Ensuring citizens’ right of access to information
On 23 March 2017, Minister of Justice Le Thanh Long chaired a meeting on the implementation of the Law on Access to Information and drafting a Government’s decree detailing some articles of this Law.
The Law on Access to Information (the Law) was passed in April 2016 with a view to laying legal grounds for the exercise of one of fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution.
The Law, consisting of five chapters with 37 articles, institutionalizes Article 25 of the 2013 Constitution and incorporates a number of provisions of relevant treaties to which Vietnam is a contracting party. It provides the exercise of the right of access to information and, at the same time, defines responsibilities and obligations of state agencies in guaranteeing citizens’ right of access to information.
Reviewing legal normative documents according to spirit of the Law
According to the Department of Criminal – Administrative Laws, a number of activities have been performed to implement the Law. Some of them are document preparation and dissemination; establishment of a database of information; studying of experience of some countries on the implementation of the Law; and, introducing the contents of the Law as proposed by some localities. In addition, the activity of legal normative document review has also been implemented by the Department of Legal Normative Document Review.
The Department of Criminal – Administrative Laws also pointed out that besides difficulties in budget and human resources, the task of legal normative document review faced other problems. Notably, ministries and ministerial level agencies have not uniformly understood in this task. Therefore, their reports submitted to the Ministry of Justice do not meet the requirements. What is more, the Department proposes that the Ministry leaders need to pay more attention to allocating resources for this important task. Accordingly, the Office should take the lead in providing information of the Ministry of Justice for citizens; and, the Department of Information Technology coordinates to establish the access to information portal on the Ministry’s portal.
According to Mr. Dong Ngoc Ba, Director of the Department of Legal Normative Document Review, through the report of the ministries and sectors, these agencies have reviewed 1,115 documents from laws to circulars. However, until now, only 13 documents have been solved, including 1 law, 1 ordinance, 4 decrees, 1 decision of the Prime Minister and 6 circulars.
Taking advantage of spokesman mechanism to provide information
Regarding the draft of Government’s decree detailing some articles of this Law, one of controversial issues covered in the Draft is the arrangement of the focal point to receive and resolve people’s requests for information according to Article 33 of the Law. Under the Draft, localities have to arrange their focal point at their “one door” services. At ministry and ministerial level agencies, the focal point should be “one door” services or citizen reception divisions depending on their conditions and situations. However, others said that spokesman mechanism should be taken advantage to provide information.
Addressing the meeting, Minister Le Thanh Long requested to speed up the progress of reviewing legal documents related to the Law on Access to Information. With regard to the Draft of the Decree, it should be in conformity with the State’s capability to ensure the implementation and the citizen can exercise his/her right to access to information in the most convenient and feasible manner. The Minister also recommended that the relevant regulations must be reviewed carefully so that the implementation of citizens’ right to access to information does not overlap, especially the provision on providing information to people in borders, islands and mountainous areas./.