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Macedonia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Macedonia’s third national action plan was a result of a participatory process and covered diverse issues, ranging from whistleblower protection to budget transparency. However, the potential impact and completion level of the 34 commitments varied. For the next action plan, the government could consider prioritizing the most ambitious and relevant commitments. 

Commitment

Overview

Well-Designed? *

4.1 Implement law on whistleblower protection

The commitment activities to more fully implement the law on whistleblower protection could improve public accountability of government officials and increase awareness of whistleblowing.

Yes

✪ 5.1 Open budget initiative

This commitment represents a transformative change in government practice which has not produced (or published late) key budget documents for the public in the past five years.

Yes

* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

The Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) coordinated OGP activities. The consultative process was implemented through two national events, offline working groups, and online consultations with the public on the e- demokratija.gov.mk portal. Although awareness-raising activities were limited, a variety of representatives from state institutions, CSOs, business organizations, and universities were able to influence the development of the action plan. 

Macedonia did not act contrary to OGP process

A country is considered to have acted contrary to process if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The National Action Plan was developed with neither online or offline engagements with citizens and civil society
  • The government fails to engage with the IRM researchers in charge of the country’s Year 1 and Year 2 reports
  • The IRM report establishes that there was no progress made on implementing any of the commitments in the country’s action plan

Macedonia’s third action plan contained 34 commitments organized into eight themes. One commitment (6.8) was officially withdrawn, with the government citing that the implementing partner organization failed to provide funds for the commitment activities. Of the 34 commitments, only two were judged to have a transformative potential impact with only one of those two substantially complete or completed.

