Secretive court officials deny performing public duties
Atlatszo.hu is suing the field officials of the Hungarian courts, after their organization refused to disclose the details of their operation. Although we filed a query with the data protection authority, the court officials refused to comply. Based on records of their dealings we acquired, we have ideas as to why.
The executive division operating under the jurisdiction of the court system, MBVK is responsible for carrying out court orders, such as evictions, or enforcing foreclosures in the case of debts that are deemed collectible by the judiciary. The organization is rather mysterious, it’s website gives little information, and when we resorted to a freedom of information act query for a list of their low-value contracts, we were refused.
The arguments were that MBVK does not handle public finances, its internal records aren’t relevant to the public, and compiling the records we asked for would have consumed an unwarranted amount of work hours.
We disagreed and went to the national data authority NAIH. We argued that based on its role alone, MBVK is an organization that performs public duties, hence its records are also of interest to the public and it is accordingly under the scope of the pertinent law. Furthermore, we find it absurd that compiling the short list of contracts we asked for would constitute an unmanageable workload, but given the legal requirements, even so, this couldn’t be an excuse.
NAIH sided with us in its decision, however, it too was rejected by MBVK based on the same response, claiming they do not perform public duties, hence they don’t answer to the pertinent transparency regulations. NAIH informed us that it had no jurisdiction to pursue the matter further and closed the case.
We, however, are now taking MBVK to court.
We are not surprised that the organization is secretive. Based on documents we acquired, they spent some HUF 725 million (€2.3 million) on communication efforts for a pamphlet meant to explain their work and another project that we could not find any trace of. There is no real justification for either of these spending items.
We will report on the lawsuit as it unfolds.
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