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ZHAR.INFO's request regarding reconstruction in Kherson oblast declined

13.12.2023, 13:58

The state-owned enterprise "Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service" refused to provide journalists of the local media outlet ZHAR.INFO with documents on reconstruction in Kherson oblast. The editors decided to appeal the refusal and reported this to the IMI.

In his reply, the administrator noted that acess to the requested information was restricted due to a set of requirements.

As the editorial team notes, in November, the journalists pointed out 26 procurement deals related to reconstruction in Kherson oblast, which is being handled by the Khmelnytsky Oblast Military Administration as part of the presidential initiative. Information about these deals in the electronic procurement system was shared by the manager, SE "Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service", and it was the bare minimum: the standard name and serial number, the name of the contractor and the expected cost.

"All procurements were made under direct contracts, so the editors focused their attention on them and wanted to know the details. At first, the manager did not see our request, which was forwarded to him by the Khmelnytsky OMA. Then the editors sent the request to them directly and received a refusal in a few days," ZHAR.INFO reported.

In their reply, the Khmelnytsky Oblast Single Procuring Entity Service noted: "Since Vysokopillya is in the yellow zone with regards to the front line, there is a real risk for the safety of the contractors' workers involved in the ongoing repairs. Furthermore, disclosing information about the procurement may result in the settlement being shelled by the Russian Federation."

The media disagrees with the administrator's position and believes that the refusal was unlawful, since it is only certain information in the document, and not the entire document, that is classified. The latter's reply had to unclude a three-fold test and a justification for their stance, the editors believe.

Yevhen Vorobyov, a lawyer at the non-governmental organization "Human Rights Platform", noted that the manager of the information did not clearly state the reason for the refusal to provide the information.

"However, it seems that this would be Clause 2 of Art. 22 of the Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information', with them deciding that the requested information was classified. If the manager of the information decided that the requested information was classified, he had to assess the information as stipulated in Part 2 of Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information,'" explained the lawyer who is helping the journalists appeal the refusal.

The editors have already prepared a complaint and plan to send it to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner as soon as possible.

As reported by the IMI, the Chorny Ostriv Village Council (Khmelnytsky oblast) provided ZHAR.INFO with information on the distribution of monetary aid to Hruzevytsya residents who were affected by Russian shelling on May 13, 2023, following the journalists' appeal to the Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner.

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