Global Freedom of Expression

Transparency in Lebanese Administrations 2019

Key Details

  • Region
    Middle East and North Africa
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information

Gherbal Initiative (GI) was established in early 2018 to enhance transparency
and fight corruption in the public and private sectors and to shift the political discourse from a populist discussion to a fact- and figure-based dialogue. The initiative gathers available government data and turns it into visual and interactive material for the public. Since the passing of the Access to Information Law in 2017, the initiative has been monitoring the compliance of public administrations with the provisions of this law, while promoting public awareness, both social and governmental, on the importance of the law.

In August 2018, less than a year after the law was passed, Gherbal Initiative published a detailed report that is the first of its kind. It measured public administrations’ responses to the law, along with detailed analyses of more than 130 requests for information. GI conceived this first report as preliminary study to showcase the cooperation of public administrations with the first requests for information, analyzing data, visuals, and response rates, along a classification system with different values. The requests enabled GI to identify administrations that complied with the following laws: publishing decisions taken (pursuant to articles 6, 7, and 8 of Law No. 2017/28); launching an administration website (pursuant

to Article 9 of Law No.2017/28); and assigning a staff member to handle requests for information (pursuant to Article 15 of Law No. 2017/28). The first study found that 26 percent of the administrations responded to the requests in writing (as the law requires). Only 18 administrations assigned an officer for information requests (which was the main question asked in these requests); most of these assignments followed the information requests that GI initiated. The first report indicated that many administrations were unaware of the law, and that the first requests made by GI propelled many employees to familiarize themselves with the provisions of this law. The report also highlighted the importance of transparency, accountability, and liability.

This report catalogues the responses of public administrations to requests for information related to their budgets in terms of disbursement and collection. We have submitted requests to 140 administrations requesting the financial statements of the year 2017. In this project, we did not simply request data and waited for answers; we followed up thoroughly with phone calls and field visits and sent follow ups to various replies collected. The effort resulted in 33 break downs of administrative financial statements that we were able to analyze.

A number of administrations tried to avoid our requests by providing us with a copy of the General Budget Law, while others indicated that the information requested were already published in the Official Gazette. In parallel, a number of administrations refused to provide us with information on the pretext of non-enforcement of the law prior to the issuance of implementing decrees, or considering the financial statements not included in documents mentioned in law provisions. We replied to all these alibis stating that the law was immediately effective after its publication in the Official Gazette, and the information we are requesting should be accessible as long as they do not appear within the exceptions contained in articles IV and V of the Right to Access Information Law.

To read and download the full report, please visit this link