(short description – full version in Ukrainian)
Environment-People-Law (EPL) has set an important precedent for freedom of information in Ukraine by convincing a court that a Parliament advisory body should be subject to national freedom of information law.
EPL brought the case against the Accounting Chamber – state body that executes control over the state funds spending from the State Budget on behalf of Ukraine’s Parliament. The Chamber had refused to disclose details about what it found when auditing a construction project partly funded by the government to build the Danube-Black Sea Canal through internationally recognized wetlands.
While Ukraine’s freedom of information law applies to all state bodies, EPL wanted to work through Administrative court rather than the Commercial court. The administrative court meant a much lower court fee, and the possibility to file a law suit in their local region rather than with the court in the capital (where the defendant was located). The case was brought before the Commercial Court in Lviv according to administrative procedure.
By Administrative procedure a plaintiff can file a law suit against state body that executes governing functions. The Accounting Chamber had argued that the law did not apply to them, and that they were only accountable to Parliament. The Chamber had released some information about their audit, but not the level of detail sought by EPL. EPL convinced the court that the Accounting Chamber in effect had not only a consulting function for the Parliament of Ukraine, but authority over members of the public as they own the information that might be of public interest.
Because continued construction of the canal requires the state to allocated money each year, EPL plans to challenge future allocation decisions that would give more money to certain activities if there were precedents of violations, and if the people who were responsible for violations were not held accountable.
The Accounting Chamber appealed the decision of the court of the first instance and we are waiting for the court hearing according to appeal procedure.