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13.12.2002 | Evhen Zakharov, Irina Rapp, Kharkov

Analysis of the access to governmental information

   

1. GOVERNMENTAL INFORMATION WITH THE RESTRICTED ACCESS

The analysis of the access to governmental information shows that the executive power organs use the following classifications for making information secret: „for service use only“, „not for printing“, „not for publishing“. These classifications are illegal, since they are not defined by any law, neither is defined the procedure of working with documents classified „not for printing“, „not for publishing“. The instruction for processing the documents classified as „for service use only“ is written in the spirit of the „good old“ totalitarian times and practically bars the access to such documents.

We tried to learn how often the illegal classifications are used. We analyzed all documents issued by several central agencies in 2000 and 2001 to find the number of the documents so classified. To this end, we used the computer legal system „Liga“. The results are presented in Table 1. It is easy to see that most of such documents are issued by the Ukrainian President and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President mainly uses the classification „not for publishing“, the Cabinet of Ministers – „not for printing“ and the agencies – „for service use only“. In the base the titles are given of the documents „for service use only“, from which titles one can conclude the content. The documents „not for publishing“ and „not for printing“ are represented only by numbers and the adoption date. Yet, in some cases, when a document appears in a subject index, it has the title. For example, we learned in such a manner that Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 411-p of 12 September 2001 concerns pensions. But why on earth any information concerning pensions must be kept secret from Ukrainian citizens?! Certainly, such information is of extreme interest for public. Besides the Law „On state secrets“ prohibits to make secret the information concerning citizens’ rights and freedoms. Since the degree of secrecy of the documents „not for printing“ seems to be lower than for the information defined as a state secret, then the documents containing the information about citizens’ rights and freedoms must not have this classification. And the human rights certainly cover any information about pensions. By the same reason documents No. 709/94 of 30 November 1994 might not be classified, since, as it appeared, it is about the identification numbers (the number given to each citizens to be accounted for by the tax administration. – Translator’s note).

Table 1

Number of documents

Agency



Total


„For service use only“


„Not for printing“


“Not for publishing“


Year


2000


2001


2000


2001


2000


2001


2000


2001


President of Ukraine


1636


1461










95


78


Cabinet of Ministers


2387


2372






85


39






Ministry of Interior


25


41


4


2










USS


9


4


2


2










Penitentiary department


50


12


3


1


2


1






Ministry of Justice


66


69




1










Frontier guard committee


27


18


3


1










Ministry of defense


20


38














Ministry of foreign affairs


5


15














General Prosecutor’s office


9


4














Ministry of emergencies




8




1










The fact that the Penitentiary Department classified the document „Regime rules in penitentiaries“ (order No. 10 of 6 May 2000) as „not for printing“ is very surprising. How could one obey the rules, if they are inaccessible? It can happen that the access to the documents „not for printing“ is much easier than to those „for service use only“, but we can only guess about it.

Table 2


Agency


President


Cabinet of Ministers


Comments


Years


















Total for year


Not for publishing


Proportion of classified documents to the total number, %


Total for year


Not for printing


Proportion of classified documents to the total number, %




1994


882


73


8,2


1572


15


0,9


President and Par-liamentary election


1995


1477


90


6,1


1686


28


1,7




1996


1831


75


4,1


2146


54


2,5




1997


1702


39


2,3


1984


56


2,8




1998


1888


69


3,6


2889


21


0,7


Parliamentary election


1999


1932


60


3,1


3623


254


7,0


President election


2000


1436


95


5,8


2387


85


3,6


All-Ukrainian referendum


2001


1461


78


5,3


2372


39


1,6




A great number of the untitled documents issued by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers made us learn the dynamics of their appearance for during a longer period. It appeared that the classifications „not for printing“ and „not for publishing“ were used as early as 1994, even before the pre-term President and Parliamentary election. The data on the quantity of such documents issued in the period from 1994 to 2001 are arranged in Table 2, and the Figure shows their proportion to the total number of documents in %. Abrupt leaps of issuing such documents both by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers are clearly seen on the graph. Although leap times are not clearly correlated with political events, more often they respond to elections or all-Ukrainian referendum. It is also remarkable that the President makes secret much more documents than the Cabinet of Ministers or some other agency.

An official working in President’s administration told privately that the documents classified as „not for publishing“ concern the appointments to various posts, and, in his opinion, such documents are not of wide interest and are not worth wasting paper. This simple explanation is difficult believe, especially taking into account the above-mentioned examples of classifying documents directly related to human rights. One thing is obvious: bureaucrats, as before, decide by themselves what public must know, what would be interesting to it, and deprive the public of information.

2. INORMATION REQUESTS TO THE EXECUTIVE POWER ORGANS

To check to opportunity to get some governmental information we decided to try to collect the data for preparing the annual report on the state of human rights in Ukraine.

The Kharkov Group for human rights protection and our partners, the participants of the human rights protecting network, in August 2001 turned to various central and regional organs with the requests to give the information for 1998, 1999, 2000 and the first half of 2001.

We requested the data on the mortality rate and its causes, on the number of suicides, on the living standard and minimum consumer’s basket, on the distribution of sizes of pensions, on wages in various branches, on the structure of unemployment, on the state of medical aid; data on the level of secondary and higher education; data on strikes and hunger strikes; data on the mortality rate in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and its causes; data on the level and structure of crime, court statistics, number of appeals for mercy and number of satisfied appeals; data on the number of penitentiaries, on the diseases and mortality rate there; on the number of TB cases and the AIDS-infected in the country on the average and separately in penitentiaries; data on expenditures for the upkeep of the incarcerated , on legal and detained illegal migrants, the number of refugees, the number of the repressed people representatives, etc.

