Statement on the Ministry of Economy's FOI policy
During the last 6 months, Transparency International Georgia addressed the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia with several freedom of information (FOI) requests. We demanded the list of investors whose contracts were terminated due to their failure to meet obligations, as well as information about the obligations undertaken by the companies constructing “Park Hyatt Tbilisi”, “Hotel Kempinski”, “Likani Complex”, “Hotel Intercontinental” and “Willbrook Platinum Tbilisi Plaza.” We also requested the list of individuals who gifted their property to the state, including the list of properties granted by local self-governing bodies to the state. Our interest in these issues was spurred by the wide-spread public opinion that the Ministry of Economy pays little attention to how investors fulfill their commitments.
We did not get positive responses to any of the FOI requests. In fact, we were notified by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development that all the contracts concluded with the construction companies mentioned above are strictly confidential because they are commercial secrets. Because companies must affirmatively request that information be designated a commercial secret, we then requested the identities of the parties requesting that this information be designated a secret, and the date on which the requests were made. Despite the fact that Georgian law clearly forbids keeping this information secret, the Ministry refused to provide us with this information as well. Therefore, we sued the Ministry in court but our complaint was rejected.
We believe that this incident calls into question the Ministry's commitment to transparency. The Ministry’s conduct sets an alarming precedent with regard to the release of public information. We will appeal to a higher court to have our case reconsidered.