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Rivne municipal enterprise refuses to share information with a journalist because her request lacked an e-signature

08.12.2023, 15:31

The municipal road and highway management department of Rivne (the RMD. – Ed.) refused to share public information with Myroslava Prymak, journalist and analyst at "Chetverta Vlada". The refusal was justified by the fact that her request for access to public information did not have an electronic signature.

"Chetverta Vlada" editor-in-chief Volodymyr Torbich reported on the case on Facebook.

"The Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information' has been in effect for 11 years now, and still in quarter million city we see people write nonsense about mandatory electronic signatures in requests," the editor-in-chief wrote.

Photo by Volodymyr Torbich

Myroslava Prymak, journalist and analyst at "Chetverta Vlada" and head of the public initiative "For Fair Tenders", told IMI that she tried to learn who leases equipment from the Rivne RMD and whether they sign special equipment lease/service contracts.

"Of course, I was also asking about the pricing of such contracts. I wrote to them with a request for public information, which I sent from my e-mail as a citizen of Ukraine, a tax payer and a resident of Rivne," says Myroslava Prymak.

According to her, the SEU provided no reply to her request for a month, which prompted her to file a complaint with the Commissiner.

"Yesterday, on St. Nicholas Day, I received a paper letter with a refusal, signed by Oleksandr Cherukha, the head of the enterprise. The first argument for refusal is that my letter was not a request for public information, because what I was requesting was information that they did not possess. That the enterprise needed to run an entire analysis to give me an answer. And secondly, that I sent my letter without an electronic signature. I will add their reply to my complaint that I sent to the Commissioner a month ago," said Myroslava Prymak.

Roman Holovenko, a lawyer at the Institute of Mass Information, believes that the Rivne RMD's refusal is unlawful.

"An e-mailed request is not a written request, but an 'other' form of a request (Part 3 of Article 19 of the Law 'On Access to Public Information'), thus a signature is not required. In terms of hierarchy, the law is higher than the Procedure for working with electronic documents in record keeping," says Roman Holovenko.

Oleksandr Cherukha, CEO of the Rivne RMD, told IMI in a comment that the information was not provided because they needed a lot of time to prepare it. He says that the RMD lawyers can explain why the journalists were refused.

"That is, it was not easy to provide. It would have taken a full day or two to prepare it. We received an explanation and the information was prepared," says Oleksandr Cherukha.

When asked by an IMI representative whether he would facilitate sharing information with journalists, Cherukha said, "They will be receiving it, it is ready by now, as far as I know. They wrote to me yesterday."

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