Country

Austria

Austria

Name of law : Duty to Grant Information Act
First adopted : 1987
Last modified : 13 September 1998
RTI Rating last updated : 08 June 2016

Section Max ScoreScore
Right of Access 6 2
Scope 30 14
Requesting procedures 30 8
Exceptions 30 2
Appeals 30 6
Sanctions 8 1
Promotional measures 16 0
TOTAL 150 33

Right of Access

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1 The legal framework (including jurisprudence) recognises a fundamental right of access to information.Score 0 for no constitutional right to information, 1 point for a limited constitutional right, 2 points for full constitutional recognition of a public right of access to information.2 NO Article 20(4) of the 1920 Constitution (as amended): \"4) All functionaries entrusted with Federation, Laender and municipal administrative duties as well as the functionaries of other public law corporate bodies shall impart information about matters pertaining to their sphere of competence in so far as this does not conflict with a legal obligation to maintain secrecy; <...>\" The Constitution establishes at Article 20.3 an obligation of public officials to secrecy and in Article 20.4 only moderates this in a minimal way by stating that public officials shall provide information which does not conflict with their obligation to secrecy. There is therefore no right of the public to information. Link to the Constitution of Austria (pdf, English version): http://www.vfgh.gv.at/cms/vfgh-site/english/downloads/englishverfassung.pdf
2 The legal framework creates a specific presumption in favour of access to all information held by public authorities, subject only to limited exceptions.No=0, Partially=1, Yes=22 YES § 1. \"(1) The organs of the Federation as well as the organs of the self administration to be regulated by the Federal Legislation shall give information on matters within their scope of activities to the extent not being in contradiction to a statutory duty of secrecy.\"
3 3.1 The legal framework contains a specific statement of principles calling for a broad interpretation of the RTI law
3.2 The legal framework emphasises the benefits of the right to information?
3.1(Y/N - max 1 point)
3.2 (Y/N - max 1 point)
2 NO




Scope

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4 Everyone (including non-citizens and legal entities) has the right to file requests for information.Score 0 point if only residents/citizens; 1 point for all natural persons; 1 point for legal persons. 2 YES § 2. \"Anyone is entitled to submit requests for information in writing, orally or by telephone.<...>\" Federal Duty of Disclosure Act (1987, as amended), https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10000916&ShowPrintPreview=True
5 The right of access applies to all material held by or on behalf of public authorities which is recorded in any format, regardless of who produced it.Score 1-3 points if limited definition of information information such as not "internal documents" or databases excluded, 4 points for all information with no exceptions.4 Partially § 1. \"(1) The organs of the Federation as well as the organs of the self administration to be regulated by the Federal Legislation shall give information on matters within their scope of activities to the extent not being in contradiction to a statutory duty of secrecy.\" The law does not allow for access to documents or primary sources, only the right to receive information (in the sense of a narrative summary) on what information is held by public bodies. Internal documents are generally not covered, as this would violate the secrecy statute in place for civil servants and public sector employees.
6 Requesters have a right to access both information and records/documents (i.e. a right both to ask for information and to apply for specific documents).Score 1 point for only documents, 1 point for information2 Partially § 2. \"Anyone is entitled to submit requests for information in writing, orally or by telephone.<...>.\" The law does not cover access to documents, it only provides for a right to receive information held by an administrative body (i.e. information about information that is in a document).
7 The right of access applies to the executive branch with no bodies or classes of information excluded.This includes executive (cabinet) and adminsitration including all ministries, departments, local government, public schools, public health care bodies, the police, the armed forces, security services, and bodies owned or controlled by the above.Score 4 points for central government agencies covered: 1 for the head of state, 1 for ministries, 1 for other non-statutory agencies created by the ministries, 1 for state and local government if the government is unitary. If it´s a federalist system, 2 points for the non-statutory agencies. This can be determined by examining the length and thoroughness of the list, if such a schedule exists. Score 1 point for the archives. Add three points and deduct 1 for each exempted central agency (such as the armed forces, police, etc).8 YES § 1. \"(1) The organs of the Federation as well as the organs of the self administration to be regulated by the Federal Legislation shall give information on matters within their scope of activities to the extent not being in contradiction to a statutory duty of secrecy.\"
8 The right of access applies to the legislature, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all legislative branch at all levels of government4 NO The law does not apply to the legislature. Regional laws similarly do not cover regional parliaments.
9 The right of access applies to the judicial branch, including both administrative and other information, with no bodies excluded. Score 1 point if the law only applies to administrative documents, 2-3 points if some bodies excluded, 4 points if all judicial branch at all levels of government4 NO The law applies only to administrative bodies, not to the judiciary.
10 The right of access applies to State-owned enterprises (commercial entities that are owned or controlled by the State). Score 1 point if some, 2 points if all2 NO
11 The right of access applies to other public authorities, including constitutional, statutory and oversight bodies (such as an election commission or information commission/er). Score 1 point if some bodies, 2 points if all2 Partially The law applies to independent state bodies that fulfill administrative tasks, for example state insurance bodies. A score of 1 was given as bodies such as the chamber of commerce and the chamber of employees (which have mandatory membership for all business owners/employees) only have to provide information to their members, not the general public.
12 The right of access applies to a) private bodies that perform a public function and b) private bodies that receive significant public funding. 1 point for public functions, 1 point for public funding 2 NO