Commitment Title Well-designed * Complete Overview
1.1 Improve consultation process with civil society  No No To advance already established practices for participatory policy making, a methodology has been developed for collecting and monitoring data on stakeholder consultations and the public consultation period has been extended from 10 to 20 days.
1.2 Improve government cooperation with CSOs  No No This commitment lists generally formulated, verifiable activities to improve cooperation but low specificity of the measurable impact on the operating environment for civil society organizations lessens the potential impact.
2.1 Create Open Data Standards  No No To improve uniformity and accessibility of government datasets published by different institutions, a draft version of open data standards, based on the DCAT-AP platform standard, was prepared and published online for public consultation in English.
2.2 Improve Open Data Platform  No No The Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA), in agreement with two CSOs (CCM and Free Software), selected the Creative Commons BY license model for the open data portal, but has yet to formally adopt it. 
2.3 Raise awareness about open data  No No Implementation is behind schedule—of the different activities listed to gauge and raise citizens’ awareness of the concept of open data, only the preparation of a survey has been initiated.
2.4 Catalog government datasets  No No Implementation has not started on identifying priority institutions, analyzing institutions’ datasets, creating a central catalog for all datasets, and prioritizing the datasets to be published. 
2.5 Link open data to government portals  No No Due to technical limitations of the current open data portal (www.otvorenipodatoci.gov.mk), the commitment will be implemented only after a new portal is set up (Commitment 2.2), which will enable direct links to datasets.
3.1 Implement FOI Law  No No This commitment will prepare guidelines on proactively publishing information, monitor the implementation of tests that assess the potential damage of disclosing information, and carry out an awareness-raising media campaign. 
4.1 Implement law on whistleblower protection  Yes No A handbook was published and training sessions were organized, but little else was done to determine authorized persons to review whistleblower reports or to strengthen the capacities of authorized report reviewers. 
4.2 Open data on asset declarations  No No A new software was developed to provide information on both the current and past property ownership status of officials, published by the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (SCPC).
4.3 Monitor integrity of LSUs  No No This commitment encourages municipalities to cooperate with civil society to develop indices measuring the integrity of local self-government units. The public is not involved in the monitoring and therefore the commitment’s relevance to OGP values is unclear. 
4.4 Promote cooperation to prevent corruption  No No The main objective is to establish sustainable cooperation between the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (SCPC) and civil society, and to develop a methodology for external monitoring of SCPC’s work. 
✪ 5.1 Open budget initiative  Yes No To improve budget transparency, this commitment aims to publish three vital budget documents: a citizens’ budget, a projection of revenue and expenditures of the state budget, and a semi-annual report covering the implementation of the state budget. 
5.9 Increase transparency in public finances management      The Commission for Competition Protection (CCP) currently publishes annual reports on state assistance provided to foreign companies investing in Macedonia. This commitment aims to publish information on provided incentives, including the amount of state assistance per company. 
5.2 Open data on health programs  No No This commitment aims to disclose health program spending by publishing semi-annual reports on the budget and implementation of 20 preventative and curative health programs, as well as launching a campaign on the availability and benefit of such data. 
5.7 Strengthen capacities of the Ministry of Health  No No This commitment aims to strengthen the capacities of the Ministry of Health to effectively measure, monitor, and report the implementation and benefits of health programs. The relevance to OGP values is unclear due to the lack of a public-facing element.
5.3 Mandatory publication of public procurement information  No No This commitment builds from the previous action plan to make the publication of public procurement information mandatory among relevant public institutions. Due to political challenges in 2017, the development of the new law has been postponed to October 2018.
5.6 Introduce concession contracts register  No Yes The register is currently available at www.economy.gov.mk/doc/2079 and includes data specified in the action plan, such as the name of concessioner, number and date of contract, spread of concession area, etc.
5.4 Involve CSOs when planning IPA 2  No No This commitment aims to establish objective criteria for selecting civil society organizations to participate in the planning and programming process of the IPA 2 funding mechanism. The criteria are not defined and the responsible institution withdrew from the implementation. 
5.5 Publish data on ORIO  No No Data will be published on public institutions that manage development funds and contracts received from ORIO, a program funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project has since been terminated on unclear grounds.
5.8 Publish data on financial assistance for rural development  No No To improve accessibility on financial assistance allocated for rural development this commitment aims to publish data on received assistance by location, amount, etc. and updated quarterly. Implementation was not started due to insufficient coordination among responsible institutions. 
6.1 Develop transparency and open data standards  No Yes The Ministry of Local Self-Government has published e-transparency standards and open data guidelines for local self-government units (LSUs), prepared an analysis of LSUs’ legal framework, and established two platforms to serve as a network between civil society and local and central government. 
6.2 Improve financial transparency of LSUs  No No This commitment aims to identify the most important indicators with regards to financial transparency of local self-government units (LSUs) and establish electronic tools, including a Control E-Board, to enable easier access to financial information. 
6.3 Improve institutional consultation mechanism  No No To improve consultation mechanisms at the local level, this commitment will: 1) create an action plan for gender equality, 2) develop a gender approach for participatory policy creation, and 3) provide financial support for the six municipalities using the mechanism. 
6.4 Improve cooperation between LSUs and CSOs  No No This commitment is part of a UNDP project in the Western Balkans and aims to address the lack of transparency surrounding the allocation of funds to CSOs by local self-government units.
6.5 Evaluate service quality at the local level  No No This commitment aims to create a system to measure citizens’ satisfaction and evaluate local service delivery, covering all 81 LSUs but has been delayed as a result of the October 2017 local elections.
6.6 Improve local social services  No No Mobile/desktop applications and a web platform have been developed for communication between parents and early education institutions; however, responsibility for financing the platform’s administration in schools is unclear and the launch of the application has not taken place. 
6.7 Greater social inclusion of disabled people  No No Implementation has not started to adapt municipalities’ websites for the use of people with visual impairments and publish a contact list of persons trained to communicate with people with disabilities. 
6.8 Improvement of the local level communal services  N/A N/A This commitment has been officially withdrawn by the government and was not assessed by the IRM. 
6.9 Increase information on the Ombudsman office  No No To increase public awareness about the role of the Ombudsman office, this commitment plans to post a URL on municipalities’ websites linking to the Ombudsman website. Of 80 municipalities, 35 have yet to post the URL on their website.
7.1 Favorable legal environment for social contracts  No No To clarify which legal entities could provide social services and to promote social entrepreneurship in civil society this commitment will develop standards for social service delivery to CSOs but the relevance to OGP values is unclear.
8.1 Develop climate policies in a participatory manner  No No The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MoEPP) held three consultative workshops and the Treaty of Paris informational material has been published online, including reviews on national obligations for reporting on climate change.
8.2 Open data on climate change  No No Thus far the MoEPP, and other actors, have amended and provided access to the national databases of greenhouse gas emissions, and started to strengthen institutional capacity by training two staff. 
8.3 Improve reporting on environmental pollution  No Yes The guidelines for emissions monitoring software have been completed. The next step is to use them to amend relevant legislation, in order to provide a clear mandate for the private sector on how they should report emissions. 
  1. Strengthen the action plan development process
  2. Improve the Law on Free Access to Public Information
  3. Enhance the legal framework on whistleblowing and develop institutional mechanisms for effective protection of whistleblowers
  4. Improve Budget Transparency by meeting the standards of the Open Budget Initiative
  5. Introduce a commitment to disclose beneficial ownership in public contracts

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.[Note: Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_Articles-Gov_Apr-21-2015.pdf]

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach timeframes and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyzes the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

·       Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:

o   High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.

o   None: Commitment language contains no measurable activity, deliverables, or milestones.

·       Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:

o   Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?

o   Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?

o   Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?

o   Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?[Note: IRM Procedures Manual. Available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRM-Procedures-Manual-v3_July-2016.docx]

·       Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:

o   Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;

o   Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and

o   Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

·       Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgement about its potential impact.

