The Anti-Corruption Fund appealed to the Sofia Administrative Court over the implied rejection of its request to the Ministry of Health for access to the copies of the contracts concluded with Chinese manufacturers of personal protective equipment. The ACF expects that the Ministry of Health’s rejection will be overturned by the court as illegal, and the Minister of Health will be obliged to provide the requested public information.
On 07.04.2020, ACF submitted a petition to the Ministry of Health under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), requesting copies of the contracts concluded in March 2020 with Chinese and Bulgarian manufacturers of protective masks. ACF justified its request with insufficient information in the public sphere about the parameters of the deals and the specifications of the protective and medical equipment. In particular, the information in the media did not clarify whether the masks ordered by Chinese manufacturers were surgical or protective under the N95 standard or similar.
On April 23, 2020, the Ministry of Health sent an e-mail stating that it did not have the requested information regarding the contracts with Bulgarian manufacturers of protective masks and redirected ACF’s request to the state enterprise “Bulbio.” In its response, the ministry did not, in any way, address the ACF’s request to provide copies of contracts concluded with Chinese manufacturers of protective masks. To date, weeks after the expiration of the legal 14-day period on 22.04.2020, ACF has not received an answer to its inquiry. According to the APIA, the ministry’s lack of response is a particularly significant procedural violation, equivalent to an implied rejection of access to information.
“It is inadmissible for the Ministry of Health to respond with an implied rejection to requested access to public information of such high public significance,” said Boyko Stankushev, Anti-Corruption Fund’s director. “We have appealed the refusal to the Sofia Administrative Court, and we expect it to be revoked as illegal, and the Ministry of Health obliged to provide the requested copies of the contracts. We believe that only full transparency of the authorities’ decisions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can guarantee their effectiveness and preserve citizens’ confidence in them. “