Ministry response to access to documents request varies considerably

Food & Agriculture ministry took over 60 days to process application – well above the official seven workday deadline

A article from Journalisten magazine has revealed that the time it takes Denmark’s ministries to process access to document requests varies significantly from ministry to ministry.

According to the law, ministries must not take longer than seven working days to process requests, but the article found that only eleven of 19 ministries adhered to the deadline following a Journalisten request dispatched to the ministries on June 21.

Worst was the Food, Agriculture & Fishery Ministry, which took 64 days to process a request, while the Environment Ministry, Health Ministry (both at least 41 days) and the Employment Ministry (35 days) also were in clear breach of the deadline.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, it shouldn’t take 64 days. It’s what the ombudsman would describe as not too long, but way too long,” Thomas Pallesen, a media law teacher at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, told Journalisten.

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Of the 19 ministries, the Ministry of State has the quickest processing time of 0-1 days, followed by the Internal Affairs & Housing Ministry (three days).

The Children & Teaching Ministry, Immigration & Integration Ministry, Education & Research Ministry, Justice Ministry and Transport Ministry (all six days), and the Foreign Ministry, Social & Elderly Ministry, Tax Ministry and Defence Ministry (all seven) managed to process within the time limit.

However, the Climate, Energy & Supply Ministry (nine), Business Ministry (10), Culture Ministry (11), Finance Ministry (13) did not.

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Varies from ministry to ministry
One of the reasons for the differences is in the way that each ministry processes applications. 

For instance, Journalisten’s request was straightforward and the same for all ministries. But how each ministry went about attaining figures for a response was not uniform.

For instance, the Defence Ministry provided Journalisten with full access within the seven-day window, while the Food, Agriculture & Fishery Ministry spent 64 days on granting the media insight into part of what was asked. Some parts had been censored. 

“You could ask yourself how they use 64 days to reach a wrong decision,” said Pallesen. 

“From the outside, you could suspect that they acted in bad faith or didn’t want to deliver the documents and tried to find a way around it.”

Check out the entire Journalisten story here (in Danish).

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