·       The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.

·       The commitment would have a "transformative" potential impact if completely implemented.[Note: The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919]

·       The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of "substantial" or "complete" implementation.

Based on these criteria, Republic of Macedonia’s action plan contained one starred commitments, namely: Open budget initiative (Commitment 5.1).

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for Republic of Macedonia and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note: OGP Explorer: bit.ly/1KE2WIl]

General Overview of the Commitments

Macedonia’s national action plan contains 34 commitments organized into eight themes. These include participatory policy making, open data, freedom of information, anti-corruption, fiscal transparency, openness at the local level, public service delivery, and climate change. The IRM has maintained the overall themes as designated in the action plan, but has, in some instances, clustered commitments according to specific subtopics under each theme. In the commitment analysis, the IRM has abridged some of the commitment text and condensed the tables to make the report more readable. General objectives and goals are explained for each commitment, and in the commitment completion section, all milestone activities are named and discussed in terms of their implementation status. Early results from all commitments in the thematic cluster are discussed together, as are recommended next steps.

Commitment 6.8 (“Improvement of the local level communal services”) has been officially withdrawn by the government of Macedonia. The point of contact at the Ministry of Local Self-Government explained that the partner organization, “Millieucontact”, failed to provide funds for the commitment activities. “Millieucontact,” however, was unaware that the commitment had been withdrawn.

Themes

The IRM has maintained the thematic groupings laid out in the national action plan and assessed all commitments under each theme as a single cluster. Please note: in some cases, the commitment text was abridged to improve the readability of the report and to reduce the overall length. For full commitment text, please reference the action plan.[Note: Macedonia national action plan, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/macedonia-national-action-plan-2016-2018]

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

The Republic of Macedonia began its formal participation in August 2011, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Poposki, declared the country’s intention to participate in the initiative[Note: An integral version of the Intent Letter of the Republic of Macedonia to join OGP, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/former-yugoslav-republic-of-macedonia-letter-of-intent-join-ogp ]. The coordination of the OGP process in the country was initially implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, later on, the coordination was transferred to the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) which is at present still the responsible governmental institution for the coordination of the OGP process, including the action plan 2016–2018.

In order to participate in OGP, governments must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third-party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public official’s asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

The Republic of Macedonia developed its third national action plan from February 2016 to May 2016. The official implementation period for the action plan was July 2016 through June 2018. The year one report covers the action plan development process and the first year of implementation, from July 2016 to July 2017. Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation, July 2017, will be assessed in the end-of-term report. The government published its self-assessment in August 2017. At the time of writing, July 2017, the self-assessment report is still in preparation (not published).

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Nenad Markovikj (political science department – Law Faculty “Justinian I’ – UKIM – Skopje), Kiril Ristovski and Natasa Serdarevic (both from CED Florozon – Skopje), who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of Republic of Macedonia’s third action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, Mr. Markovikj, Mr. Ristovski and Ms. Serdarevic organized face-to-face and online interviews with governmental and civil society stakeholders, which were conducted according to a semi-structured interview model. Additionally, for the end-of-term report, the researchers will also review two key documents prepared by the government: a report on Republic of Macedonia’s third action plan[Note: An integral version of the Macedonia Action Plan 2016-2018, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/macedonia-national-action-plan-2016-2018.] (already revised) and the self-assessment to be published by the government in September 2017.[Note: At the time of the preparation of the mid-term report, this was still not published. This document will be consulted for the End-of-Term report.] Numerous references are made to the action plan 2016–2018 throughout this report. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).

The 2016–2018 action plan was developed in a tense political atmosphere. However, the government and civil society continue to initiate positive dialogue, and the action plan includes commitments that address priority governance issues such as fiscal transparency, access to information and whistleblowing.

2.1 Background

The development and implementation of Macedonia’s third action plan took place during a time of considerable political instability in the country, culminating in early parliamentary elections in December 2016 and the formation of a new government in May 2017. The period was marked by citizen protests both for and against the Government, as well as an incident of political violence that occurred in the Macedonian Parliament on 27 April 2017.

The political instability had no negative net impact on Macedonia’s participation in OGP, however. The country joined the partnership in 2011 exceeding the minimum requirements for eligibility. While there has been no change in the overall eligibility since joining, there was a change within individual eligibility criteria; Macedonia’s asset disclosure score improved to a 4, while a decrease in its democracy index rating changed the score of its citizen engagement criterion to a 3.

