Freedom of Information in Municipalities - 2012
In February 2012 the Freedom of Information Centre submitted written information requests to the Heads of 49 cities of Armenia (including Yerevan Municipality), requesting information on the funds (expenses) envisaged for and allocated in 2001 and 2012 for snow-cleaning works in those cities. This initiative of the Freedom of Information Centre provided with an opportunity to find out how the Heads of city communities representing various Marzes (regions) implemented the Law on Freedom of Information. We have analyzed the answers provided by municipalities in accordance with 2 criteria: completeness of the responses and timelines of their provision.
Content of the Reponses
The Freedom of Information Centre received 34 complete responses, out of 49 requests sent to the Municipalities. 22 out of complete responses were provided in time and 12 - with violation of the defined timeframes. In response to 6 out of 49 requests, the municipalities have provided incomplete responses and 1 response was invalid. 8 requests have remained unanswered.
The author of the invalid response was the municipality of Tumanyan. The response was deemed invalid since it included data having nothing in common with the content of the request (see response here: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/854/). The Freedom of Information Centre sent a repeated request to Tumanyan municipality requesting to provide relevant information. Eventually, the Tumanyan municipality provided complete response to the FOIC’s second request without violating timeframes.
Incomplete responses were provided by the municipalities of Artashat, Vedi, Abovyan, Nor Hatchn, Akhtala and Gyumri. These municipalities had provided the requested information to the FOIC only partially. The FOIC applied to the Head of Municipalities requesting to provide the missing information. The municipalities of Vedi and Nor Hatchn provided timely and complete responses to the repeated request and Artashat, Abovyan, Akhtala and Gyumri municipalities have left the repeated requests unanswered.
As noted, 8 requests submitted by the FOIC remained unanswered. The municipalities of Vardenis, Yeghvard, Vanadzor, Stepanavan, Spitak, Sisian, Goris and Noyemberyan did not reply to FOIC’s requests. Repeated requests were sent to these bodies as well, requesting to provide information demanded in the first requests. As a result, the municipalities of Stepanavan, Sisian, Goris provided timely and complete replies and the municipalities of Yeghvard and Spitak provided late complete replies. Noyemberyan municipality provided invalid reply in response to FOIC’s repeated request. The reply was deemed invalid since it included information which was different from what was requested (see response here: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/916/).
Vardenis and Vanadzor municipalities have left the Freedom of Information Center’s repeated requests unanswered as well. It is only these two municipalities that have not reacted in any manner following the submission of a repeated request by the FOIC. The municipalities of Vardenis and Vanadzor have been included in the Freedom of Information Center’s quarterly Black List for 2012.
Analysis of the Responses as per Timeframes
Let us address the timeliness of the provided responses. According to point 7 of Article 9 of the RA Law on “Freedom of Information”, a response to a request for information should be provided within 5 days following the receipt of such request. The FOIC has sent the requests via post. Hence, the response has not been considered late if it was provided within 9 calendar days, out of which 5 days period is the timeframe defined by law, 2 days are calculated for postal delivery and the remaining 2 are the non-working days – Saturday and Sunday. In any case, in order to avoid inaccuracies, the timeframes have been calculated based on the day when the requests were actually sent out and the date of sending the response back, as indicated on the stamp of the postal service marked on the envelope carrying the response.
As noted, in 34 cases the municipalities have provided complete responses. Out of these 34 responses, 22 were provided in time and 12 – with delay. The invalid response by Tumanyan municipality was provided without violating the deadline (see response here: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/854/). The complete response to the repeated information request was also provided by the municipality without violating the deadline (see response here: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/892/).
4 out of 6 incomplete responses were provided within the timeframes defined by law and the other 2 were provided with delay (Artashat and Gyumri municipalities). Amongst the repeated requests sent to the authors of incomplete responses, 2 have been answered, both without violating the deadline. As noted, 2 of the repeated requests sent to the 8 authors of mute refusals have remained unanswered. 4 answers to the remaining 6 requests were provided in a timely manner (3 complete and 1 invalid response) and the other two – with violation of the deadline.
So, out of 49 requests sent by the FOIC, 41 have been answered, of which 27 have been provided without violating the deadline and 14 have been late responses. Out of 15 repeated requests 9 have been answered, of which 7 responses were provided in a timely manner and 2 – by violating the deadline.
Thus, out of the total number of 64 requests (FOIC’s first and repeated requests) 50 have been answered, out of which 34 were provided in a timely manner and 16 were provided with a delay.
From the point of view of timeliness, the best results were shown by the municipalities of Talin, Tchambarak, Byureghavan (see: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/845/) and Tashir (see: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/entity/293/), which provided complete responses after 3 days following the sending of the request. Amongst the best is also the municipality of Meghri (see http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/859/), which has provided complete response after 4 days following the sending of the request. The worst results come from the municipalities of Alaverdi (see: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/899/) and Yerevan (see: http://givemeinfo.am/hy/case/873/), which have responded after 29 and 27 days respectively, following the FOIC’s requests.