08 Mar 2011

Ngo Coalition Wins Major Battles for Transparency

Courts fine heavily public sector executives who deny release of public documents

The Alliance for Clean Romania (ACR), an initiative led by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR), won a lawsuit against two entities that manage public funds, against their denial to disclose public information. After a series of judgments between SAR, as plaintiff, and the Authority for State Assets Recovery (AVAS) and EximBank – a bank specialized in intermediating packages of financial services for SMEs – the ACR’s right to the information was re-won in court. The two entities, both operating on public money and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (Law 544/2001) denied access to public information regarding problematic contracts they had sealed in the past years. According to the recent court sentences, both heads of these agencies were to receive a fine equivalent to 20% of their salaries for each day of withholding the requested public information. As a consequence, AVAS’director made available the documents within 9 hours from the court’s decision, while EximBank’s director requested the paper necessary for photocopying the documents. We consider this to be a major breakthrough in what represents judicial action for the respect of access to public information and the use of strategic litigation as a method of disclosure in ciil society action.