Before sending the requests we analyzed the informational sources, which publish such information: statistical yearbooks published by the State statistical committee, periodicals published by ministries and agencies, such as „Visnyk Verkhovnogo Sudu Ukrainy“ („Herald of the Supreme Court of Ukraine“), „Visnyk Konstitutsiynogo Sudu Ukrainy“ („Herald of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine“), „Ofitsiyny Visnyk Ukrainy“ („Official Herald of Ukraine“) and others. One of the most useful sources was the computer legal database „Liga“, which contains legislative and other normative and legal acts.

Having generalized the results of this analysis, we sent the requests to the President’s administration. Ministry of Justice, Ministry of labor and social policy, Ministry of health protection, Ministry of education, Ministry of defense, the Ministry of Interior and all its regional directorates (the Crimea, 24 oblasts, cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol), General Prosecutor’s office and all its regional directorates, USS, State statistical committee, State penitentiary department, State department in charge of nationalities and migration, Commission on mercy at the President and other agencies.

According to Articles 32-34 of the Law „On information“, information requests must be considered by agencies up to 10 days; during this term the agency must respond to the author that his request will be satisfied or not, since the requested information may not be distributed. The refusal must be well motivated. The requests must be satisfied in a month. If the answer cannot be prepared within a month, then the state agency must inform about the postponement of the response, indicate the reason and the date, when the request will be actually satisfied.

The results of our requests to the Ministry of Interior, General Prosecutor’s office and their regional directorates are described below. As to other agencies, not a single of them did answer during 10 days. The Ministry of Justice, State penitentiary department and State department in charge of nationalities and migration reacted to our request within a month. Answers from the Ministry of labor and social policy, USS, Ministry of education (after the repeated request) and Commission on mercy at the President responded to us even later. The Ministry of defense and the Ministry of health protection did answer at all. The answers obtained were far from being complete, we were often recommended to turn to other agencies, most frequently to the State statistical committee. That is true that all state agencies pass the information to statistical committee in the established format. Yet, we turned to the agencies asking the information according to their specialization and requested mainly that information, which is placed in statistical yearbooks.

We received more or less complete data from the Ministry of Justice, State penitentiary department and State department in charge of nationalities and migration. The Ministry of Justice sent us the generalized numerical data on the budget financing of oblast, district (town) and martial courts (see Table 3; misery sums testify, in our opinion, on the real, not declared, attitude of the executive power to the judicial power), the number of judges brought to disciplinary responsibility and dismissed (in 1997 – 122 and 2, 1998 – 117 and 4, 1999 – 118 and 4, 2000 – 173 and 9, the first half of 2001 – 56 and 11, respectively), the number of the condemned for libel (in 1998 – 123, 1999 – 98, 2000 – 102, first half of 2001 – 49, among them condemned to incarceration: in 1998 – 3, 1999 – 5).

Table 3


 


 

 


 

 


Years




 

 


 

 


1998


1999


2000


2001


Calculation of the Ministry of Justice (need), millions UAH



150, 8



169, 5



271 ,7


309,8


Approved by ther Law on the state budget (plan), millions UAH



74,8


85,9


130 ,1


162,3


Ratio of the plan to the need, %



49


51


48


52


Real financing, millions UAH



66,6


61,2


130 ,1




Ratio of the fact to the plan, %



89


71


100


91,7


Ratio of the fact to the need, %


44


36


48


52 (approx. for a month)


The State penitentiary department answered our questions concerning financing their system (in 1998 the budget plan was 227.5 million UAH, actually obtained – 180.6 million UAH; 1999 – 216.6 and 203.3, respectively; 2000 – planned and obtained 204.4; for the first 9 months of 2001 – 156.3 and 154.7, respectively), mortality rate in penitentiaries, including that of TB (in 1998 – 2108, 1999 – 2969, 2000 – 2222, the first half of 2001 – 865, among them of TB – 725, 1133, 715 and 300, respectively), the number of suicides among the incarcerated and among the personnel (in 1998 – 59 and 6, 1999 – 45 and 4, 2000 – 31 and 8, the first half of 2001 – 13 and 4).

Only the department of higher education answered from the Ministry of education, others were silent. After our repeated request G Naumenko, the deputy of the state secretary of the Ministry of education and science, responded that some answers to our questions could be found in the State statistical committee, other requested data were not collected by the Ministry. Yet, some statistical reference books published by the Ministry itself were appended to the letter. Some actions of state agencies, may be regarded as an oblique answers to our requests. So, the USS opened „The list of information items that are state secrets“ after our request about the legality of classifying this List as „secret“ and many lively correspondence and phone calls about this. The Minister of Interior Yuri Smirnov made public the data for 2001 about violating laws by law-enforcers (186 were brought to criminal responsibility and about 50 thousand – to disciplinary one) -- as far as we know, such data were nor published before. Since the autumn of 2001 the Commission on mercy at the President regularly informs the press on the number of the pardoned convicts.

We think that upon the whole the attitude of state agencies to the fulfillment of the Law „on information“, which obliges them to give the information on their activities to all interested parties, is obviously disparaging. This testifies, first of all, that the state organs, as before, do not pay attention to the society, which entrusted them to fulfil some functions and has the right to control their activities. It was vividly demonstrated in the answers about the illegal activities of law-enforcers.

(To be continued in the next issue)

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