Info on bureaucrats’ pay? Ha, send essay first!
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Info on bureaucrats’ pay? Ha, send essay first!
21. 5. 2018

Thanks to legislation on free access to information, it is possible to glean information on the allocation of public (our!!!) funds, including data on the wages and remuneration of civil servants, funded from such coffers. Previously, all you had to do was submit a simple request. But matters have complicated and of late, it has lately been much more difficult to obtain such information. The Constitutional Court has made the provision of such data conditional upon a review of several criteria, including whether the applicant is an able-bodied watchdog and his inquiry helps to promote debate on matters of public interest. This could ultimately pave the way to differentiating between the rights of citizens of various categories: Are a select few journalists entitled to success an information concealed from the rest of the public? Are the various authorities really entitled to judge to what extent the information they disclose is an input to the public discourse?

Thanks to legislation on free access to information, it is possible to glean information on the allocation of public (our!!!) funds, including data on the wages and remuneration of civil servants, funded from such coffers. Previously, all you had to do was submit a simple request. But matters have complicated and of late, it has lately been much more difficult to obtain such information.

The Constitutional Court has made the provision of such data conditional upon a review of several criteria, including whether the applicant is an able-bodied watchdog and his inquiry helps to promote debate on matters of public interest. 

This could ultimately pave the way to differentiating between the rights of citizens of various categories: Are a select few journalists entitled to success an information concealed from the rest of the public? Are the various authorities really entitled to judge to what extent the information they disclose is an input to the public discourse?    

The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) ruled in its Verdict 6 As 79/2006-58, Coll., NSS 1342/2007 reads that a taxable entity has no right whatsoever to examine and study the purpose and reason for the applicant’s submission or his motives. Why did the NSS find that such review is not possible? Well, it is because it is in principle for a purpose and reason that we know how public (our!!!) funds are expended and how the authorities and other public institutions really work, and consequently it is not up to any such body to relativize this principle in any way.

Another key jurisprudence is offered by Constitutional Court Finding I, ÚS 3930/14, which stipulates that an interpretation conforming to the Constitution must be preferred in the interpretation of the law on free access to information. Consequently, if more interpretations exist, it is necessary to choose the one which best upholds the exercise of the right to information.

I am therefore convinced that in principle, the authorities must provide such information as before and the Constitutional Court shall, if need be, require that in case of requests concerning information about the wages and remuneration of specific persons in the public sector, the applicant display a higher awareness, pursuant to the law, of his right to seek information as well as assurance that he/she seeks only relevant not general anonymized information, in the realm of public discourse. Otherwise one might paradoxically want to know if the court finding is actually in harmony with the Constitutional Order.

To find out how exactly to formulate your request and get an inspiration from a specimen of such ruling, read an analysis by Open Society, on which this article was based.

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