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Too much secrecy of data in public enterprises

Since the December last year Transparency Serbia monitors implementation of the Law on free Access to Information and announced changes of that Law. Draft changes and amendments of the Law presented by the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-government last year, envisaged significant narrowing the right to free access to information, by depriving of interested public and journalists of the control of work of enterprises in state, provincial and municipality ownership, that are organized as stock companies.

Having in mind that even those companies that would stay in the scope of law after such changes (those that have status of „public enterprises“), can at any moment change organizational form by the decision of the Government (like in many situations so far), such legal provision could significantly narrow possibilities of public control of that part of public sector that disposes with property of the highest value.

During 2019,Transparency Serbia submitted large number of the requests for free access to information to public enterprises and other companies owned by the state and citizens. Out of 58 submittedrequests, we received answers to 33, while 25 institutions haven’t answered. We presented at the press conference, the most characteristic excuses for denying access to information, based on our requests, as well as data on information requested from the enterprises from the practice of Commissioner for Information of Public Importance.

Associate of TS Zlatko Minić stated that answers did not always have data requested by Transparency, and most interesting are "excuses that public enterprises use when not wanting to answer".

Minić stated as an example Autotransport Pančevo whose buses didn’t operate in the direction of Belgrade during the opposition meeting, due to, as stated "insufficient amount of fuel, as well as insufficient number of employees".

To the question of such circumstances, ATP Pančevo answered that list of vehicles and amount of fuel is part of the plan of the defenseof the country and is labeled as state secret.

Minić also stated the answer of the enterprise Rembas trans that characterized requesting of information as "mobbing of authorized person", as well as the case of Parking servis that wouldn’t answer to which political party it belongs to having in mind statement of its director that activity of removing irregularly parked vehicles "proves that we are the party that creates the order".

Program Director of TS, Nemanja Nenadić said that still many authority organs violate the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance by not proceeding upon the requests, but even greater problem is that Government hasn’t provided in any of the case execution of Commissioner’s decisions. "Not even in this year Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-government, Government and National Assembly haven’t eliminated well known problems in access to information, primarily, through changes of the law", said Nenadić.

He added that Constitutional Court of Serbia missed the chance to eliminate some of the forms of violating right to access information through provisions of special law, and as an example stated the case related to the Law on Protection of Competition.

According to his words, authority organs most often deny the information by ignoring the request completely, and later still provide data in the procedure upon complaint. "We have on the one side the Government that does not provide execution of commissioners decisions, and on the other hand adopts Action Plan of Open Government Partnership, that envisages additional commitment of the organs to publish some of the information, even when they are not obliged by the law", saidNenadić. He pointed out that Draft Law on changes and amendments of the Law on Free Access to Information has provision whose goal is to exclude stock companies and companies with limited liabilityowned by the state, from the implementation of this law, and stressed out that this should not be adopted.

Researcher of Transparency Serbia -MišaBojović, said that according to data of research, in the previous three years there were 156 unexecuted decisions of the Commissioner related to public enterprises. "We noticed that most often appeared are: EPS, ŽeleznicaSrbije, SrbijagasandErSrbija".