Openness of executive powers in the Western Balkan countries is not at a satisfactory level and it highly depends on a good will of actual power and not on clear internal policies. Institutions’ openness represents a key condition of democracy since it allows citizens to receive information and knowledge, necessary for power control. However, in the region openness is for now perceived as a sum of various rule books and obligations and not an approach actively promoted by governments.
Countries in the region are in different stages of relations with the EU. Therefore, the concept of “an open government” was imposed during the integration process or it was introduced in order to follow new trends and promote international reputation of a country. Such approach has disregarded a society’s essential need to apply and promote these values in order to enable their positive influence on citizens and society.
Additionally, it has led to a problem regarding the application of transparency and accountability rules, especially at lower levels of state administration where a social significance of these approaches is not recognized. Hence, it is understood as an unpleasant obligation imposed due to international requirements.
In cooperation with partners from a regional network Action SEE, CDT has developed Regional Index of Openness of executive power in order to determine to which extent citizens from the Western Balkans receive timely and understandable information from their institutions. Within this Index, through around 80 indicators, openness of 274 institutions of executive power was measured and analyzed while over 15 thousand pieces of data about institutions were collected.
The research was conducted in the period from October to the end of December 2016. Results of the research served as a basis for developing a set of recommendations and guidelines for improvement of institutions’ openness.
Key regional findings:
The research has shown that implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information is a weak point in all countries and it does not provide positive results primarily due to the fact that institutions, which implement it, are not independent and they lack capacity. Apart from classical methods of communication, the executive powers must also increase use of modern communication methods with citizens.
Also, regional executive powers do not publish all financial information and documentation and they do not explain citizens how money was spent. Official websites of executive powers do not contain all information regarding public procurement.
The research has shown that regional governments do not have unique methods and procedures for a high-quality control of their policies, nor they have developed performance indicators for measuring to which extent these policies are effective.
Key findings in Montenegro
Openness of the executive power in Montenegro is the best ranked in the region and it fulfills 66% of performance indicators. Through negotiations with the EU, Open Government Partnership and other activities the Government has started a creation of openness policy while numerous initiatives of NGO sector and the Government of Electoral Trust contributed to it.
However, it lacks strategic planning and promotion of openness, which must be placed equally with other executive power policies. Promotion of openness in Montenegro barely exists. There are bodies, which do not comply with legal obligations in this area without any consequences. They do not respect principles of good governance as well.
A question of openness in Montenegro is still a question of a personal point of view or of a good will of the first manager of the institution or his/her team and not of a clear state policy. Therefore, the executive power in Montenegro must prepare and adopt Strategy of Development and Promotion of Openness until the autumn this year and it must implement the first action plan during 2018.
When it comes to the openness of the Government of Montenegro – it fulfills 82% of criteria and thereby it does not completely fulfills the need for openness at this level of societal development. Therefore, transparency of Government’s sessions must be additionally improved. Even though all materials are available on the website, currently the public does not have insight into course of sessions or at least key moments of debates.
Also, budgetary transparency is not complete since the final text of the Law on the Budget is not published and citizens’ budget is not prepared. On the website a plan for procurements for last two years is not published but there are plans for 2013 and 2014, which indicates that the practice of publishing has been suspended.
On the other hand, ministries in Montenegro fulfill 66% of openness criteria. This moderate result is the best in the region and it additionally witnesses about low levels of openness of ministries in the region. The best ranked ministry fulfills 81% of criteria while the worst one fulfills almost a half less – 43%. This measurement did not include newly-formed ministries.
Information on websites are not systematized, sections are not updated or they are empty. A majority of ministries violates the Law on Free Access to Information. Nearly 70 % does not use online possibilities for involving citizens in public debates. Only 12% of them has published budgets for the last three years.
A situation in state administration bodies is very poor. These institutions fulfill only a half of openness criteria. Bodies of state administration regularly violate the Law on Free Access to Information and almost 90% of them does not publish budgets. Also, the majority does not publish information regarding public procurement.
The complete analysis is available here.