Foia, esperti e associazioni all’Anac: “Le sue linee guida affosseranno la legge”

di Thomas Mackinson

Una corsa contro il tempo, non priva di rischi, perché la trasparenza non resti uno slogan o peggio un gigantesco “pacco”. Giusto all’antivigilia di Natale, il 23 dicembre, va a pieno regime il decreto che disciplina il Freedom of information act, le norme sull’accesso civico introdotte nel 2013 e perfezionate con il “decreto trasparenza” del maggio scorso. A partire da quel giorno le Pa dovranno gestire le richieste dei cittadini, forti dei diritti/doveri disciplinati da una legge in materia di pubblicità e trasparenza che sulla carta promette di allineare il nostro Paese alle democrazie più avanzate in materia, tanto che la sua sola emanazione è valsa un balzo avanti dell’Italia nel rating mondialedi accesso all’informazione di accesso pubblico a dati, documenti e informazioni: siamo passati dalla 97sima posizione alla 55esima. […]

(continua a leggere su Il Fatto Quotidiano)

Negli Usa il Foia è wiki

foia-wiki

 

di Martina Basile

Si chiama FOIA wiki la prima piattaforma americana wiki su tutto quello che riguarda il Freedom of Information Act, la legge sull’accesso recentemente riformata da Obama.

È del 3 ottobre l’annuncio da parte della Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press sulla nascita della versione beta – quindi ancora in fase di test – della prima piattaforma FOIA wiki.

In occasione del 50esimo anniversario del Freedom Of Information Act, la commissione ha deciso di lanciare questo nuovo progetto utilizzando per la prima volta un formato “wiki” per incoraggiare la condivisione di idee tra persone e organizzazioni differenti.

Silenzi di Stato, le verità pubbliche che ci nascondono

libro3-1

di Elisa Murgese

Quanto ha speso il sindaco in viaggi e cene? Che cosa c’è nell’aria di casa mia? Com’è gestita l’emergenza dei migranti? Sono dieci storie di informazioni negate quelle raccontate in “Silenzi di Stato”, libro dell’avvocato Ernesto Belisario e del giornalista Guido Romeo appena uscito per Chierelettere. Come precisa il sottotitolo, “Storie di trasparenza negata e di cittadini che non si arrendono”. Perché Belisario e Romeo hanno scelto di raccontare dieci battaglie di cittadini e giornalisti che hanno cercato (spesso inutilmente, certamente con fatica) di entrare in possesso di documenti nelle mani di pubbliche amministrazioni: i titolo di studio degli insegnati inseriti in graduatoria, i costi del portale Italia.it o le informazioni sulla sicurezza degli edifici pubblici. Tante le domande che i cittadini vorrebbero porre alle pubbliche amministrazioni ma sempre uguale la risposta: una porta chiusa in faccia alla trasparenza.

#AccessToInfoDay – The Italian FOIA translated in English

italy-foia

Today we celebrate the first International Right To Know Day. After fourteen years from the first Right To Know Day, launched by a group of activists in 2002, this event was formally recognised by the UNESCO General Assembly in November 2015.

This year has been especially important for Italian RTI activists: last May, with the approval of the legislative decree n.96/2016, as part of the Public Administration Reform, Italy has revised its Transparency law n.33/2013 (mostly regulating proactive transparency) with new provisions on the right of access to information.

According to Article 5.2 “everyone has the right to access the data and documents held by the public administrations other than the ones subject to publication”: this means that even non Italian citizens can send access to information requests to Italian public bodies.

Therefore we thought it would be important to provide an English translation of the text for all the foreign citizens, journalists, activists and academics interested in exercising this right.

Note that, even if the new law is already in force, public bodies have still less than three months (precisely until the 23rd of December) to adjust their procedures with the new obligations. Before that date the National Anticorruption Agency will issue guidelines on the application of the cases of exemptions.

Below you can find the full text of the reformed Italian Transparency Decree translated in English.
You can also download it by clicking 
here.

