Gisha files complaint to governmental Freedom of Information Unit – COGAT failed to publish its 2014 annual report, faxed report to Gisha only
Under the Freedom of Information Act 5758-1998 (FOIA) and the Freedom of Information Regulations 5759-1999, every public authority is required to publish an annual report no later than July 1st of the following year. An annual report is a document that provides the public with information about the functions and responsibilities of the authority and its activities during the previous year. Each authority is also required to issue a report about the implementation of the FOIA, citing the number of applications it received and describing how it processed them.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has yet to publish its report, in breach of the law. COGAT is claiming that the delay is the result of technical difficulties with its website, but these technical difficulties have not been addressed for more than two months, and in the meantime, the report has not been posted on any other relevant website, such as that of the IDF or the Ministry of Defense.
After many communications to the COGAT asking the unit to take action to have the report published, as required by law, on July 14, 2015, COGAT’s public liaison officer faxed Gisha the COGAT Annual Report for 2014 (Hebrew). Clearly, sending the report to Gisha does not constitute appropriate publication, as required in the act, and does not absolve COGAT of meeting its legal obligations and making the report available to the public.
The failure to publish COGAT’s report is particularly grave given that this is not the first time COGAT has refrained from publishing its annual reports. In early 2014, the court ruled that COGAT had breached the law by failing to publish its annual reports and ordered it to take immediate action to rectify the situation and update its website. We note that so far, the only annual report available on the COGAT’s website is the report of the freedom of information officer for 2012.
Due to the failure to publish the report, and given that this is not the first time COGAT has failed to publish the report, as required by law, Gisha sent a complaint to the governmental Freedom of Information Unit (Hebrew), which is entrusted with monitoring the implementation of the law by government agencies, including the IDF and COGAT. Gisha sought the unit’s intervention.
Owing to this conduct, Gisha has posted the report on its own website, as a public service and out of a belief in and commitment to transparency and the public’s right to know.