By his March 18 order, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) director Dr. Salchev has temporarily extended the deadline for replying to access to information requests to 30 days.
The NHIF, as a public entity obliged under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), should provide with an answer those who seek information within the statutory time limit of 14 days.
According to the head of AIP's legal team Alexander Kashumov, the APIA contains no provisions related to times of emergency and NHIF's order has no legal grounds. He says that amidst the crisis citizens' right to information should be taken into consideration even more than under "normal" circumstances. Currently institutions are acting quickly in order to detain the threat in an efficient way and if access to information is hindered, this can lead to lack of transparency.
"This order is absolutely unlawful and needs to be attacked. A possible step is to urge other public sector institutions to which the NHIF is accountable - they could pressure the NHIF to comply with the law and the Constitution. Because what is being done (with NHIF's order) goes against the law and violates a constitutional right", Kashumov emphasized.
He added that the practice shows that institutions learn from each other - especially when it comes to the bad practices. Kashumov stressed that it is important for the citizens to be informed in a timely manner and that institutions should answer journalists' questions for the sake of an adequate bigger picture on what is happening.
The Access to Information Forum project is implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism.
The main objective of the Access to Information Forum project is to improve the transparency and accountability of public institutions. Click here to visit the project's webpage.