for refusal, as it is visible from the chart below, are “the information affects the interest of a third party which has explicitly refused disclosure…, except in cases of overriding public interest (Art. 37, para. 1, Item 2), the category “Other” and that the requested information is “personal data.” In the reports “The State of the Administration” we can find an explanation of what the category “Other” contains: absence of the requested information; the requested information is not public; the requested information is official secret under the meaning of §1, Item 24 of the Supplementary Provisions of the Customs Law; the request lacks the necessary requisites, etc.
Appealing decisions and refusals of access to information
Pursuant to the provisions of the APIA, the requestors have the right to appeal the decisions or the refusals of access to public information before the administrative courts through the public body which have delivered the decision. The reports on the state of administration contain data on the appeals and the court decisions during the years.
Types of appeals
Court decisions *
(*) The government reports for 2013 and 2014 lack data on court decisions on appeals under the APIA.
As it is apparent from the chart below summarizing the data from the Council of Ministers reports, the highest number of court decisions is of those which repeal completely the decision of the public body delivered the decision granting or refusing access.
 “The State of the Administration 2005”: „The report on the state of the administration is prepared for the sixth time. For a second successive year, the heads of the administrative structures within the executive power system submit information electronically via an Internet based system (www.sareport.government.bg). After the adoption of the report by the Council of Ministers, it will be referred for information to the National Assembly.”