 

Giornata Mondiale dell’Accesso alle Informazioni: FIRMA per il FOIA italiano!

Schermata 2015-02-17 alle 22.34.09

FIRMA LA PETIZIONE DI FOIA4ITALY

Mentre oggi in tutto il mondo si festeggia la Giornata Mondiale del Diritto di Accesso alle Informazioni (International Right to Know Day) l’Italia rimane una delle poche democrazie occidentali a non riconoscere ancora questo diritto fondamentale.

L’obiettivo nostro, e delle altre 31 organizzazioni parte di FOIA4Italy è quello di far approvare in Italia un Freedom Of Information Act, una legge che permetta ai cittadini un ampio accesso alle informazioni, ai dati e ai documenti delle Pubbliche Amministrazioni.

Foia4Italy, oggi il testo arriva ai parlamentari

Schermata 2015-02-17 alle 22.34.09

Chi ha detto che il Freedom of Information Act è una cosa tutta americana? «Dove un superiore, pubblico interesse non imponga un momentaneo segreto, la casa dell’amministrazione dovrebbe essere di vetro» scriveva Filippo Turati negli atti del Parlamento italiano nel 1908 (58 anni prima che Lyndon B. Johnson varasse il Foia americano!).

Impossibile non pensare a Turati, politico e giornalista oggi, in strada per Roma, dove alle 11.00 nella sala Aldo Moro del Palazzo dei Gruppi, insieme alla trentina di organizzazioni della società civile che hanno aderito al progetto #Foia4Italy presenteremo il testo  della nostra proposta di legge aggiornato dopo le consultazioni online.

Questo di Foia4Italy è un testo a cui teniamo molto perché frutto dell’impegno civico di tanti che hanno scritto e portato suggerimenti mostrando di voler prendere in parola il premier Matteo Renzi che, nel suo discorso al Senato lo scorso 24 febbraio, aveva detto chiaramente di voler dare all’Italia ben più di un Foia (qui sotto il video).

Noi per ora ci accontenteremmo di avere un Foia che ci porti al livello degli altri 100 paesi che già ne sono provvisti. E visto che, giustamente, le proposte vengono modificate durante il processo legislativo, abbiamo estratto i dieci punti senza i quali una nuova legge sulla trasparenza non può per noi definirsi un Freedom of Information Act.

Eccoli:

 1. Il diritto di accesso è previsto per chiunque, senza obbligo di motivazione (eliminando le restrizioni previste dalla Legge n. 241/1990)

2. Possono essere oggetto dell’accesso tutti i documenti, gli atti, le informazioni e i dati formati, detenuti o comunque in possesso di un soggetto pubblico

3. Si applica non solo alle Amministrazioni ma anche alle società partecipate e ai gestori di servizi pubblici

4. Le risposte delle Amministrazioni devono essere rapide (max 30 gg)

5. Le eccezioni all’accesso sono chiare e tassative

6. L’accesso a documenti informatici è gratuito (non sono dovuti nemmeno costi di riproduzione)

7. Nel caso di atti e documenti analogici, può essere richiesto solo il costo effettivo di riproduzione e di
eventuale spedizione

8. Quando un’informazione è stata oggetto di almeno tre distinte richieste di accesso, l’amministrazione
deve pubblicare l’informazione nella sezione “Amministrazione Trasparente”

9. In caso di accesso negato, i rimedi giudiziari e stragiudiziali sono veloci e non onerosi per il richiedente

10. Prevede sanzioni in caso di accesso illegittimamente negato

Chi li vuole discutere direttamente con gli estensori può farlo alla fine della conferenza stampa delle 14.30 presso l’Associazione Stampa Romana al 1° piano in Piazza della Torretta 36 a Roma. Chi non è nella capitale può semplicemente seguire l’HangOut che segnaleremo su @foia4italy.

E per i curiosi, al minuto 39.00 del video qui sotto, Matteo Renzi promette il Foia. Adesso che l’abbiamo scritto, non resta che adottarlo.

