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Technical Assistance for Increasing Transparency of LSGs through Improving Information Booklets in the City of Sombor and Municipality of Žabalj

GAI provides various technical assistance initiatives to counterpart LSGs for improved transparency. The main indicator used to identify deficiencies and measure improvements of transparency is the Local Transparency Index (LTI) of LSGs in Serbia, developed by Transparency Serbia, that offers the most comprehensive methodology for measurement of various indicators of transparency of LSGs that is currently available in Serbia. The LTI for all LSGs in Serbia is available for 2015, 2019 and 2020. Besides enabling comparison of results between local governments and monitoring their progress over time, the LTI identifies areas that are problematic and that should be addressed to increase transparency, availability of data, and improved communication with citizens.

The LTI 2020 indicates an overall increase in local transparency as the average score was increased from 40 to 46 with overall improvement in all areas measured by the indicator. The only area in which results were worse than in 2019 relates to content and update of the Information Booklets– with overall average decrease of 16.4%.

Information Booklets represent the most comprehensive way to provide proactive transparency in Serbian public institutions. The 2004 Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance obliged all public entities to publish Information Booklets. This document should contain all relevant information about a public entity in a user-friendly manner and should be published and updated regularly. Based on LTI 2020, almost 52% of LSGs had updated Booklets published on their websites, but only one fifth of them published three types of information that are mandatory by the law and that are included in LTI (annual public procurement plan, salaries of local public officials and list of services provided by LSG). As described in the TS LTI 2020 report, “even 16 years after the beginning of implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, Information Booklets are often poor in quality. These documents are often bulky, with unnecessary information (such as complete budgets from a few years ago), with a huge number of hard-to-read images (scanned documents) instead of text or tables (a typical example are public procurement reports), with data 5-6 years old, although the information booklets are allegedly "updated", according to a note in the booklet itself. Furthermore, LSGs do not even publish within these documents information that they are ready to publish on other sections of the web page”.

The goal of the assignment is to provide technical assistance to two GAI counterpart local governments – the Municipality of Žabalj and the City of Sombor, to develop new structure and content of their Information Booklets that will meet all legal requirements and best practices and that will serve as models for other GAI counterpart LSGs, as well all other LSGs in Serbia to support transparency improvements.




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