Requesting Procedures

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13 Requesters are not required to provide reasons for their requests.Y/N answer 0 or 2 points2 NO The law does not mention the reasons.
14 Requesters are only required to provide the details necessary for identifying and delivering the information (i.e. some form of address for delivery).Score Max 2 points and deduct if requesters are required to give any of the following: ID number, telephone number, residential address, etc.2 YES § 2. \"Anyone is entitled to submit requests for information in writing, orally or by telephone. Any applicant for information may be requested to formulate his oral or telephonic request for information in writing, if the request does not sufficiently substantiate the contents or the extent of the information requested.\"
15 There are clear and relatively simple procedures for making requests. Requests may be submitted by any means of communication, with no requirement to use official forms or to state that the information is being requested under the access to information law.Max 2 points. Considerations include that there is no requirement to state that the request is under the RTI law, nor to use an official form, nor to identify the document being sought. 2 YES § 2. \"Anyone is entitled to submit requests for information in writing, orally or by telephone. Any applicant for information may be requested to formulate his oral or telephonic request for information in writing, if the request does not sufficiently substantiate the contents or the extent of the information requested.\"
16 Public officials are required provide assistance to help requesters formulate their requests, or to contact and assist requesters where requests that have been made are vague, unduly broad or otherwise need clarification. Score 1 point for help in formulation and 1 point for clarification procedures2 NO Not mentioned
17     Public officials are required to provide assistance to requesters who require it because of special needs, for example because they are illiterate or disabled.Score Yes=2 point, No=02 NO Not mentioned
18 Requesters are provided with a receipt or acknowledgement upon lodging a request within a reasonable timeframe, which should not exceed 5 working daysScore 1 point for receipt, 1 point for max 5 working days2 NO Not mentioned
19 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for situations where the authority to which a request is directed does not have the requested information. This includes an obligation to inform the requester that the information is not held and to refer the requester to another institution or to transfer the request where the public authority knows where the information is held.Score: 1 point for information not held, 1 for referrals or 2 for transfers2 NO Some of the nine regional laws contain such a provision, the national law does not.
20 Public authorities are required to comply with requesters’ preferences regarding how they access information, subject only to clear and limited overrides (e.g. to protect a record).Score: 2 points for Yes, only 1 point if some limitations2 NO Not mentioned
21 Public authorities are required to respond to requests as soon as possible.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points 2 YES § 3.\"Information shall be given without undue delay, at the latest however, within 8 weeks after receipt of the request for information. If for special reasons such term can-not be complied with, the applicant shall be informed accordingly in writing.\"
22 There are clear and reasonable maximum timelines (20 working days or less) for responding to requests, regardless of the manner of satisfying the request (including through publication).Score: 1 point for timeframes of 20 working days (or 1 month, 30 days or 4 weeks). Score 2 points for 10 working days (or 15 days, or two weeks) or less.2 NO § 3. \"Information shall be given without undue delay, at the latest however, within 8 weeks after receipt of the request for information. If for special reasons such term cannot be complied with, the applicant shall be informed accordingly in writing.\"
23 There are clear limits on timeline extensions (20 working days or less), including a requirement that requesters be notified and provided with the reasons for the extension.---2 NO § 3. \"Information shall be given without undue delay, at the latest however, within 8 weeks after receipt of the request for information. If for special reasons such term can-not be complied with, the applicant shall be informed accordingly in writing.\"
24 It is free to file requests.Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 YES § 5. \"Requests for information and information as well as applications and decrees pursuant to § 4 referring to matters of the security administration (§ 2 para 2 of the Security Police Act, F. L. G. No. 566/1991, as amended) shall be exempted from stamp duties and federal administrative fees.\"
25 There are clear rules relating to access fees, which are set centrally, rather than being determined by individual public authorities. These include a requirement that fees be limited to the cost of reproducing and sending the information (so that inspection of documents and electronic copies are free) and a certain initial number of pages (at least 20) are provided for free. Score 1 point for fees being limited to reproduction and delivery costs and set centrally, 1 point for at least 20 pages free of charge or for fees being optional2 NO Does not apply, as there is no access to documents or copies provided by law. Requests are free. The official documents affirming that information is not (fully) provided (which are needed to take a case to court) cost EUR 6.5
26   There are fee waivers for impecunious requesters ---2 NO Not mentioned
27 There are no limitations on or charges for reuse of information received from public bodies, except where a third party (which is not a public authority) holds a legally-protected copyright over the information. Score: No=0, Yes=2 points2 NO Detailed provisions are included in the Information Reuse Act (Informationsweiterverwendungsgesetz)