As tensions built following a contested general election in April 2014, in February 2015, the leader of the political opposition, Zoran Zaev, alleged that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sponsored a wiretapping program through the country’s secret service.[Note: Freedom House: Macedonia, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/macedonia] The leaked surveillance of more than 20,000 people scandalized the country and polarized civil society. In an attempt to mediate and resolve the political situation, the European Union (EU) and the United States gathered major political actors in the “Przino process”[Note: As the European Commission notes, in its Progress report on Macedonia 2016, the basis of the Przino process is the following: “On 20 July and 31 August 2016, leaders of the four main political parties reached a deal on the implementation of the Pržino Agreement, including by setting 11 December 2016 as the date for early parliamentary elections and declaring their support to the work of the Special Prosecutor. They reiterated also their commitment to implement the ‘Urgent Reform Priorities'.” The Urgent Reform Priorities represent a set of measures focused on depoliticization of public administration, support to Special Prosecutor, judicial reform etc.] in 2015 and 2016 to negotiate reform priorities. This led to the resignation of Gruevski, whose administration allegedly directed the wiretapping and surveillance program. In such an atmosphere, civil society split into two groups—the anti-government “Colorful revolution” and the pro-government “Citizen’s movement for defense of Macedonia.” Both groups held widespread demonstrations and protests.[Note: Freedom House, Nations in Transit report 2017: Macedonia country profile, p.7, https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/NIT2017_Macedonia.pdf] 

After the parliamentary elections in December 2016 and the inability of the ruling conservative party (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for National Unity, VMRO-DPMNE) to form a coalition government, protests turned violent. On 27 April 2017, protestors supporting VMRO-DPMNE stormed the Parliament to oppose the election of the new parliamentary speaker, Talat Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian.[Note: Monitor: Tracking Civic Space, https://monitor.civicus.org/newsfeed/2017/04/28/200-protesters-storm-macedonias-parliament-ethnic-tensions-flare/] Several opposition MPs were physically attacked including former opposition leader and current Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev. Following the attack in parliament, the president approved of an alternative government, paving the way for a coalition between the Social Democrats and parties representing ethnic Albanians. The changed political landscape, though dependent on the normalization of parliamentary work, allows for the new government to work toward implementing promised reforms of fighting corruption and overcoming the naming dispute with Greece for admission in multilateral organizations.

Access to information, budget transparency, and asset disclosure

Access to information in the Republic of Macedonia is guaranteed by the Constitution[Note: Article 16, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of RM, p.17, http://www.slvesnik.com.mk/content/Ustav%20na%20RM%20-%20makedonski%20-%20FINALEN%202011.pdf] and by the 2006 Law on Free Access to Public Information (FOI Law).[Note: Law on Free Access to Public Information, http://www.slvesnik.com.mk/content/zspijk.pdf.] The FOI Law was amended in 2010 and 2014. Out of the 111 countries assessed, Macedonia ranked sixteenth in the Global Right to Information Rating.[Note: Macedonia, Global Right to Information Rating, http://www.rti-rating.org/year-2017] However, the implementation process has been burdened by challenges that continued in the period covered by this report.

The European Commission (EC) in its 2015[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2015 Report, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2015/20151110_report_the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia.pdf.] and 2016[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2016 Report, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia.pdf ] progress reports raised objections to the law’s lack of penalties for failure to comply, the exclusion of political parties from the list of authorities required to disclose information, and the excessive classification of documents (i.e., state institutions often enlist documents that should not be categorized as classified).  

The Open Budget Initiative has assessed Macedonia’s budget transparency as insufficient, scoring 37 out of 100 and noting that there is minimal disclosure of budget information.[Note: Internationa Budget Partnership, https://www.internationalbudget.org/open-budget-survey/results-by-country/country-info/?country=mk] 

This perception is substantiated in reports by the EC from 2015 and 2016. In 2015 the EC noted that “budget transparency is not ensured, as comprehensive, timely and reliable budgetary information is not publicly available.”[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2015 Report. p.12.] The report added that “the 2015-2017 fiscal strategy and the 2015 budget were adopted without adequate parliamentary discussion”[Note: Ibid.] and that “a medium-term budgetary framework and fiscal transparency still needs to be put in place and improved.”[Note: Ibid.] The EC recommended introducing a medium-term expenditure framework and additional reporting on extra-budgetary spending and payment arrears to increase budget transparency.[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2016 Report. p.26.] According to the Open Budget Survey published in December 2016, transparency slightly decreased from 2015 to 2016, with the government producing only four of seven key budget documents.[Note: Open Budget Survey Tracker, http://www.internationalbudget.org/opening-budgets/open-budget-initiative/open-budget-survey/update/.] 

According to OGP’s asset disclosure requirement for a law requiring officials to submit asset disclosures that also contains a condition that the information be accessible to the public, Macedonia’s score is the highest possible, improved from when the country first joined the partnership.

