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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Q: What does the term “public information” mean?
A: Public information means an official document (including chart, model, plan, diagram, photo, electronic data, video and audio records), i.e. information held by a public agency, or that received, processed, created, or sent by a public agency or a public officer in connection with official activities.
2. Q: What type of public information can be requested from the public authority?
A: A person has the right to request any type of information from public authority unless the information contains state, private or commercial secret. The certain type of information is also protected from disclosure by means of the executive privilege.
3. Q: What does the term “state secret” mean?
A: State secret means the type of information which includes the data containing the state secret in the fields of defence, economy, foreign relations, and issues pertaining to protection of national security and law-and-order. One can get more detailed information in the “Law of Georgia on State Secrets”.
4. Q: What does the term “private secret” mean?
A: Private secret means the personal data, the decision on classification of which is made by the person about whom the information is held in the public authority. According to the existing legislation personal data is the information that allows identification of the person. Private secret is applied to the information pertaining to individual’s health, his/her finances and other private matters.
5. Q: What does the term “commercial secret” mean?
A: Commercial secret means the information concerning the plan, formula, process or means of commercial value, or any other information that is used to produce, prepare, or reproduce goods, or provide service, and/or which represents an innovation or a significant technical accomplishment, or any other information, disclosure of which could harm the competitiveness of a certain person. In addition, it must be noted that the commercial secret is/refers to the secret of legal entities of private law and other entrepreneurial subjects. The information concerning an administrative body shall not be considered as commercial secret according to the existing legislation.
6. Q: What does the term “executive privilege” mean?
A: The term “executive privilege” denotes the right of administrative body not to disclose the names of public officers (except for state officials) participating in the process of preparation of decisions by the official of this body.
7. Q: How can one obtain the public information?
A: In order to obtain public information one should submit request in written form to the relevant public authority.
The request form must include the following information:
1. Name of the authority or official to whom the request is submitted;
2. Applicant’s full name and the address;
3. The claim;
4. The date of submission of request and the signature of the applicant;
5. The list of attached documents (in case of existence).
It is not legally required to specify grounds or purpose for requesting the public information in the request form.
Oral request for public information must not be the subject of refusal, in such case the request must be documented in writing.
8. Q: What is the deadline for disclosure (release) of public information?
A: A public authority shall release the public information immediately or no later than 10 (ten) days, if the reply to the request of public information requires:
(a) the acquisition of information from its structural unit that operates in another area or from another public authority, and the processing of such information;
(b) the acquisition and processing of separate large documents that are not interrelated;
(c) consultation with its structural unit that operates in another area or consultation with another public authority.
9. Q: Does the applicant have to pay fee for the receipt of public information?
A: A public authority shall provide availability of the copies of public information. It is prohibited to charge any kind of fee for the disclosure of public information except for the reimbursement of costs required for the reproduction of copy. The charge for a copy must be equal to the cost of its reproduction.
The applicant shall not be charged for:
· obtaining copies of his/her personal data held by a public authority;
· writing information to a CD or sending information by e-mail.
10. Q: What is the deadline for informing the applicant about refusal to disclose the public information?
A: The applicant shall be immediately informed about the denial of a public authority to disclose the public information.
In case of refusal to disclose the public information, the public authority shall provide the person with a written information concerning his/her rights and procedures for filing a complaint within the period of three days after the decision was made. The public authority shall also specify the administrative body which was consulted with during the process of making a decision on the refusal to disclose the public information.
11. Q: What type of information is not the subject to classification?
A: According to the existing legislation of Georgia it is prohibited to classify the following types of information:
· information on environment, also the data on hazard that constitutes a threat to life and health;
· the basic principles and directions of activity of a public authority;
· the description of structure of public authority; the manner of assignment and division of functions among public servants and decision-making procedures;
· the names and office addresses of those public officers of the public authority, who hold the official positions or are responsible for the classification of public information, or public relations, or provision of information to citizens;
· open ballot results in collegial public body;
· any type of information concerning elections of a person to an office;
· results of auditing or inspection of the activity of a public authority and court materials on cases where the public authority acted as a party;
· the name and location of public database within the competence of public authority and the name and office address of the person responsible for the database;
· the purpose, field of application and legal basis for collecting, processing, storing and disseminating data by public authority;
· availability or non-availability of personal data in a public database, the procedures for gaining access to such information, including the procedures allowing the identification of a person, if the person (or his representative) has filed the request to gain access to or modify personal information of the aforementioned person;
· category of persons who may gain access to the personal data contained in public database pursuant to law;
· composition and sources of the data contained in public database and the category of persons, the information on whom is collected, processed and stored;
· any other type of information that is not considered state, commercial, or private secret pursuant to the law.
12. Q: What measures can one take in case of non-disclosure of public information?
A: If the public authority refuses to release information, or if the released information is incomplete, the applicant has the right to appeal against the decision within the period of 1 (one) month after the receipt of refusal.
The decision must firstly be appealed before a superior official or administrative body (the head of the public authority which refused to disclose the public information). If the appeal is not resolved, a lawsuit may be filed, without the execution of the abovementioned procedures the court will not accept an appeal. An exception occurs when there is no superior body to the issuer of act.
13. Q: What is the fee for filing a lawsuit for release of public information?
A: One of the criteria for accepting the suits by courts is payment of the prescribed fee. Disputes related to freedom of information are non-material disputes and are settled in accordance with rules of administrative procedures. While in accordance with the Civil Procedural Code of Georgia the official fee payable in the court of first instance is GEL 100, in the court of appeal GEL 150, and in the court of cassation GEL 300. If the dispute is settled in favor of the complainant, the complainant shall be fully reimbursed for payment of the official fee.
14. Q: Who shall pay procedural expenses?
A: Procedural expenses (attorney’s costs, other technical costs, except for official fee) are covered by the parties to lawsuit, and if the party consists of several natural or legal persons the expenses are divided equally among them.