Results from AIP's audit on the transparency of administrative courts are now available after an assessment of the webpages of the 28 regional administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC)
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The 2021 audit on transparency of administrative courts was performed within the period July 23 – August 23, 2021 by three researchers from the AIP legal team with the review and assessment of the web sites of the 28 regional administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).
The aim of the audit is to evaluate how the courts within the administrative justice system in Bulgaria fulfill their obligations for proactive disclosure of information online and how they follow legal regulations regarding transparency and accountability.
The 2021 transparency level was assessed along a checklist of 46 indicators divided into three sections:
• Section A.: Availability of institutional, organizational, operative, and contact information
• Section B.: Information related to the court’s judicial activity
• Section C.: 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.
The results were sent for feedback to all the audited courts on September 13, 2021. The AIP considered all 11 statements received and reflected them in the Rating by the end of September 2021.
The above-mentioned legal obligations of the administrative courts are to be found in the following acts: Judiciary System Act, Counter-Corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Act, Public Procurement Act, Administrative Procedure Code, Courts Administration Regulations, Rules of Procedure for the Use of Electronic Signatures and Electronic Identification by the Judiciary and in a number of Decrees.
The strategic documents examined by the researchers from AIP’s team are as follows: Updated Strategy to Continue the Reform of the Judicial System; Roadmap for the implementation of the Updated Strategy to Continue the Reform of the Judicial System; Updated Roadmap for the implementation of the Updated Strategy to Continue the Reform of the Judicial System; Communication Strategy of the Judicial System 2014-2020; Media Strategy of the Judicial System.
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The audit was performed as part of the Transparency of Administrative Justice project supported by the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
Since the project was launched, AIP's team has:
● Reviewed and analyzed the legal framework which sets forth obligations for active publication and developed a web-based methodology for assessment of the websites of the 28 administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC);
● Presented and discussed the methodology for assessment of administrative courts’ websites with stakeholders at 3 round tables. Conducted in-depth interviews with various civil society representatives, including with the help of AIP’s 27 coordinators in all regions;
● Provided legal aid to citizens and organizations in access to information cases with the potential to reveal corruption and wrongdoings, to increase government accountability and to improve the conditions for business and investment in Bulgaria;
● Carried out raising awareness campaigns, trainings and a higher education course to encourage the active exercise of the right to information;
● Effectively communicated all the aforementioned activities, maintaining and strengthening national and international networks, such as AIP’s coordinators network and the international Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet).
The preparation of the “Access to Information in the Judiciary” report with recommendations has started. The report is to be discussed at a nation-wide conference.