Regno Unito: un bilancio del Freedom of Information Act 10 anni dopo

Con l’inizio del 2015 il Freedom of Information Act inglese compie 10 anni.
Ripubblichiamo qui il bilancio di luci e ombre che ne fa il ricercatore Ben Worthy (pubblicato originariamente qui). Buona lettura e buon anno a tutti!

operation-unthinkableThe truth is that the FOI Act isn’t used, for the most part, by ‘the people’. It’s used by journalists. For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet.

Tony Blair 2010

The Freedom of Information Act has enhanced the UK’s democratic system and made our public bodies more open, accountable and transparent. It has been a success and we do not wish to diminish its intended scope, or its effectiveness.

House of Commons Justice Select Committee 2012 Post-Legislative Scrutiny of FOI

These two comments sum up the difficulties of measuring how successful the UK Freedom of Information Act has been. It isn’t just about statistics on numbers of requests, users or refusals (though there are some here if you are interested). What people think also shapes how it works and how others then behave. So a former Prime Minister sees it as one of his biggest mistakes while a Parliamentary committee see it as a vital part of democracy. Which is it?

What Does FOI look like?

One way to think about FOI is as an iceberg (as Nicola White said in her great book). iceberg

We can see only a small part of the overall process, those high level, often national FOI requests that attract controversy or attention-the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009 was the big one that set off a chain reaction of resignations and reform.[i] There has also been FOI exposure of all sorts of subjects, from the Iraq war to health reform. In recent days, for example, we have had stories about where the Environment Agency invests its money, the number of pupils at new Free schools or the cost of green policies–see David Higgerson’s FOI Friday round-up for more.

But underneath this, there are a large number of requests, probably 90 % or more, that we don’t see. Our research found most requests go to local government, somewhere between 70 to 80 % or 3.5 to 4 in every five requests (see what the Justice Committee said here). These are about local or personal issues-waste, street fixing, tax and permits- that are often ‘under the radar’. That’s not to say they can’t be spectacular-Tony Blair probably never expected his new law would lead to us knowing that 3 people were banned from Birmingham’s new library for being too smelly or to theresignation en masse of Walberswick Parish council in Suffolk. But real FOI is local, focused and probably bringing hidden benefits we don’t easily see.

Who Uses FOI?

A key problem underlining all FOI analysis is the lack of knowledge about requesters and their motivations. The table below is based on estimates of requester types to central and local government from FOI officers.

Requester Local Government (%) Central Government (%)
Public    37 39
Journalist    33 8
Business    22 8
Academic    1–2 13

 

Contrary to the views of Tony Blair, FOI requesters are not just journalists. The largest group across central and local government appears to be members of the public. We felt that the public consists of a small group of politically engaged with a larger group pursuing issues of “micro-politics” or of private importance.

There is a clear rise and fall of public interest with the news agenda-snow leads to requests about snow plows, spying about government snooping levels. However, many requests were focused, “quite niche” or on “specialised” issues- a planning dispute or parking fine at local level or access to benefits at central government (or even who was paid what to switch on the town Christmas lights).

Requesters’ motivations were also diverse. Even the small sample of requesters we found and spoke to in our studies gave a huge variety of reasons for using FOI, from “concern about wasted money” to “curiosity”, “general interest” and personal campaigns against “corrupt” local government. So, the sheer variability of requester motivations and use underscores the variability of impact of the Act upon different public bodies.

Who’s Against It? Fighting on the Border

FOI has been subject to clear ‘battle’ over how the Act is working, with a public divide between sceptical (mainly) senior politicians and officials and supporters of the Act in the media, NGOs and the appeal system.

The extent to which FOI is supported varies across departments and local government bodies, dependent on the individual leadership, culture and environment of different public bodies. On the whole, government officials support the Act and work with it.

