Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Takes a Stand in Relation to a Public Interest Disclosure

The right to petition, the principle of legal certainty and the right to fair administration of official matters were violated by the practice of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in the handling of public interest disclosures. As the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights concluded in his report, the Ministry provided no response whatsoever to the petitions complaining about the handling of public interest disclosures, while it replied to the Ombudsman’s inquiry with a significant, 16-month delay. Dr. Ákos Kozma requested that the Minister of Innovation and Technology take measures in order to prevent the future recurrence of the fundamental rights-related improprieties identified in his report.

The petitioner turned to the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to initiate the review of the handling of a public interest disclosure. According to the information provided in his petition, he filed an electronic submission to the Institutional Supervision and Accounting Department of the Ministry of National Development (hereinafter: the “MND”) – the legal predecessor of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (hereinafter: the “MIT”) – in September 2015, in which he elaborated that, regarding the investigation of his earlier petition, he was concerned about the Ministry’s restricted data handling practice regarding whistle-blowers. At the same time, he requested that the head of the department addressed conduct an inquiry as to whether there had been any improprieties relating to the handling of his public interest disclosure which he had submitted to the MND in August 2015. The whistle-blower received no response to his submission. Subsequently, at the beginning of December 2017, he turned to the MND to request information about the conduct of the investigation on the improprieties relating to the handling of his earlier public interest disclosure, which was left equally unanswered.

In his report on Case No. AJB-916/2020, Dr. Ákos Kozma pointed out that the MND, and then its legal successor, the MIT provided no response whatsoever to the petitions that complained about their handling of public interest disclosures, while they responded to the inquiry of the Ombudsman with a significant, 16-month delay. This practice violated the right to petition, the principle of legal certainty and the right to fair administration of official matters by negating the whistle-blower’s right to getting a response and breaching the procedural rules laid down in the Act on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Act on Complaints and Public Interest Disclosures.

Dr. Ákos Kozma called upon the Minister of Innovation and Technology to take measures in order to prevent the future recurrence of the fundamental rights-related improprieties identified in his report, and to ensure that the acting organisational units of the Ministry pay special attention to the administration and distinction of public interest disclosures and the handling of requests on the review thereof, as well as to ensuring full compliance with the relevant legislation and responding to the inquiries of the Ombudsman within the time limit specified by the law.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-916/2020.