It is difficult to establish a mechanism to force the institutions of the Republic of Serbia to cooperate
Orders were earlier ignored by ministries, and public enterprises nowadays
IT TOOK eight years and several conclusions of the National Assembly requesting the Government to provide adequate working premises to the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, for him to finally be granted the premises this week. Due to years of having been ignored, and due to the fact that some institutions persistently fail to act upon the rulings of the Commissioner, a part of the public has formed an impression that this institution is ''a dead letter''.
The Commissioner, Rodoljub Sabic, himself denies this for the newspaper Novosti:
- Success rate of interventions is over 91 percent. This percentage, following the complaint to the Commissioner, receives the information previously denied. Even under the criteria of the old democratic states this is a very high percentage. It is indicative that in almost two thirds of cases the Commissioner does not even have to adopt formal decisions, because after receiving his request for a statement, the authority immediately allows access to previously withheld information.
However, in a certain number of cases, authorities knowingly fail to comply with the Commissioner's orders even though they are legally binding.
- The Commissioner is not in charge of the instruments which should ensure enforcement - others are, and unfortunately, these instruments have not been used so far. The Government which has a statutory obligation to enforce the law in order to ensure its implementation has not done so and neither have the line ministries who are to institute infringement proceedings against the offenders - admits Sabic.
Thus, in the annual report of the Commissioner adopted by the National Assembly in June, it is stated that: "Having in mind the huge number of infringements, it can be said for such a liability ''policy'' that it is a call to break the law."
In most cases the ministries were the ones who failed to comply with the Commissioner's rulings in the past. Nowadays it is the public enterprises who are problematic. Therefore, the National Assembly obliged the Government to sanction those who fail to comply with the rulings.
The number of people addressing the Commissioner to provide them access to information which they may not attain via regular channels is growing year after year, however the number of requests regarding violations of privacy and personal data protection rights is growing as well (in 2012 there were a total of 7 570 active cases). The law is violated by not entering own records in the Central Register of the Commissioner, which is a statutory obligation (last year 303 of data controllers submitted 1575 records of data files managed by them, while 2083 records were submitted in 2011).
This year's report was passed by the National Assembly without much ado, therefore it was questioned whether the MPs adopted it on a pro forma basis. Sabic is not of the opinion that everything went so ''smoothly":
- The National Assembly devotes considerable attention to them. This year the report has been discussed at the sittings of two Parliamentary Committees as well ( for judiciary and culture), including the plenary session of the National Assembly. Adopted conclusions are all aimed at the strengthening of the institution.
However, the Commissioner has received support in the previous years as well and his reports have not been brought into question neither by the Government nor by the opposition. However, the Government has not taken into consideration the conclusions of the National Assembly, which is a separate and major political issue.
Entrefile: INCOMPLETE LAW
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY has obliged the Government to adopt secondary legislation which would enable enforcement of laws governing data confidentiality and improve the right to free access to information of public importance. Certain issues are not even regulated: biometrics, video surveillance, direct marketing. Will the amendments of legislation take years – it remains to be seen.