The overall openness index of local self-governments in Serbia is at a very low level as self-governments fulfil a total of 39% of indicators, according to the analysis “Openness of local self-governments in Serbia and in the region”. The analysis of the openness of local self-governments in Serbia included the assessment offour areas: transparency, accessibility, integrity and effectiveness, on a random representative sample of 42 local self-government units. The research was conducted by the CRTA, in cooperation with partners from a regional civil society network “ActionSEE“ .
Although it would have been expected that the openness increases as we move towards lower levels of government, since they are in direct contact with citizens, the results of the analysis show just the opposite. Local governments should make much more effort to engage citizens in decision making that directly affect the quality of their lives.
The analysis shows that in the area of transparency, local self-governments in Serbia fulfil 44% of indicators. While the transparency is somewhat higher in the area of organisational information and public procurements, local self-governments score the lowest in the area of budget transparency. The major problem of the local governments in the area of budget transparency is the lack of consultations with the citizens. Only two local self-governments from the sample organize consultations with citizens within the budget drafting process, with public calls for consultations published on the website. Citizens Budget is not published by 93% of local self-governments from the sample, which points to the fact that this type of communication with citizens has not at all come to reality at the local level.
Local self-governments fulfil one third of indicators that relate to the accessibility. Information centres (bureaus or offices for issuing of documents to citizens, databases) that are supposed to facilitate the communication between citizens and the local self-governments and thus reduce the time for addressing reported issues is established in quite a few local self-governments. More than one half of cities and municipalities from the sample do not have established appointment term (open door) for consultations with the president of the municipality. The large majority of self-governments do not have a monthly bulletin about their work that would enable the citizens to obtain the information about current developments regarding the work of the local self-government. However, social networks have been recognised as an opportunity to reinforce the interaction with citizens, and the majority of local self-governments have created the Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The integrity of local self-governments in Serbia, measured by the existence and the level of functioning of mechanisms for prevention of conflict of interest, is at a very low level. Local self-governments fulfil only 24% of indicators that refer to: publishing of the information about the property and income of local officials; existence and availability of strategies for the fight against corruption and instruments for their implementation and oversight by the local assembly or other relevant local institutions, and opportunities for citizens’ reporting the cases of corruption and abuse of office. The highest score was achieved in the fulfilment of the indicator regarding the accessibility of the information about the property and income of local officials, which was enabled through their publishing at the online portal of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
In the area of effectiveness, the fulfilment of indicators varies significantly in relation to the observed sub-area. As far as the strategic planning is concerned, more than one half of local self-governments developed strategic plans with established development goals that was approved by the mayor or the president of the municipality and the ruling majority. Regarding the reporting procedure, all indicators for this area have been entirely fulfilled as they are linked to the existing legal framework. The Law on Local Self-Government obligates the president of the municipality to regularly report to the municipal assembly on the execution of decisions and other municipal assembly acts, at his own initiative or upon the assembly’s demand.
The data were gathered in the period from October to the end of December 2016. The complete research “Openness of Local Self-Governments in Serbia and in the Region” that is a part of a broader research “Regional Institutional Openness Index”.