While welcoming it as an idea, senior politicians have been less keen on the loss of control or unexpected issues or scandals sprung on them. As well as claiming it is vaguely ‘abused’, a number of senior officials and politicians have argued that FOI negatively affects decision-making processes, though we found there was no real evidence for this (which didn’t stop some rather interesting anecdotes to the Select Committee). While Tony Blair was clear in his views that FOI was an all-round disaster, David Cameron’s more subtle approach has been to argue that ‘real freedom of Information’ was about ‘spending’ while other requests ‘furred up the arteries’ of government-a comment that revealed a very particular view of what information rights ‘should’ be used for.

Numerous politicians have also highlighted the ‘cost’ of FOI, though, like many economic arguments, this is actually smokescreen for a political debate. And when different studies have concluded that requests costs either £200, £36 or £19 each, the discussion becomes a little confusing (see this post here and a longer report here). The danger is that all this combined negativity may encourage poor behaviour and lead to a small ‘anti- FOI’ group at the very top of government. While, for example, Blair’s claim that FOI is used only by journalists is demonstrably untrue, it adds to a distorted view of FOI.

On the other side of the divide, FOI has a clear constituency of supporters in the media, Parliament and across various NGOs as well as in the courts and the appeal system. Supported by high profile cases such as MPs’ expenses, the symbolic importance of FOI legislation offers the reform a robust protection, backed up by a powerful and vocal constituency. Supporters of the Act have constantly innovated, pushed key cases and also sought to persuade successive governments to extend the Act private bodies working on behalf of public authorities.

Since 2005, but gathering pace since Tony Blair’s comments in 2010, there remains a continuous ‘fighting on the borders’ over where the Act begins and ends and whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In 2009, supporters scored some success by persuading Gordon Brown to shorten the period of disclosure of historical records from 30 to 20 years. David Cameron’s Transparency Agenda has undoubtedly helped push further openness, as have events like the Hillsborough inquiry.

However, at the same time the scepticism from the top of government has encouraged a series of attempts to restrict the Act. This included an attempt to change the costing regime in 2006, to remove Parliament from the ambit of the Act in 2006-2007 and introduce greater protections for Cabinet documents in 2010. Only the removal of the Monarch and heir from the Act was successful, probably because it went largely unnoticed (though the Monarchy is not out of the woods yet). As of writing now, the government has hinted that it may seek to limit what it ambiguously describes as ‘industrial’ users, though this close to a General Election it’s unlikley. The fact that all but one attempt was seen off shows how strong FOI’s support base is. For now…

And so?

FOI appears to be a success and is (probably) here to stay. This is not just about numbers- it is supported, used and co-operated with by most officials. It can, and does, bring very public benefits and may also be locally bringing positive outcomes we don’t see.

It has not only led to new issues on the agenda (not least the UK’s role both in extraordinary rendition and covering it up) but also helped in the creation of a new watchdog to regulate MPs’ expenses and a change in the law over the tax status of members of the House of Lords. It has also kicked off developments like mySociety’s WhatDoTheyKnow and has popped up in all sorts of interesting areas, such as the app that lets you know if politicians are editing Wikipedia pages.

It is not without its difficulties or problems-it can be abused, misused or misunderstood. All openness brings problems of one kind or another. But the disruption and uncertainty may be an essential part of any openness law. One way of thinking of FOI is as a form of turbulence-an instrument of unpredictability, like e-petitions. So Tony Blair’s complaints may be (in part) a sign of the Act doing its job well. It is its very unpredictability and annoyance that makes it powerful. As I’ve said elsewhere, it also enshrines an important principle-but not one that lets politicians sleep soundly in their beds.[ii]

Further reading

Justice Committee (2012) Post-legislative Review of Freedom of Information here

Worthy, Ben and Hazell, Robert, The Impact of the Freedom of Information Act in the UK (August 26, 2013). Nigel Bowles, James T Hamilton, David Levy (eds) Transparency in Politics and the Media: Accountability and Open Government, London: L.B. Tauris, 31-45, 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2487541 and work by the Constitution Unit here.

 

[i] I’m obliged to point out the scandal was a combination of an FOI request by Heather Brooke, four years of appeals, a court case and (finally) a good old fashioned paid for leak.

