Efforts to improve the level of openness of the executive in Serbia are necessary

The Openness of the Executive Index for Serbia of 56 percent points to the need for further efforts towards achieving the full openness of public administration in Serbia. The institutional openness of the executive (Government, ministries, Government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and other government institutions) is marked by unequal practices and performance regarding the compliance with the legislature regulating issues of transparency, accessibility, integrity and effectiveness, as well as differences in the level of fulfillment of indicators among the institutions. These are the findings of the “Openness of the Executive” analysis, conducted by CRTA within the regional network “ActionSEE”.

“Openness of the public administration, including its transparency and openness to citizens, as well as the opportunities for citizen participation in decision making, development of laws and policies, is one of the main principles of the public administration reform in Serbia. The progress in the level of the public administration openness is a result of the broader public administration reform, established as one of the main preconditions within the EU integration process. However, many deficiencies and problems persist, and they need to be addressed”, CRTA representative Pavle Dimitrijevic stated.

This Index measures the level of institutional openness towards citizens and the public, based on four basic principles: transparency, accessibility, integrity and effectiveness. In line with the international standards and recommendations (EU, SIGMA/OECD, Open Government Partnership, World Bank), these principles were further defined through specific indicators, assessed on basis of access to information through the institutions’ official web pages, the quality of the legislative framework regulating specific issues, other public information sources and questionnaires distributed to relevant institutions.

Executive institutions in Serbia fulfill majority of indicators in area of transparency, primarily regarding the access to information about their organizational structure. This is the consequence of the implementation of the Law on Access to Information of Public Importance that obliges the institutions to publish the Information Booklet with basic information about their work at least once a year. However, the problem of non-compliance of the Information Booklets with the Guidelines for Publishing Information Booklet continue to restrict the public access to information.

In comparison to the access to organizational information, the access to information about public procurements and budgets is at the lower level, which shows the tendency of the executive to hide the information about economic affairs and management of public resources from the public.

Regarding the integrity, the implementation of the anti-corruption legislature contributed to the higher access to information about public officials, such as the public officials’ property cards, income and sources of income, which can be found at the Anti-Corruption Agency’s website in organized and structured form.

The gaps in communication and interaction with citizens were noticed in practice within some institutions. Civil society participation in creation of public policies is more the exception than the rule, which is partly the consequence of the lack of systemic approach to the civil society engagement in policy development. Although majority of executive institutions recognize the importance and benefits of social networks as tools and channels for communication with citizens, these channels are irregularly and insufficiently used by institutions.

Executive institutions show very low level of effectiveness, reflecting in reporting, monitoring and strategic planning, due to unregulated system of public policy planning and implementation in Serbia, as well as the lack of efficient mechanisms for planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring of public policies.

In cooperation with partners from a regional network “ActionSEE”, CRTA prepared a policy paper which analyzes the level of transparency, openness, and accountability of the executive in the Western Balkans region. The analysis of the executive openness is the first segment of the regional research on government openness. Detailed analysis is available at this link.