More on authorities’ dubious data collecting
Tax departments, as reported, have begun gathering information about NGO activists, sending around a form with very detailed questions concerning personal data and activities. They are asked to provide the full names, positions and contact details for the heads and people in responsible positions within the organization; who one turns to about running events; how large-scale the organisation is; the main areas of activity, etc; whether they are disposed to cooperate with the State Tax Service, and others.
Ukrainsky Tyzhden was told by a district tax inspectorate official that the aim of the questionnaire was to create a database of civic organizations for further cooperation with them, this involving explanation of particular provisions of tax legislation and acquainting the public with the principles of work of the State Tax Administration. “The tax inspectorate is in no way planning to put pressure on civic organizations and even if we wanted to, we don’t have such possibilities. These are non-profit-making organizations, not business”.
Members of NGOs who received the questionnaires are more wary.
“We do not specialize in tax issues therefore it’s strange why they need to know about our members in such detail. Such information is not needed for the purposes the Tax Administration gives”, Taras Shevchenko from the Media Law Institute says.
Oleksy Khara from the organization TORO, which is Transparency International’s partner organization in Ukraine, is equally sceptical. He says the tax inspectorate already has a huge amount of information, now wants to know more, while offering nothing in return, including information as to contradictory provisions of the tax code.
The NGOs who received the questionnaire are concerned that it is the Security Service which is interested in the information being sought about active members of civil society. They are concerned that the data could be used in the future against leaders of organizations which are critical of the actions of the present regime or take part in protests.
They also fear that the gathering of data is linked with approaching parliamentary elections (due at the end of October 2012 – translator). Those in power are in this way trying to find out which NGOs plan to monitor the electoral process and which gets financial assistance from abroad. Oleksy Khara says that the Tax Inspectorate shows interest in them before each election.
Lawyers assert that the questions about activists run counter to the Personal Data Protection Action, this prohibiting the gathering of data about a person without their consent.