BIP-Watch project

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BIP-Watch: Edition 1 – communes of the Pomeranian Voivodeship 2012-2013

Report from the project

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BIP-Watch

Description of the BIP-Watch project:

Therefore, the Center of Political-legal Analyses (Metropolitan Institute) has decided, in cooperation with the Department of Administrative Law of Faculty of Law and Administration of University of Gdansk, to perform an analysis of functioning of subject pages of Public Information Bulletin carried out by self-governments of 123 communes of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.  A research conducted between May 2012 and September 2012 as a part of the first edition of a watchdog-scientific project named “BIP-Watch: Monitoring of Public Information Bulletins.” This report describes and summarises results of these endeavours.

It has to be emphasised that the project is synchronous with a series of similar actions taken in the last years in various Polish Voivodeships. They were organised by co-called “watchdog” organisations, aiming to achieve social control over exercise of public authority. These units, particularly popular in the United States and western Europe, perform analyses of activity of public entities in order to check its compatibility with various criteria (i.e. law or principles of economy) and later share results of their research with the public and simultaneously introduce recommendations for improving the status quo or eliminating possible faults. Thus, organisations functioning in the area of the right to access public information contribute indirectly (through improvement of functioning of administrative entities) and directly (through popularisation of the problem) to increase of clarity of public life.

The research team monitoring BIP subject pages under the BIP-Watch project consisted of thirteen volunteers from the Center of Political-legal Analyses (Metropolitan Institute) – undergraduates of  Faculty of Law and Administration of University of Gdansk working under substantial guidance of mgr Karol Ważny from the Department of Administrative Law of Faculty of Law and Administration of University of Gdansk.

Based on laws of a number of acts and regulations, the team has established an original research method, with a key element being a set of questions used in order to analyse content and ways of managing BIP subject pages. Therefore, a legal criterion served as a main point of reference when controlling the use of standards of law to access public information. Since the object of research were issues of compliance with the law in the field of the way of creation of Public Information Bulletin and the scope of the published content.

The analysis of information included in BIP was related to a set of a number of issues considered by the research team to be of the utmost importance from the point of view of an average citizen. Although in the light of art. 8 par. 3 of the act on access to public information theoretically all information regarding public issues may be published on the web page of BIP, one should not expect that an information holder will share them fully through an ICT system. Especially since simultaneously exists a motion mode of public information access, which should be used when a specific information is not published in BIP.

The fundamental intention of the BIP-Watch project was not to give a substantial opinion on the subject of content or way of managing subject pages of BIP owned by communes of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. The scoring is only meant to grant in few cases additional points for an utilitarian form of presentation of specific content, as well as to serve as a bank of desirable and undesirable practices created as a result of a comparative analysis of individual bulletins. Its aim is primarily to draw attention of subject parties sharing public information in BIP to certain notoriously recurring negative phenomena, mainly in the form of lack of important information. Still, it is meant to promote positive models observable in few communes and recommend pro-apparent policy and increase of accessibility and functionality of Public Information Bulletins.

The report also touches upon the significant problem of parallel functioning of two ways of making public information available on the net. Aside from mandatory subject pages of Public Information Bulletins all researched communes have created their own sites, which usually was a separate ICT system. In these cases the most common solution was to limit ongoing updates to a single site. Usually it led to substantial absence of content on the BIP subject page. The problem was detailed on the example of the city Gdańsk, where the amount of information published on its own site was close to the best Public Information Bulletins among the communes of  the Pomeranian Voivodeship, while the Bulletin page itself covered very little, often outdated information.

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