[ii] I shamelessly borrowed this from Orwell’s definition of liberty ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’ (from his unpublished preface to Animal Farm) and tried to rework this to fit transparency: ‘Transparency is the right to ask questions those in power don’t want asked and look for information they don’t want us to see’ see this post.

P.S. for anyone interested, the pictured document comes from Churchill’s 1945 planning for the very aptly named ‘Operation Unthinkable’ his appraisal of the consequences of a war between the US/UK and the the USSR

[RESEARCH] Making Transparency Stick: The Dynamics of Open Data

As part of our research efforts, here’s the another update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon. Today’s analysis focuses on the effectiveness of open data policy, as explored in a paper by researcher Ben Worthy.

#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram - Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)https://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/6166628554
#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram – Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this paper, Ben Worthy identifies – based on the UK reform – the indicators of successful and/or failing Open Data policies.

In fact, he argues, the fate of these policies depends on the synergy built between enactment and post-enactment. Plus “policy feedback” plays an important role in assessing the impact of any reform. A strong feedback is able to build collective support among all involved actors to remake politics.

The Open Data policy in this paper is summarized under the UK’s Transparency Agenda which includes sub-policies:

  • Publishing spending data

  • Publishing service data

  • Platforms

  • Running experiments

  • Legal reforms

  • Charters and international agreements

During the enactment phase, Worthy identifies the Vision, the Symbolism and the Mechanics of Open Data policy.

First, “the vision of Open Data is powerful yet vague”. Under the umbrella of transparency, it has political, social and economic impacts on the nation as a whole. It can be used to promote more accountability, to develop public participation and/or to enhance economic growth and innovation. Hence Open Data is also unclear.

Some mistaken thoughts about technology of Open Data being as a solution for political problems are made, a very deterministic thought, standing between technology of Open Data and the politics of Open Government.

Second, Open Data is a symbolic policy yet voteless. According to Worthy, it offers on one side, transformative opportunities to remake politics under the democratic values, such as accountability, participation and empowerment; but, on the other side, although it attracts political support, it bring no electoral advantages.

Corruzione in Italia: servono politiche efficaci, non retorica della trasparenza.

Indice di Corruzione Percepita: la mappa
Corruption Perception Index 2014: la mappa internazionale

Lo scorso 3 dicembre Transparency International ha pubblicato il suo annuale Corruption Perception Index (CPI), l’Indice di Corruzione Percepita.
Anche quest’anno l’Italia ha un pessimo piazzamento, di fatto invariato rispetto allo scorso anno: 69° posto, tra gli ultimi paesi europei, con soli 43 punti su 100.

Cosa significa?
Lo scrive chiaramente Ernesto Belisario su Wired Italia:

Lo stallo italiano ha un significato ben preciso: le politiche degli ultimi anni, anche normative, in materia di lotta alla corruzione (e trasparenza) non hanno funzionato!

Il quadro è sconfortante: le nostre amministrazioni non sono state capaci di utilizzare adeguatamente Internet come strumento di trasparenza, gli open data non hanno avuto l’impatto sperato e – ancora una volta – manca un Freedom of Information Act, una legge in grado di ribaltare la logica della trasparenza, per come è concepita in Italia.

Lo dice, ancora una volta, anche Belisario: “Non è più il cittadino a dover dimostrare il proprio interesse a conoscere un determinato dato o documento (“need to know”), ma è l’amministrazione – se intende negare l’accesso all’informazione o al documento – a dover provare l’esistenza di ragioni (previste per legge) che impediscano di soddisfare la richiesta del cittadino (“right to know”)“.

Il Freedom of Information Act è la pietra angolare della trasparenza e c’è sempre più bisogno di una buona legge a riguardo.

La campagna Foia4Italy – con la relativa proposta di legge – è la voce della società civile che chiede al governo politiche anti-corruzione con strategia e visione, fuori dalla “retorica della trasparenza” che abbiamo visto troppo spesso.