Promise and Practice of the Principle of Equal Access to Information in the Danish Local Administration
This article presents an empirical based study of the implementation and effectiveness of freedom of information acts (FOIAs) in Danish municipalities. Even though the Nordic Countries are known for transparent public institutions, empirically based studies of access to information are rare. With the help of 33 students of public administration, 146 simple requests were sent covering 74.5% of all Danish municipalities. The primary purpose of the field experiment was to test the legal principle of identity-neutrality and equal treatment, as the profile of the applicants was varied: the first set of requesters represented “simple” identities, while the second set of requesters represented “qualified” identities. Besides, the requesters asked for two different types of information, one more controversial to reveal than the other. Hence, the study looked into variations in casework time, likelihood of rejection, communication form, etc. The results of the study showed that, in general, the municipalities handled the requests for access to information without difficulties and within the set deadlines, and no differential treatment of applicants based on their status and qualifications could be observed. In addition, the data indicates a significantly higher processing time in the requests for potentially controversial information. The study opened up grounds for future field experiments on FOIA(s). In the final part of the article, the general benefits of student involvement in research processes are discussed.
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