The Ministry of Justice issued the Fa-Lu-10603512970 Circular of September 14, 2017 (hereinafter, the “Circular”) to clarify issues concerning the application of Article 18, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 3 of the Freedom of Government Information Law.
The Circular first points out that Article 18, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 3 of the Freedom of Government Information Law (hereinafter, the “Law”) provides that “before a government agency decides on its intent, drafts for internal use or other preparatory operations” may be withheld from disclosure. Since drafts for internal use or preparatory operations of a government agency are indefinite matters before a decision on its intent is formally made, their public disclosure or provision is inappropriate in order to prevent the government agency from any interference which may undermine the final decision before it is made or from any inconvenience resulting from criticisms of people holding different opinions following the disclosure of prior internal discussions and opinions. Therefore, “the draft for internal use or other preparatory operations before the government agency decides on its intent” means documents for internal operations of an administrative agency such as draft memos, internal applications or documents soliciting opinions from different units. This shall apply both before and after a government agency decides on its intent. According to this Circular, however, information pertaining to basic facts about the decision on intent without disclosing the internal communication or thoughts in the decision-making process should still be disclosed, since the disclosure not only does not interfere with the formation of the agency’s intent but also helps the citizens review and supervise the reasonableness of the government’s decision-making process.
This Circular further explains that for a government agency which has prepared a budget for commissioning research reports prepared by experts or scholars or personnel sent overseas for observation, studies, research or internship, if no draft memo, internal application or document soliciting opinions from different units is contained and thus communication of internal opinions or thinking or debate information is not involved, such reports shall be voluntarily disclosed pursuant to law except for circumstances where disclosure shall be restricted or prevented under Article 18, Paragraph 1 of the Law. As for whether a government agency has decided on its intent, this is not a consideration factor for assessing if a commissioned research report should be publicly disclosed.