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26. september 2011. Marko Milosevic, Researcher, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
In occasion of the Day of ‘The Public’s right to know’ which will be marked on September 28, Commissioner will deliver rewards for the best made Information Booklet. It is good to make a review on practicing of this right in security sector, precisely, in which manner; actors of security sector are providing information for public insight.
Public administration authorities have the legal obligation to have their one Information Booklet of work. Also, by secondary regulations ‘’Instructions for Information Booklet making and publishing’’ it is more precisely defined what Information Booklet should contain and in which way it should be available to the public. By analyzing few Information Booklets of security sector actors’ work, Center strived to provide its contribution to promotion of rights to free access for information of public interest.
Which information citizens have right to know? Structured aggregate of information starts with identifications of public administration authorities, in which organization is presented, top people, people in charge for dealing with public demands, so as the most important contacts. Then, good Information Booklet contains the list of laws and secondary regulations which are applying in that institution. One of the important Information Booklet items is the budget with information about public procurement, where citizens can have insight in way of spending taxpayers’ money. Besides these parts, citizens can also find data about powers and jurisdictions of staff in that public administration authority, and also about types of information which that authority possesses, and ways of its storage. Separate entity is part about common questions of citizens, which should provide insight in information characteristic for that authority.
In which way security sector actors are fulfilling their legal obligations? We have analyzed BIA, MUP, and Ministry of Defense Information Booklets of work from 2008 till 2011. It is noticeably that these three institutions only formally published Information Booklets in 2008 which weren’t in accordance with Instructions. Namely, none of three Information Booklets contained detail budget plan, income, expense and information about public procurements. Ministry of Defense had only a few information about budget, but without citizens’ possibilities for insight in consumption structure. All three Information Booklets contained less than twenty pages, while, just for comparison, Information Booklets nowadays of these institutions contain around hundred pages. Ministry of Defense has timely updated its Information Booklets about work, while BIA and MUP didn’t from 2008 till 2010. Since 2007, there are people in Ministry of Defense in charge for dealing with citizens’ demands for information of public importance, while that function in MUP had people from Bureau for applications and appeals. The part about the most frequend questions of citizen was left out, which was corrected in future versions.
The praxis was changed in 2010, especially in MUP and BIA. Namely, their Information Booklet, have been updated on 2008, apropos 2009 for the last time. At the end of 2010, both institutions have published very detailed Information Booklets, with all necessary information, which are proscribed by Instruction. The latest Information Booklet of MUP work has 400 pages and it shows all the items about public procurements that were made, and the biggest part of the budget. Information about the most frequent questions are orderly listed in Information Booklet. BIA also orderly updates its Information Booklet, although budgetary items, because of job description, are less represented- there are numbers of confidential procurements which hasn’t been showing in Information Booklet. Again, there are data about total amounts in public procurements, so as data about procurements of small value.
Ministry of Defense is improving quality of its Information Booklet, so on their website special annexes about public procurements are available on three months basis in last three years. Also, this ministry provides to its citizens total sum of budget which is separated for two of its agencies- VOA and VBA.
There can be noticed significant qualitative rise of these three institutions in Information Booklets making. In this way, citizens can find out necessary information, and greater supervision over security sector has been made. Let’s hope that big financial affairs like “Satellite” and “Pancir” will no longer shake Serbian politics, and that budget funds will be used more responsibly.