Civic participation

Macedonia recorded a decline in its civic participation eligibility score, based on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index civil liberties sub-indicator, from when it first joined OGP. The EC has highlighted issues around the treatment of marginal groups (Roma and LGBTI especially), problems in freedom of expression, the prison system, and the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism in police work.[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2016 Reports. p.19.] These challenges have been reflected in the Freedom House’s 2016 Country report for Macedonia, in which the average scores for nearly all categories decreased.[Note: Freedom House. Nations in Transit: country report Macedonia 2016, https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2016/macedonia.] 

Following the wiretapping scandal, the environment for independent media has worsened: according to Freedom House, the rating for independent media declined from 5.00 to 5.25 due to “indications of illegal surveillance of journalists, alleged government control over the editorial policies of some media outlets, and rising intimidation of and attacks on journalists.”[Note: Freedom House. Nations in Transit: country report Macedonia 2016, https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2016/macedonia.] Reporters Without Borders also give a similar perspective adding that “there were many reports of threats, violence, harassment, and intimidation of journalists during political demonstrations in 2016, but of those responsible, few were charged.”[Note: Reporters Without Borders, Country report Macedonia 2016, https://rsf.org/en/macedonia.] 

The Parliament adopted the Law on Protection of Whistleblowers in November 2015, as an obligation of the Przino process and as a commitment to the international community in order to stabilize political processes in the country.[Note: The Law arranges legal matter related to “protected whistleblowing (reporting), rights of the whistleblowers (reporters), as well as acting and duties of institutions i.e. legal entities regarding protected whistleblowing (reporting) and providing legal protection to whistleblowers (reporters)” (Articles 2-5). It differs between protected whistleblowing, protected internal whistleblowing, protected external whistleblowing and protected public whistleblowing. The law also entails protection of the personal information and the identity of the whistleblower as well as providing protection to these persons (Articles 7-8).] However, several issues have arisen during implementation of the whistleblower protection law. As the EC noted in its 2015 Progress Report, “whistleblowing does not occur in practice due to the lack of any comprehensive protection.”[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2015 Report. p.16.] As the report notes, protections under the law remained questionable because “substantial legal, institutional and practical preparations are still needed for effective implementation.”[Note: European Commission – The FYR Macedonia 2016 Reports. p.17.] Furthermore, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued its draft opinion on the law (26 February 2016),[Note: An integral version of the Draft Opinion on the Law on the Protection of Privacy and the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers of "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdf=CDL(2016)001-e&yearrelated=2016..] objecting mostly to the ambiguity of materials covered in the Law, the scope of public disclosure, the institutionalization of public disclosure, and the definition of public interest.

In addition to low institutional confidence[Note: International Republican Institute. Macedonia: Political Instability Escalates while Confidence in Democratic Institutions Declines – Survey Opinion Poll, http://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/iri_macedonia_survey_april_2016_0.pdf.], the violence that occurred in the Parliament on 27 April 2017 remains the biggest indicator of the lack of accountability of state institutions. This has caused concern among the general public regarding the accountability and effectiveness of both the Parliament and the Ministry of Interior.

Parliament has not returned to normal functioning following the political crisis from 2015–2017 in the country, which was once again resolved with external involvement through engagement of the international community and through extra-institutional means such as leadership meetings. While in the short run, such interventions helped resolve reoccurring political crises, in the long run they sabotage the capacity of internal actors to overcome political dead-ends.

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

Since 2015 the general political climate has been challenging for open government, however, the OGP action plan has been used to address important issues for public administration, local self-government units (LSUs) and individual citizens. The proposed action plan, if implemented as written, could bring positive change to areas including open data, anti-corruption, good governance and efficient management of public resources. The third action plan contained a diverse range of issues that are relevant for the country context.

Many of the commitments included in the current action plan are written to be ambitious but may need a longer period of development and implementation than the two-year action plan cycle allows. Two examples include the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers and raising awareness for whistleblowing (4.1), and the promotion of integrity, transparency, and accountability on local level (4.3). These are processes that require a flexible timeframe, although the milestones within the commitments are well defined. Other commitments address key issues but the current capacity to carry them out remains questionable. For example, commitments to improve governance at the local level require coordination and resources from LSUs for successful implementation, which is uneven across municipalities, and the national government and the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) have limited ability to effect change at this level.

Citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are guaranteed the right to local self-government, in which local self-government units (LSUs) are defined at the municipal level. Promoting transparency, strengthening civic participation, and fighting corruption were all commitments of past action plans. However, the 2016 European Commission’s Country Report noted that local authorities continuously demonstrate a lack of capacity for cooperation with CSOs.[Note: Analysis of the openness of local self-government in Macedonia and the region, http://metamorphosis.org.mk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Analiza-na-otvorenosta-na-lokalnata-samouprava-vo-MK-i-regionot_Eng.pdf] Municipalities still score very low on the index of openness. In a study prepared by ACTION SEE and Metamorphosis Foundation, Macedonia’s municipalities score 34 percent for openness, 49 percent on the index of financial transparency, and 8 percent on indicators of open data.[Note: Naumovska, Nade and Danilovska, Dance (2017), Analysis of the openness of local self-government in Macedonia and the region. Metamorphosis and Action, Skopje, https://opennessindex.actionsee.org/files/Research%20findings/Makedonija/Jedinice%20lokalne%20samouprave/Analiza-na-otvorenosta-na-lokalnata-samouprava-vo-MK-i-regionot_Eng.pdf.]  

Commitments 2.1 through 2.5 are relevant to the OGP value of access to information and address the concerns raised by the EC regarding fiscal transparency and compliance with the FOI Law, while also raising public awareness. Although the milestones included in the open data commitments seem realistic for implementation in a two-year timeframe, many of them also require the capacity of different actors across the institutional landscape, which can be a drawback.

The action plan also includes commitments that effectively address a number of issues related to fiscal transparency and accountability on the central and local level. Commitments such as the open budget initiative (5.1) directly address problems in fiscal transparency, as noted by the EC Progress Report 2016, by increasing the number of budgetary documents published. Additionally, the action plan also includes commitments that cover the legal obligation of contracting authorities to publish public procurement information on their websites (5.3) and the introduction of a publicly accessible register of concession contracts (5.6). Such commitments further improve institutional accountability, one of the vulnerable points in the country, as noted both by Freedom House and the EC.

The Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) coordinated OGP activities. The consultative process was implemented through two national events, offline working groups, and online consultations with the public on the e-demokratija.gov.mk portal. Although awareness-raising activities were limited, a variety of representatives from state institutions, CSOs, business organizations, and universities were able to influence the development of the action plan.

3.1 Leadership

This sub-section describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in the Republic of Macedonia. Table 1.1 summarizes this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

The Republic of Macedonia is a unitary country with a power-sharing model. Power is formally separated between the legislative branch (Parliament), executive power (Government and President) and the judiciary (Courts of first instance, Courts of second instance, and the High Court of the Republic of Macedonia). The executive power holds the dominant role. The OGP process in the country is coordinated by the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA). Although MISA coordinates the overall process, the 34 commitments in the 2016–2018 action plan were carried out by seven ministries (including MISA), three commissions, two Secretariats, and one governmental agency,[Note: See Action Plan 2016–2018. ] in partnership with stakeholders from civil society (CSOs), local self-government and international organizations. 

The government official formally in charge of implementing OGP changed during the first year of implementing the action plan. As of March 2017, the Minister for Information Society and Administration, Mr. Damjan Manchevski, leads the OGP process. Prior to the change of government in March 2017 the previous head of the initiative was Ms. Marta Arsovska Tomovska, who oversaw the creation and early implementation of the action plan. The change in leadership has not affected implementation of the action plan, as both Ministers have supported the process to its full extent.

The legal mandate to coordinate the OGP process in 2011 was initially given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, in 2012 the Government transferred the mandate to MISA.[Note: Government of the Republic of Macedonia, Government’s conclusion following Information about activities towards Becoming Full Member of the Open Government Initiative, 46th Government Session held on 2 December 2012. See also Macedonia: 2014–2016 End-of-Term Report. p.1, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Macedonia_EOTR_2014-16_ForPublicComment.pdf.]

During the OGP process to form the action plan, the Republic of Macedonia underwent a political crisis followed by political instability, which ended in December 2016 with the pre-term parliamentary elections that eventually led to the formation of a new government in March 2017. Participants from civil society observed that the political crisis did not directly affect the OGP process during the initial meetings on the formation of the action plan and its commitments. No CSO representatives cancelled or denied cooperation with MISA once involved in the OGP process.

CSO activists stated that some institutions resisted publishing data and undertaking obligations under OGP[Note: Interview with Gabriela Dimevska form Center for Economic Analysis, by IRM researcher, 13 June 2017. ] during the creation of the action plan because they were unsure if they were authorized to impose OGP-related activities on their employees. Additionally, ad hoc involvement of specific organizations and persons in the working groups when preparing the action plan created dissatisfaction among participants that were in the working groups from the very beginning in February 2016.[Note: Interview with Marija Risteska from CRPM, by IRM researcher, 24 July 2017.] Three CSOs (CEA, Zenith, and ESE) sent a formal complaint to OGP headquarters that not all proposed commitment activities were accepted.[Note: Ibid.] MISA formally responded in a letter to the three CSOs (CEA, Zenith, and ESE) to address their complaints and met with two of the three to further discuss the stated objections.

