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Dissatisfactory publicity of the work of the authorities

Transparency Serbia on February the 28th2019 has represented on the Conference for media the results of research within the project “Local and central government – transparency, anticorruption potential and corruption risks.”

The state regarding publicity of work of the authorities is satisfying neither on normative level nor in practice. Because of that, the role that the transparency of the process should have regarding decision making, in the fight against corruption is not realized. The importance of transparency is correctly recognized in national strategic documents and in plans related to European integration.

javnost rada kzn 1However, the strategic acts adopted in 2013 (anticorruption strategies), and in 2016 (Action plan for the Chapter 23), are in a great level not realized and besides the fact that the deadlines for realization have expired in 2018. Due to this, besides everything, neither norms nor practice of application of the rules for free access of information from public importance, public procurements and public-private partnership. On the other hand, there are plans and legal solutions which could have positive impact, such as extended obligations of leading consultations about strategic documents, the obligation of leading the debate about capital part of the budget on local level, introducing the obligation that the data about the work of the authorities publish in open format and self-commitment of individual authorities through Partnership for open government.

No significant progress has been noticed regarding the publicity of Nationa Assembly, so that the certain information which is foreseen for publishing, still not available (for example suggested amendments and opinions of the Government on those amendments). When it comes to the Government, the creation of a new web presentation with improved technical solutions is not used to enlarge also the scope of information that the Government publishes about its work.

The suggestions of regulations that the Government still considers, the conclusions that the Government decides about many important topics, explanations of decisions about appointing and dismissing functionaries, are still unavailable. The flow of the Government session still considers “top secret of high confidentiality”, even though in nearby Bulgaria and Croatia in a similar situation the notes and/or audio recordings are published.

The Government also continued the practice of ignoring the requests for access of information, and not in one case did provide execution of the Commissioner for Information solution when it was not possible to enforce with other legal resources.

Based on the Law on Electronic Administration and accompanying regulations, during 2018, finally, the obligation for the authorities is established, authorities on all levels create their own web presentations and to publish the data in the open form, which will enable the search and further use (regulations adopted since January the 5th 2019). However, the opportunity has been missed that with this occasion to regulate in details also the mandatory elements of those web presentations, so still, the act that most closely regulates this field is the Regulation on the creation and publishing the work informer. The obligation of publishing and regular updating of the informer (on monthly level) authorities do not fully respect.

Changes of the Law on free access of information, which are currently in the preparation (draft) should increase the capacity of available data, through inclusion the certain subjects that currently do not have the obligation to comply by the requests (for example, public notaries, private companies performing utility activities).

However, the draft contains the intention to completely disable access to data on the disposal of public high-value assets, as well as other data owned by majority state-owned companies. By contrast, there is a strong need to expand the right to access to information also to the companies that are in minor state ownership, but they are entrusted with the assets of high value or the country guaranteed for their credits. The typical exampleare companies that operate through various forms of public-private partnerships. Unlike the public procurements and other regulated procedures, in public-private partnerships and concessions, even the publicity of contracts is not provided.

Additional problem represents numerous situations when the state negotiates within the interstate agreements, because those arrangements bring direct contracting, without competition, and the citizens are left without an argumented explanation about if their resources could be used on the more effective way.

In the field of public finances still, it is not provided the publishment of current data about public expenditures, even though for something like that there are adequate technical solutions and possibilities (for example Slovenian app Erar, examples for several local self-government which publish those data)

Certain partial solutions could have useful effects, which relates to individual public expenditures (for example, creation of the new public procurement portal after expected changes of the law, publishing the data about funds received by media on the basis of the solution from new media strategy, publishing individual data about stimulus for co-financing the investment projects, opening the data about the budget on the POA (partnership for open administration) basis, measures undertaken within the local anti-corruption plans), but still there are no indications that all the data about public expenditures could be consolidated and displayed soon.

When we talk about the decision-making process, the opportunity is missed that the Law on lobing secure full publicity of data about influences towards bodies of government, and their representatives and officials. Therefore, just in the part of these data, the record will be the must, and legally it is not foreseen the obligation of their publication on the web-presentation of the authorities.

Regarding data on prosecutions, the data are still kept in different ways in individual bodies (police, prosecutors, courts), and are available exclusively within the annual reports, and even then they are not available in the search form.

At last from the application of the principle of transparency point of view, as a problem in practice are more often situations when the governmental bodies do not make the documents even though that is their legal responsibility, they claim that they do not have the documents which they normally should have, they refuse to give reasonable explanations on public questions about the reasons for decisions they make and about the nature of management or they avoid responsibility to act by the decisions of Commissioner for information unjustly searching from the Republic public prosecutor to initiate administrative dispute, because it would allegedly violate the public interest by giving the data.

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