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Make a PSI request for re-use in Portugal

How things work in Portugal? Despite the fact that Portugal appears in the middle positioned “Followers” level of the Open Data Maturity index, the last legislation developments in this matter seem comprehensive and designed using a practical approach.

 Legislative framework

Law 65/93 of 26 August was the first attempt to regulate the access to administrative documents. It was amended two times before being revoked by Law no. 46/2007 of 24 August, which transposed Directive 2003/98 on the re-use of public sector information.

In the meantime, the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, dated 1997, in Article 268 established the right to access to administrative archives.

The cost of reproduction of administrative documents requested by citizens in the exercise of their right of access was set by Despacho n. 8617/2002 (2° série) of the Minister of Finance. It is curious to see how the costs were detailed:

These details reveal the practice perspective with which Portuguese regulations are formulated.

The current legislation in force is Law n. 26/2016 of 22 August, which transposes Directive 2003/98/ EC 98 on the re-use of public sector information as amended by Directive 2013/37/EU.

Law 26/2016 in details

Contrary to the regulatory framework of some other European countries, Law n. 26/2016 of 22 August combines in a single text both the rights of access to information and re-use of information. However, this not lead to confusion. The text is clear, detailed and tailored for a practical application.

It defines as a general principle in article 19 that:
The administrative documents to which access may be authorised under this Law may be re-used.

Interestingly, the Law defines an organisational schema for managing the access and re-use requests similar to the one in French (see last part of our article here).

From one side the public sector bodies shall appoint a person who takes care of the obligations on the active disclosure of information and monitors the processing of requests for access and re-use (article 9 – Responsibility for access) and on the other side a Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (Comissão de Acesso aos Documentos Administrativos), also known with the acronym CADA, is foreseen.

 

These two entities are very similar to the PRADA (Personne Responsable de l’Accès aux Documents Administratifs et des questions relatives à la réutilisation des informations publiques) and CADA (Commission d’accès aux documents administratifs) defined in the French legislation.

As for the access and/or re-use requests, Law n. 26/2016 defines a number of obligations on public sector bodies.

- They shall publish on their web site, the e-mail address, place and timetable for face to face consultation, application form or other appropriate means through which requests for access and re-use of the information and documents covered by the law may be sent.

- They shall respond to the requests within 10 days either producing the documents requested, or communicating the reasons for total or partial denial of access to the documents, or forwarding the request to the public sector body, which has the documents and informing the applicant of this fact.

The conditions governing the re-use are described in the eight points forming article 23; in particular, documents made available through Internet are free to re-use; the same with regards to documents made available for educational or research and development purposes. More in general, the feeds that the public sector bodies may charge for re-use shall be limited to the marginal costs.

 The Law also states the right of compliant and the right of access to environmental information. The first defines that the applicant can complain to the CADA in the case of a lack of response, refusal, and partial satisfaction of the request or other decision, which limits access to administrative documents, within 20 days. The latter states that lists with the names of all the bodies and entities which hold environmental information shall be made public available through preferably a single website and that procedures to ensure the standardisation of environmental information shall be put in place.

In practice

The main reference for re-users of Portuguese open data is the “Portal de dados abertos da Administrativa Pùblica”, dados.gov.pt , which contains the datasets published by the public sector bodies. In case the data you want are not included in these datasets, you have to request the data directly to the public sector body owner of the data. Unfortunately there is no a free service that helps you in this task. In the past, there was the site nosqueremossaber.org, but it is no longer running.

What to do then?

The first obstacle is to find the right public sector body to whom address the request. One source is the Portal Nacional, where you can find a list of the public sector bodies and their websites. Another strategy is to look at the list of the decisions concerning complaints on the website of CADA.

Once you have identified the public sector body, which is likely to have the data you want, you have to find on its website the references to e-mail address, application form or other appropriate means to submit a re-use request.

Here below some examples:

Entidade Reguladora da Saúde (ERS)

Direção-Geral da Política de Justiça (DGPJ)

The University Hospital Center of São João (CHUSJ)

Due to the lack of free web services like those in The NetherlandsAustria, Germany etc., there is no way to consult lists of requests made by other re-users. That means that it is not possible to automatically grab the requests and add them to the PSI Monitor repository.

Hence, if you want your request listed also in the PSI Monitor, you have to add it manually. This action would ensure a wider exposure of your request at European level and that might contribute to a successful conclusion of the application.

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