The OGP process, including the implementation of the action plan, has no separate, dedicated budget. Instead, every government agency coordinating the activities (commitments) within the OGP process dedicates its own funds in order to fulfill the commitments. OGP does not have a dedicated allocation of funding in the budget and implementation is part of the regular work of government institutions. Every institution is managing its obligations under OGP with existing staff, including 28 persons from state institutions, of which 18 are female and 10 are male.

The initial coordination of the OGP, in 2011, was accomplished by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, in 2012, coordination was transferred to MISA and, with the aid of the World Bank, prepared the first action plan (2012–2013) and later the second action plan (2014–2016).[Note: See reference 5.] MISA continues to coordinate OGP activities. With regards to the implementation of the current action plan, there are six working groups with coordinators (CSO representatives) that meet occasionally and follow the activities within the six thematic topics.[Note: The structure of the working groups was as follows: the first working group (freedom of information) included 11 members: three from state institutions, seven from international organizations and CSOs and the local IRM representative (member of all working groups). The second working group (prevention of corruption) included 16 members – four from state institutions, 11 from CSOs and international organizations as well as the IRM representative. The third working group (efficient management of public resources) included 26 members, 15 members from state institutions, 10 from CSOs and international organizations and the IRM local representative. The fourth working group (on open data) included 19 members, of which six were from state institutions, 12 from CSOs and international organizations and the IRM local representative. The smallest, fifth working group (on public services) comprised nine members, three from state institutions, five from CSOs and international organizations and the IRM local representative. The last group (on climate change) was comprised of 15 members, eight from state institutions, six from CSOs and international organizations and the IRM local representative. The groups were formed by the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia adopted in September 2016. (The decision is in possession by IRM team – Macedonia but cannot be found online thus cannot be referenced adequately). ] Within every commitment there is a coordinative government agency that reports directly to MISA, also contributing to the midterm self-evaluation report and end-of-term report with updates on the status of the milestones and commitments in the action plan.

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

1. Structure

Yes

No

Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (individual)?

 

 

Shared

Single

Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?

 

 

Yes

No

Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?

 

X

2. Legal Mandate

Yes

No

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?

 

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?

 

3. Continuity and Instability

Yes

No

Was there a change in the organization(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?

 

X

Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?

 

X

3.2 Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2 Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

How did institutions participate?

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

Legislative

Judiciary (including quasi-judicial agencies)

Other (including constitutional independent or autonomous bodies)

Subnational Governments

Consult: These institutions observed or were invited to observe the action plan but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan.

8[Note: Ministry of Justice; Cabinet of the Minister without portfolio in charge of promotion of business environment and attracting foreign direct investment; Cabinet of the Minister for foreign investments; Agency for foreign investments and promotion of export; Directorate for technological industrial development zones (DITIDZ); Ministry of Transport and Communications; State Statistical Office; Directorate for Hydro-Meteorological Affairs]

0

0

1[Note: Ombudsman]

0

Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan.

8

1

0

3

0

Implement:  These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the commitments.

8

1

0

3

0

In the Republic of Macedonia, participation in OGP is coordinated by MISA, however, oversight for each of the 34 commitments is spread across 14 different state institutions and lead agencies.[Note: Action Plan 2016–2018. The distribution is as follows: MISA is the lead agency for six commitments; the Ministry of Local self-government (9); the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (4); the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (3); and the Ministry of Health (2); and the Secretariat for European Affair (2). The following agencies each oversee one commitment: The General Secretariat of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information, the Ministry of Finance, the Public Procurement Bureau (within Ministry of Finance), the Ministry of Economy, the Agency for Financial Support for Agricultural and Rural Development, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Commission for Competition Protection.]

In the preparatory phase of this action plan in February 2016, MISA states that internal consultations with line ministries and other state administration authorities were held prior to drafting the action plan.[Note: Ibid.] However, the action plan does not precisely specify which state ministries and authorities were involved in this phase. Statistics from the action plan[Note: Table 2 of the Action Plan 2016–2018.] specify that, in the complete consultative process from February until May 2016, 219 employees of state agencies were consulted regarding the process, i.e., 45 percent of the overall number of consulted persons.

During the first public conference held on 23–24 March 2016, a total of six ministries, two secretariats and three independent state bodies were consulted regarding the action plan. In the second public conference, held on 11 May 2016, 115 participants took part. Participants from more than 20 state ministries, agencies, independent committees, public institutions, and LSUs took part. Online consultations and exchange of documents took place during the complete process of the preparation and implementation of the action plan

Throughout the consultative process, all state institutions bodies and ministries could give input into the action plan, until it was finalized in May 2016 (through the working groups on the eight topics identified in the process).

