Court appeals




IME Foundation vs. National Health Insurance Fund

On 23 February 2001, the Institute for Market Economy Foundation served an application in writing (pursuant to Art. 24, para 1 of APIA) to the Director of the National Health Insurance Fund to grant access to the budgets and reports of regional health insurance funds for 2000 (copies), the bank selected by NHIF to operate with its resources, the procedure for selection of the bank, and the amount of deposits of NHIF.

Within the statutory 14-day time limits, the NHIF Director sent an answer in writing, refusing to grant access to the requested information.

The Institute for Market Economy Foundation, with the assistance of AIP, appealed against the refusal of the NHIF Director before the Sofia City Court.

After long delays, the file was sent to SAC and a case was brought. The court issued a resolution to refer the case to the Sofia City Court as the competent jurisdiction.

Latest check of the progress of the case with SAC - 10 September 2001. The court session is scheduled for 9 a.m. on 13 February 2002.

Arguments of the Parties:
The arguments in the appeal were that the decision to refuse to grant access to information had to be based on valid legal grounds. It was unclear why a secret was invoked pursuant to TPC. Para 1 of TPC specified various cases in its six sub-paragraphs and, where grounds existed for restriction of the right to access, the specific case had to be referred to. That constituted material breach as it led to overall lack of factual grounds for the refusal to grant access to information. The person responsible for ensuring access to information under APIA was NHIF as a subject of public law and since it was represented by the Director, any references to the Managing Board were wrong.

The decision to refuse access to information, which was given in writing, stated the following reasons: it was a case of administrative secret within the meaning of para 1 of the Tax Procedure Code (secret of tax liable persons), the NHIF report could be obtained after its promulgation in The State Gazette, and the request for obtaining access to information had to be referred to the Managing Board of NHIF.

Issue of Interest:
Administrative tax secret

The refusal to grant access to information violated the substantive and procedural law. The assertions that it was a matter of administrative tax secret were untrue because the secret provided for in TPC relates to obligations to be performed by the tax authorities rather than NHIF. The requested information about NHIF and its bodies is public because it related to public life and it enables citizens to form their opinion on the performance of NHIF. Besides, it does not come into the purview of the secrets protected by law. Moreover, the spending of resources and all related issues are justifiably in the focus of the public opinion and interest. The reference to the Managing Board is wrong. The person responsible for ensuring access to information is the NHIF Director (Art. 19, subpara 1 of OCA).

For all these reasons, the Director was in material breach of law.

English Version • Last Update: 25.01.2002• © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP