Why does APDP not apply the law to punish MESCS?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls on the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information (APDP) to file the request for initiating misdemeanour procedure against the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport (MESCS), which did not act in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information by not publishing information on its website within the deadline and scope prescribed for it.

The CCE considers that contribution of a member of the Council of the APDP, Muhamed Gjokaj, would be much more efficient if he performed a more active role in the management, directing the work of the APDP to implementation of sanctions as a mechanism for respecting the legal framework within its competence.

In a statement to the media, Gjokaj noted that during supervision of the portfolio of Vesna Bratić was determined that the website of the Ministry does not contain its decisions on the appointment of acting directors of primary and secondary schools in Montenegro, which were adopted after the entry into force of the Law Amending the General Law on Education. Also, it was stated that the Access to Information Guide, which was previously updated, as well as public registers and records, were not published on the site.

It is determined that the links to lists of civil servants and state employees with their titles, as well as lists of public officials with amounts of their gross salaries, are not in function, nor the link to published decisions and other single acts that are of importance to rights, duties, and interests of third parties, including the appointment of acting directors, link to published information based on decisions allowing access to required information, etc. This makes the purpose of the Ministry’s website senseless because it does not provide basic information, such as the list of licenced educational institutions in Montenegro, etc.

Most of the noted information that has not been published already exists, which means that the Ministry did not have to compile new information, but only update the changes and proactively publicize these. Also, many were earlier published and withdrawn for unknown reasons. 

The Law on Free Access to Information prescribes that competent public authority, in this case, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, shall publish on its webpage the Access to Information Guide held by it, public registers and public records, programmes and work plans, reports and other documents on work and state of play in areas within their competence, draft and proposal of laws and other regulations, as well as opinions of experts delivered concerning drafts and proposals for legislation, then lists of civil servants and state employees with their titles, list of public officials and pay lists for them, as well as a list of other incomes related to exercise of public function, decisions and other single acts that are of importance to rights, duties, and interests of third parties, but also other similar information. This Law also prescribes the deadline of 15 days for publishing information as of the day of which they are created or adopted, while fine ranging from 500 to 20.000 EUR shall be imposed upon the legal entity, as well as a fine ranging from 200 to 2.000 EUR for a responsible person in the body.

CCE assesses that requirements for submitting a request for initiating misdemeanour proceedings and punishing this Ministry have been met, and wonders why the APDP prescribes new deadlines  for correcting irregularities - given that the Law is strict in that part and that these obligations must be familiar to officials in the Ministry.

Having in mind Gjokaj’s statement and the fact that the APDP’s requests for information addressed to the authorities have not been complied with, it is worth recalling that there are similar mechanisms in the Law such as the sanctions, which just need to be applied.

CCE considers that strengthening any institution requires increasing the level of transparency of work. It can be accomplished by publishing all important information that are prescribed by law as mandatory publicly available due to the right of the public to know, and every non-disclosure or non-availability of the important information represents a violation of the law and also repeals promises of this government that it will work transparently and in the interest of citizens.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor