RISE Ukraine Coalition was founded to support the recovery and modernization of Ukraine after the war. We also work to increase the number of funds allocated for reconstruction and ensure their transparent and effective use. Unfortunately, we have to state that the achievement of this goal is currently under threat.
Accountable and transparent reconstruction depends on the availability of open data
A key element of transparency and accountability is access to public information in the form of open data. After the introduction of martial law, valuable sets of open data on which the infrastructure of transparency and anti-corruption in Ukraine was built for years disappeared from public access.
Limitation of access to information occurred chaotically, without proper legal regulation and public discussion. This was justified in the first months of a full-scale invasion but is unacceptable ten months after the invasion began.
In particular, on February 24, 2022, access to the Open Data Portal was completely closed. In March 2022, by Resolution No. 263, the Cabinet of Ministers allowed limiting the operation of information systems, which was interpreted by some officials as the green light to stop the publication of data. And in April 2022, the Ministry of Justice issued an order to stop publishing information in open data format (https://minjust.gov.ua/n/22649)
Access to the Portal was restored on August 1, 2022, but several valuable data sets are still unavailable. Why access to each individual set was limited is not known. According to our information, access was limited, including following the recommendations of the security authorities under the label "For official use" and separate orders from the top management of the state. Currently, the process of legalization of part of the actual restrictions is underway due to changes to the Resolution of the CMU No. 835 dated 10/21/2015. This act defines the list of open data sets to be made public.
Unreasonable hiding of public information in the form of open data:
- complicates the work of authorities, businesses, and public organizations;
- endangers transparent and accountable reconstruction;
- reduces the trust of international partners, on whom coverage of the budget deficit depends.
During the war, the country's military-political leadership has the right to limit access to information guaranteed by Art. 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine. However, the mechanism of such restriction is not described in the legislation, and the responsible authorities, principles, procedures, and responsibility for their violation are not defined. Therefore, restrictions are introduced haphazardly and may have a larger scale than required by the needs of state security (or even contradict them).
Current restrictions on access to information are characterized by the following:
- Absence of publicly known principles by which access to information is limited;
- Limiting access to individual data sets completely, regardless of the sharing of "sensitive" information in it;
- Lack of discussion of data privacy risks and ways of managing them;
- Lack of discussion of the harm caused by the unavailability of information;
- Inconsistency: when information continues to be available for an official fee or on the black market.
This approach is inconsistent with the following:
- The principles of openness and transparency of the activities of central executive bodies (Article 2 of the Law “About Central Executive Bodies");
- Provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 34) on limiting the use and distribution of only that information, in respect of which the interests of national security, territorial integrity, and others defined by the Constitution require it.
As a Coalition that stands for the transparent and accountable reconstruction of Ukraine, we consider such a situation harmful. The available volume of financial resources and the efficiency of their use by Ukraine directly depend on the transparency and accountability of their use. Effective public control cannot be built without the use of open data.
We think that a temporary restriction of access to individual information during the war can be justified but must be explained and meet clear criteria for defining security-sensitive information. Therefore, it is necessary to review the approach of chaotic closure of access to information and be guided by the following principles:
- Motivation: access restriction must be accompanied by a description of specific risks, scenarios of their implementation, and ways of managing them;
- Proportionality: only the information that creates the described risks can be restricted in access;
- Completeness and consistency: restrictions cannot apply to information that is available in other public sources or has been made public before;
- Legality and transparency: the decision to restrict access should be made based on criteria and procedures defined by the law, for example, a three-part test, as provided for in the Law "On Access to Public Information".
We call on information managers to:
- Urgently restore access to priority data sets in an amount that does not pose a security threat;
- For information that poses security threats and is hidden on this basis, to publicize the justification of such decisions;
The RISE coalition formulates specific proposals for restoring access to priority data sets:
5) "Learn more about your business partner" service (Tax debt of enterprises)
7) The unified state register of assets subject to seizure in criminal proceedings (Register of seized assets)
8) Court Register