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Ombudsman Takes Stand in Relation to a Practice on Handling Public Interest Disclosures

By failing to fulfil its obligation to provide information, the 14th District Police Department caused an impropriety related to the requirement of legal certainty deriving from the principle of the rule of law, the right to fair administration of official matters and the right to petition when it failed to respond to the whistleblower through the protected electronic system, Dr. Ákos Kozma concluded in his report. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights requested the head of the Police Department concerned to take measures in the given case in order to upload the necessary information to be provided for the whistleblower into the electronic system, as well as to prevent the future occurrence of the fundamental rights-related improprieties exposed by paying particular attention to ensuring full compliance with the relevant provisions when handling public interest disclosures.

A whistleblower, who requested anonymity, submitted a public interest disclosure through the protected electronic system operated by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, stating that the vehicles turning at the intersection of Hungária Boulevard and Thököly Road in an irregular way endanger the safety of pedestrian traffic. In the submission, the whistleblower also proposed that a traffic sign prohibiting the turning of vehicles could be installed at the intersection concerned, and roadside checks could be carried out there during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

As the acting body did not provide any response by 17 September 2019, the violation of the above-cited fundamental rights was suspected in that respect. With a view to the time elapsed, the case was closed in the protected electronic system on 17 September 2019, and simultaneously, the Ombudsman launched an inquiry in the course of which he turned to the head of the 14th District Police Department.

Based on the disclosure, the response received at the request of the Office, and the relevant legal provisions, it could be established that the Office had sent a so-called letter of invitation for registration by post with an advice of delivery to the acting body – i.e. to the Police Department – with regard to the first use of the electronic system. In this letter, the Office provided a registration code required for logging in at the Office’s website www.ajbh.hu, as well as the necessary technical information in relation to the use of the system. In the information letter, it was pointed out that the acting body must record the information provided on its measures in the electronic system, and the letter also contained specific information about the handling of those cases in which whistleblowers request anonymity.

The 14th District Police Department failed to respond to the whistleblower after the public interest disclosure had been forwarded to it through the electronic system.

In his report on Case No. AJB-1009/2020, Dr. Ákos Kozma concluded that due to the failure to fulfil its obligation to provide information, the 14th District Police Department had caused an impropriety by violating the principle of legal certainty, the right to petition and the right to fair administration of official matters.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights requested the head of the 14th District Police Department to take measures in order to upload the necessary information to be provided for the whistleblower into the electronic system, as well as to prevent the future occurrence of the fundamental rights-related improprieties identified in his report by paying particular attention to ensuring full compliance with the relevant provisions in the course of handling public interest disclosures.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-1009/2020.