Exceptions

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28 The standards in the RTI Law trump restrictions on information disclosure (secrecy provisions) in other legislation to the extent of any conflict.Score 4 points for a resounding "yes" and 1/2/3 points if only for some classes of information or for some exceptions. If the state secrets law is not trumped by the RTI law max score is 2 points. 4 NO RTI law and secrecy provisions are both in the constitution and thus on the same level, whereby secrecy provisions prevail over RTI provisions.
29 The exceptions to the right of access are consistent with international standards. Permissible exceptions are: national security; international relations; public health and safety; the prevention, investigation and prosecution of legal wrongs; privacy; legitimate commercial and other economic interests; management of the economy; fair administration of justice and legal advice privilege; conservation of the environment; and legitimate policy making and other operations of public authorities. It is also permissible to refer requesters to information which is already publicly available, for example online or in published form.Score 10 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which either (a) falls outside of this list and/or (b) is more broadly framed10 NO § 1 \"(2) Information shall be given only or to an extent which does not substantially impair compliance with the other duties of the administration; professional organisations are only obliged to give information to its members and only to the extent as this does not prevent proper compliance with their statutory duties. Such information shall not be given if it is obviously requested in a frivolous way.\" Article 2 mentions some exceptions but they are not clear. Plus Additional exceptions are provided by Article 20(3) of the Constitution: \\\"(3) All functionaries entrusted with Federal, Laender and municipal administrative duties as well as the functionaries of other public law corporate bodies are, save as otherwise provided by law, pledged to secrecy about all facts of which they have obtained knowledge exclusively from their official activity and whose concealment is enjoined on them in the interest of the maintenance of public peace, order and security, of universal national defence, of external relations, in the interest of a public law corporate body, for the preparation of a ruling or in the preponderant interest of the parties involved (official secrecy). Official secrecy does not exist for functionaries appointed by a popular representative body if it expressly asks for such information.\\\" http://www.vfgh.gv.at/cms/vfgh-site/english/downloads/englishverfassung.pdf.
30 A harm test applies to all exceptions, so that it is only where disclosure poses a risk of actual harm to a protected interest that it may be refused. Score 4 points and then deduct 1 point for each exception which is not subject to the harm test 4 NO not mentioned.
31 There is a mandatory public interest override so that information must be disclosed where this is in the overall public interest, even if this may harm a protected interest. There are ‘hard’ overrides (which apply absolutely), for example for information about human rights, corruption or crimes against humanity.Consider whether the override is subject to overarching limitations, whether it applies to only some exceptions, and whether it is mandatory.4 NO not mentioned.
32 Information must be released as soon as an exception ceases to apply (for example, for after a contract tender process decision has been taken). The law contains a clause stating that exceptions to protect public interests do not apply to information which is over 20 years old.Score 1 point for each2 NO not mentioned.
33 Clear and appropriate procedures are in place for consulting with third parties who provided information which is the subject of a request on a confidential basis. Public authorities shall take into account any objections by third parties when considering requests for information, but third parties do not have veto power over the release of information.Score: 1 point for consultation, 1 further point if original time frames must be respected and the law allows for expedited appeals.2 NO not mentioned.
34 There is a severability clause so that where only part of a record is covered by an exception the remainder must be disclosed. Score 1 point if yes but sometimes can be refused (eg: if deletions render meaningless the document) and 2 points if partial access must always be granted2 NO not mentioned.
35 When refusing to provide access to information, public authorities must a) state the exact legal grounds and reason(s) for the refusal and b) inform the applicant of the relevant appeals procedures.Score Y/N: 1 point for a and 1 point for b2 YES § 4. \"If an information is not granted a decree on the decision shall be issued if the applicant requests so. The rules of procedure determining the issue of the decree so to be rendered shall be subject to be the AVG (General Administration Procedure Act), unless a different procedural act shall apply to the matter, in which the information is requested.\" b) is addressed by the General Administrative Procedures Act (Allgemeines Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz)


