These are the public administrations that responded to the unified request we sent 133 administrations. To summarize, we found that some administrations are committed to implementing the Access to Information Law instead of invoking pretexts to reject its implementation in their administration while hiding the details of their work. The latter contradicts human rights principles, transparency, efforts to combat corruption, as well as the provisions of the Constitution and the international obligations of the Lebanese state, as they relate to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention against Corruption.
Even though some administrations are committed to the provisions of RLAW, only one body is committed to all the provisions of this law: the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, most notably its willingness to disclose the record of all financial transactions that exceed 5 million LBP. We highlight this part specifically because of its importance in the disclosure of the administration’s financial operations, as it provides the opportunity for citizens, researchers and journalists to track the expenditure of public funds. This expenditure coincides with the provisions of the state budget on one hand and prevents inflated expenses on the other.
Public administrations must therefore abide by RLAW’S provisions and avoid reinterpreting exceptions to the law to evade its broad application, which is intended to provide access to information to all citizens. Exceptions are meant to protect a specific interest and should not be reinterpreted to conceal all the work of a certain administration.
Any administration, despite the sensitivity of its work is, be it national security or fiscal policy of the state, should not have absolute immunity that prevents citizens from accessing information on the work of an administration. Requesting the budget of a certain administration does not impact the confidentiality of its work, especially since budgets usually contain certain clauses under different labels to protect the confidentiality of work related to national security. This way, the confidential work of an administration remains protected while the right of citizens to access information is granted.
In the light of Gherbal Initiative’s experience and the practical test of the Lebanese administrations’ commitment to implement the provisions of RLAW; we present a set of suggestions and recommendations that will contribute to the full application of this law as an acquired right of all people:
– Accelerate the formation of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) due to its importance in resolving any dispute that may arise between any person and any administration. The role of NACC in accordance to RLAW’s provisions are: to work on the development of annual reports that help develop RLAW, to educate citizens and to develop awareness about the importance of the right to access information and its application, and to train administrations’ staff and officials on the importance of enabling individuals to access information
– Establish an official website similar to a common practice by other countries, which displays all administrations and government departments allowing individuals to request information from several entities at the same time, without the need for multiple visits (or follow ups with each administration)
– Develop state administrations’ websites to facilitate the implementation of the second chapter of RLAW “Publication Duty” such as publication of the annual reports and the financial transactions of over 5.000.000 LL of public funds
– Train administrations’ staff on RLAW to enable them to understand the provisions of RLAW and to highlight the importance of transparency over alleged confidentiality of their work, and to comply with the legal time limits for responding to requests of information
– To be wary of passing any applicable decrees to RLAW, especially those that may hinder some of the law’s content. Alarming decrees that may include restrictions of some of the law’s provision may include: restricting the rights of individuals to seek information from administrations, elongating or removing the legal deadlines, modifying administrations’ that are included in the law, or circumventing some of the articles that compel the administrations to publish their decisions and its justification