In January, the Lebanese government requested to join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard for transparency and good governance of extractive industries (get to know more about the EITI here). Also in January, the parliament ratified an access to information law that guarantees access to information from all public administrations. In light of this new found apparent ease of access to data, LOGI wants to know how does the new law complement the EITI and how it could benefit the oil and gas sector.
Access to government documents is essential for effectively monitoring government activities. Citizens cannot hold the government accountable without being able to see what information is collected, how it’s used, or what it is for. Access to information is directly related to corruption mitigation, and Lebanon does not score high when it comes to perceptions of the latter. In fact, according to Transparency International, Lebanon ranks near the top of the list of corrupt countries.
Who can access the information?
The law, that entered into force in February, entails that any person, whether Lebanese or a foreigner, a natural person or a legal entity, can request access to information from virtually all public entities and a small number of private ones as well. The law promotes transparency and accountability and enable people’s participation in governance and helps to mitigate corruption and other inefficiencies in public offices.
What can be requested?
However, the law restricts access to other information such as:
How does it work?
In theory, the request process is simple. Anyone can contact any public administration and request information. Institutions are initially allowed 15 days to respond to the request. If the request is denied or ignored for more than 30 days, the applicant has 60 days to appeal to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) or the Lebanese Judiciary.
But there are obstacles.
The law is to be regulated by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) but that body does not yet exist, and legislation to establish the ACC is still working its way through the parliament. The requester can refer to the Lebanese judiciary but without the ACC the law is open to interpretation. In addition, some institutions lack in the logistics department, as a result they may not be equipped to deliver the information in the format as per the law.
What about oil and gas?
When it comes to Lebanon's nascent oil and gas sector the question is how the law may be relevant. LOGI will be reaching out to public offices developing this new sector to determine who the point of contact is and how the request process works. This basic information will be posted on LOGI's website allowing concerned individuals to contact their public officials and request information that is not otherwise published.