Following a lengthy debate, the Parliament of the Czech Republic passed the Contract Register Act in the autumn of 2015. The Act was published in the statute book under the number 340/2015 and came into force on 1 July 2016.
As the title of the Act suggests, it establishes a register of contracts – i.e. an online electronic database of information wherein, as of the effective date, contracts are being published which, generally speaking, relate to the disposition of public resources and property. Private law contracts and contracts on the provision of grants and returnable financial aid are subject to mandatory publishing where:
- one of the signatories thereof is a subject listed in section 2, of the first paragraph of the Act (e.g. the Czech Republic, a territorial self-governing body, a state-funded contribution-based organisation, a state fund, a public university, Czech public television, Czech public radio, or a legal person in which the state or a territorial self-governing body or other institution has a majority stake in terms of property); and
- the value of the performance under the contract is more than 50,000 Czech crowns.
The liable subject or party must send the contract to the data box of the Contract Register manager without delay and, in any event, within 30 days after the conclusion of the contract. The other party’s permission is not required for publishing since this is a legal obligation.
The essential provisions of the Act are sections 6 and 7, which lay down the consequences of the publishing of the contract (or lack thereof). Where a contract has been entered into for an illegal purpose, not publishing such a contract, although technically a contravention of the Act, will not attract sanctions (monetary or otherwise).The Act, however, does include self-regulatory mechanisms in the event that an unpublished contract which is subject to mandatory publishing has not been published; in which case the contract is nullified.
These provisions came into force on 1 July 2016. Contracts concluded in the time period from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 must therefore be entered into the Contract Register but are not subject to any sanction should this obligation not be fulfilled. The Act requires the contracts to be in written form in order to enable publishing.
The scope of the data to be published via the Contract Register does not differ in principle from those which, prior to the passing of the legislation, could be demanded under Act No. 106/199, on Free Access to Information. The main (and most fundamental) difference is that here the activity is imposed on the liable subjects – the Act introduces the concept of actively publishing (making public) data, whereas, previously, liable subjects had only published contracts when expressly requested to do so.
The aim of the Contract Register is to ensure that details of public related contracts are in the public domain to ensure openness and reduce the risk of corruption in their award and/or performance.