Federal administrative transparency: new obligations in sight

Generally speaking, the rules regarding the publicity of the administration aim to ensure the transparency of the actions of the authorities. As far as federal authorities are concerned, the rules regarding the publicity of the administration are enshrined in the Act of 11 April 1994 on the publicity of the administration. For other levels of power, these are covered in various other texts.

Generally speaking, the rules regarding the publicity of the administration aim to ensure the transparency of the actions of the authorities.

The rules regarding publicity by the administration have two parts. The first part concerns active advertising, i.e. information that the office must make available to citizens spontaneously and on its own initiative. The second part concerns passive advertising, i.e. information that every federal administrative body is obliged to disclose to a citizen who requests it.

Active advertising

In the area of ​​active advertising, the law establishes various obligations for federal administrative authorities. These must, among other things, publish and make available to anyone who asks for it a document describing their skills and activities. All correspondence from a federal administrative agency is also expected to include the name, position, address, and telephone number of a person who is able to provide additional information about the file. Finally, any document by which a decision issued by a federal administrative body is communicated to an individual must indicate the possible avenues of appeal and the relevant formalities (if this is not done, the appeal period does not run).

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Following the text voted on May 3, the federal administrative authorities will continue to be obliged to inform citizens about federal regulations and, in particular, about the rights and obligations arising from them. Federal administrative bodies will also be required to inform on their own initiative about their policies, regulations and services, “whenever useful, important or necessary.”

Passive advertising

Passive advertising means that every citizen can read any administrative document on the spot, get an explanation about it and receive its communication in the form of a copy. This right of access to administrative documents is enshrined in Article 32 of the Constitution as well as in legislative texts relating to administrative publicity.

However, the right of access to administrative documents has several exceptions. For example, it is stipulated that the office will refuse to inspect an administrative document if the interest of publicity does not outweigh the protection of the safety of the population or public order, national security or defense. Another example is the refusal of a citizen even if his request violates privacy (if the person concerned has not given prior written consent) or the obligation of confidentiality established by law. Finally, a request may be refused if it concerns an administrative document, the disclosure of which could be a source of confusion because the document is unfinished or incomplete. Refusal is also possible if the request concerns an opinion or an opinion communicated freely and in confidence, or if the request is clearly offensive or is worded clearly too vaguely.

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Adjournments, appeals and appeals

A federal administrative authority that cannot take immediate action on a request for access to one or more documents, or that refuses it, must communicate the reasons for the delay or refusal within 30 days (from the date of receipt of the request). In case of postponement, the deadline can never be extended by more than 15 days. If there is no communication within the specified period, the access request is considered rejected.

A citizen who encounters difficulties in obtaining a consultation can send a request for a new assessment to the concerned federal administrative body and request an opinion from the Commission for access to administrative documents. If his request for review is rejected, the citizen can still file an appeal with the Council of State, following the forms prescribed for this type of appeal.

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