Appeals

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36 The law offers an internal appeal which is simple, free of charge and completed within clear timelines (20 working days or less).Score 2 points if the internal appeal fulfills these criteria, 1 point if an appeal is offered that does not fulfill this criteria, 0 for no internal appeals.2 NO Not mentioned.
37 Requesters have the right to lodge an (external) appeal with an independent administrative oversight body (e.g. an information commission or ombudsman). 1 for partial, 2 for yes2 NO Not mentioned.
38 The member(s) of the oversight body are appointed in a manner that is protected against political interference and have security of tenure so they are protected against arbitrary dismissal (procedurally/substantively) once appointed.Score: 1 point for appointment procedure, 1 point for security of tenure2 NO Not mentioned.
39 The oversight body reports to and has its budget approved by the parliament, or other effective mechanisms are in place to protect its financial independence.Score 1 point for reports to parliament, 1 point for budget approved by parliament2 NO Not mentioned.
40 There are prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections from being appointed to this body and requirements of professional expertise.Score 1 point for not politically connected, 1 point for professional expertise2 NO Not mentioned.
41 The independent oversight body has the necessary mandate and power to perform its functions, including to review classified documents and inspect the premises of public bodies.Score 1 point for reviewing classified documents, 1 point for inspection powers2 NO Not mentioned.
42 The decisions of the independent oversight body are binding. Score N=0, Y=2 points2 NO Not mentioned.
43 In deciding an appeal, the independent oversight body has the power to order appropriate remedies for the requester, including the declassification of information. 1 for partial, 2 for fully2 NO Not mentioned.
44 Requesters have the right to lodge a judicial appeal.1 for partially, 2 for fully.2 YES Requesters do have the right to lodge a judicial appeal with the federal administrative court, in line with the General Administrative Procedures Act (Allgemeines Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz), https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10005768 (German).
45 Appeals to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are free of charge and do not require legal assistance.1 for free, 1 for no lawyer required. 2 Partially There is a fee of EUR 30 to file an appeal with the federal administrative court, no legal assistance is required, http://www.bvwg.gv.at/verfahren_allgemein/gebuehren_start.html.
46 The grounds for appeal to the oversight body (where applicable, or to the judiciary if no such body exists) are broad (including not only refusals to provide information but also refusals to provide information in the form requested, administrative silence and other breach of timelines, charging excessive fees, etc.).Score 1 point for appealing refusals, additional points for appealing other violations.4 Partially The legal argument of the state body that has to be provided in the official response in case of a denial of information can be challenged in the administrative court.
47 Clear procedures, including timelines, are in place for dealing with external appeals (oversight/judicial).Score 1 point for clear procedures, 1 point for timelines. 2 YES There are clear procedures and timelines in terms of when and how a refusal can be challenged in court.
48 In the appeal process (oversight/judicial/) the government bears the burden of demonstrating that it did not operate in breach of the rules.Score Y/N and award 2 points for yes. 2 YES Not mentioned.
49 The external appellate body has the power to impose appropriate structural measures on the public authority (e.g. to conduct more training or to engage in better record management)1 for partial, 2 for fully. 2 NO The court cannot impose such measures, it cannot even order the publication of information, just establish that the legal argument for not providing information was wrong and lift that decision.


Sanctions & Proteccions

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50 Sanctions may be imposed on those who wilfully act to undermine the right to information, including through the unauthorised destruction of information.Score 1 point for sanctions for underming right, 1 point for destruction of documents 2 NO not mentioned.
51 There is a system for redressing the problem of public authorities which systematically fail to disclose information or underperform (either through imposing sanctions on them or requiring remedial actions of them).Score 1 point for either remedial action or sanctions, 2 points for both 2 NO not mentioned.
52 The independent oversight body and its staff are granted legal immunity for acts undertaken in good faith in the exercise or performance of any power, duty or function under the RTI Law. Others are granted similar immunity for the good faith release of information pursuant to the RTI Law.Score 1 for oversight body, 1 for immunity for others2 NO not mentioned.
53 There are legal protections against imposing sanctions on those who, in good faith, release information which discloses wrongdoing (i.e. whistleblowers).Score 2 for strong protections, 1 for moderate protections2 YES There is whistleblower protection for civil servants and public sector employees who report criminal wrongdoing. In line with the Civil Servants Employment Act (§53a), civil servants must not face negative consequences from their employer for reporting wrong doing in good faith to the relevant anti-corruption body, https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10008470.


Promotional measures

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54 Public authorities are required to appoint dedicated officials (information officers) or units with a responsibility for ensuring that they comply with their information disclosure obligations.Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
55 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, is given overall responsibility for promoting the right to information. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
56 Public awareness-raising efforts (e.g. producing a guide for the public or introducing RTI awareness into schools) are required to be undertaken by law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
57 A system is in place whereby minimum standards regarding the management of records are set and applied. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
58 Public authorities are required to create and update lists or registers of the documents in their possession, and to make these public. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
59 Training programs for officials are required Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
60 Public authorities are required to report annually on the actions they have taken to implement their disclosure obligations. This includes statistics on requests received and how they were dealt with. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.
61 A central body, such as an information commission(er) or government department, has an obligation to present a consolidated report to the legislature on implementation of the law. Score Y/N, Y=2 points2 NO not mentioned.