The Center for Change Management in cooperation with the Deputy Prime Minister, Slavica Grkovska, in charge of good governance policies, and the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information, organized a conference on the topic: “What interests the citizens?” – Improvement of the system for free access to public information”. The event took place on September 23, 2022, at the Hotel Panoramika, Skopje.
The representative of the Metamorphosis Foundation, Marijana Jančeska, spoke about the Openness Index at the executive and local level, the criteria on which the Openness Index is based and the results of the last measurements.
The Openness Index is guided by a framework of principles governing the governance system, which provides results that meet the needs of society through the best use of available resources:
(1) accessibility – assesses the extent to which the right of access to information is guaranteed by law and in practice, as well as the quality of the mechanisms for inclusion and consultation in policy-making processes;
(2) efficiency – considers institutions’ commitment to learn from current processes and improve them through established monitoring, evaluation and learning systems – using key points/indicators during strategic planning and reporting;
(3) transparency – assesses the public availability of organizational information, the budget and public procurement procedures;
(4) integrity assesses the presence of mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest, regulate lobbying, and the availability of the code of ethical behavior that will guide and sanction the behavior of civil servants and public administration.
Jančeska emphasized that according to the measurement for 2021, the Government of North Macedonia is the most open, which fulfills 82.71% of the set criteria for openness, followed by the Government of Montenegro with 58.16%. BiH is in third place with 49.58%. The Government of the Republic of Serbia is in the last place, meeting 37.96% of the criteria for openness. When it comes to the ministries, the best results, on average, are achieved by the ministries of North Macedonia with 58.56% fulfillment of the openness indicators. In other countries, the ministries meet less than half of the set indicators – in Montenegro 48.17%, in Serbia 46.82%, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina 38.5%. We note the weakest results in the bodies of the state administration. On average, the bodies in North Macedonia reach 41.54%, Montenegro 40.82%, Bosnia and Herzegovina 40.49%, and Serbia 31.20%.
The results of the Openness Index at the local level were also discussed at the conference. It was said that the measurement for 2022 covered all 80 municipalities plus the City of Skopje. The index of openness showed that in the measurement for 2022, the municipalities of Valandovo (62%), Prilep (59%), Bitola (57%), Ohrid (54%), Kočani (52%), as well as Veles and Delčevo, Demir Hisar and Kruševo (50 %) and Vasilevo (47 %) have the best results, while the lowest ranked are Dolneni (9 %), Vrapčiste (8 %), Karbinci (7 %), Butel (6 %), Sopište (5 %), Aračinovo and Zelenikovo (3%) and the municipality of Krivogaštani with 0%. The value 0 for the municipality of Krivogaštani is the result of the hacker attacks and the unanswered questionnaire. In relation to the year 2021, there are shifts in the ranking, instead of Ohrid, now in the first position is Valandovo, and the urban municipalities that have better human and financial resources are more successful.
In terms of planning regions, the research showed that in 2022 the municipalities in the Southeast Region are the most open, with an average openness of 35%, while the least open are the municipalities in the Skopje Region with an average openness of 20%, instead of Pologsk in 2021, which now has the penultimate position with 21%.
At the end of the presentation, the representative of the Metamophrosis Foundation spoke about the recommendations for improving the institutions.
The recommendations are divided into the four pillars that are measured. After the results are published, they are communicated to the monitored institutions at special meetings, but the public is also introduced to them through a campaign:
- All executive bodies must have their own websites or a special section should be established on the website of line ministries, in order to enable active transparency, direct interaction with the public and accountability. To enable functional search engines on the websites of the executive authorities.
- Institutions should introduce internal procedures that will advance the process of reactive, but also active transparency, with established deadlines and responsible persons for sharing and updating information on websites.
- Institutions should publish on their website the answers with which they provided access to the information after a submitted request (from reactive to active access), which would reduce the repetition of requests received in writing for the same information.
- It is necessary for the institutions to proactively publish the set of documents, data and information determined in Article 10 of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, which will influence the increase of active transparency.
- To reduce the maximum deadline for responding to requests for free access to public information from 20 to 15 days, given that this is a reasonable waiting period according to international standards and established regional practice.
- It is necessary to implement the role of the General Secretariat to control the quality and monitor the implementation of existing policies.
- The government must reduce the trend of the number of draft laws that are proposed after a shortened procedure in order not to jeopardize their quality and/or reduce the participation of stakeholders in the consultations.
- The government must avoid policy changes without evidence that the proposed changes will provide significant improvement. Commitment and establishment of practice for conducting ex-ante and ex-post analyzes are required.