3.3 Civil Society Engagement
The first activity undertaken for the preparation of the action plan was a pre-assessment survey among CSOs regarding their level of knowledge of OGP in December 2015 by MISA and CRPM. The CSOs were selected by CRPM from their extensive list of contacts and based on direct experience with CSOs in the country.[Note: Interview with Marija Risteska from CRPM, by IRM researcher, 24 July 2017.] After the survey was implemented, preparatory activities on the development of the action plan started in March 2016 when the Government sent a general invitation to civil society organizations in the country for pre-assessment of OGP working group needs.[Note: The invitation to the first public event (conference) held in March 2016, http://www.tacso.org/doc/Pokana%20za%20konferencija%20OGP.pdf. (Accessed 14 July 2017)] On the same occasion CSOs were asked to express interest for future involvement in the process. The invitation was channeled through the TACSO project (Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organizations) to 3,400 CSOs in the country.[Note: After 15 July 2017 the research team was unable to reach the website of TACSO. As TACSO point of contact, Ms. Suncica Sazdovska explains, the website of TACSO is currently under reconstruction so the previous web addresses of documents are unavailable. However, Ms. Sazdovska shared all original documents with the research team. The research team is in possession of the original application for the March 2016 event but is unable to reference it.] In the meantime, in March 2016, three different workshops with the representatives of CSOs in Macedonia were conducted, whereas 38 suitable proposals were identified for inclusion in the action plan. These workshops were also used as awareness-raising opportunities, where CSOs were acquainted with the OGP process.[Note: Interview with Marija Risteska from CRPM, by IRM researcher, 24 July 2017.] 

The first major event took place on 22–23 March 2016. The conference “OGP – dialogue with civil society organizations on 2016–2018 action plan” formed six working groups in six different policy areas (participatory policy making, open data, freedom of information, preventing corruption and promoting good governance, effective public resources management (fiscal transparency) and local level openness) which resulted in 66 suggestions and guidelines for the action plan. Given that notes on acceptance of the applications for the conference were sent out on 16 March 2016, as CSO members witness, the six days that CSOs were given to prepare for the conference are evaluated as satisfactory for engaging in preparations for the conference.[Note: Interview with Marija Sazdevski from MCMS, by IRM researcher, 13 July 2017.]

Following the conference, a process of defining the draft measures took place between 24 March and 30 April 2016, which was sufficient time for the CSOs to provide input in the process.[Note: Ibid.] In this period four thematic workshops took place, with CSO and government participants giving their suggestions on the action plan. As a result, 19 commitments with 80 activities on six priority topics were defined. During April 2016 stakeholders were able to submit their comments and observations on the first draft of the action plan. During this phase, the period of one month for giving feedback (online) was perceived as satisfactory and sufficient for the CSO representatives.[Note: Interview MCMS.] In this phase seven more commitments were added, based on the deliberative process within the working groups.[Note: For the status of the accepted and unaccepted measures proposed by CSOs please refer to http://www.mio.gov.mk/?q=node/3291  Out of 87 proposed measures, only 27 were completely denied for acceptance, which is approximately 31 percent. ] 

The second draft of the action plan took place in the second public event held on 11 May 2016 – Dialogue “OGP – dialogue with civil society organizations on 2016–2018 action plan,” where the six working groups discussed suggestions for the action plan as well as suggestions by the general public after the public exposure (with the possibility to comment) of the action plan on the portal www.e-demokratija.mk.[Note: The www.e-demokratija.mk is being merged with the Single National Electronic Regulation Register (ENER) and is not currently accessible. As a substitute, the site of MIOA is being used.] Following this event ad-hoc meetings were held between 11 and 25 May 2016 for further adaptation of the action plan and four commitments on two new topics (public services and climate change) were identified by CSO representatives. The result of the process was the final version of the action plan with 34 commitments on eight priority topics.

During the first public event in March 2016, a total of 99 participants (62 women and 38 men) from CSOs and government bodies participated,[Note: No longer available, http://www.tacso.org/doc/mk20160511_ogp_report.pdf. ] whereas in the second public event a total of 115 participants were involved in the process, 50 percent of them from CSOs.[Note: Report on the second public event ““OGP – dialogue with civil society organizations on 2016–2018 Action Plan” – MISA & CRPM, 11 May 2016, http://www.crpm.org.mk/?p=17978Attendance sheets from the event display a balanced gender participation. However, signatures of many participants are indistinct so a precise percentage cannot be given.] In total, 489 government representatives, civil society, private sector, and academia members were directly involved. As participants from CSOs claim, the diversity of views was represented through an open participation process that was non-discriminatory, meaning that all members of working groups could influence the process of prioritizing topics in the action plan[Note: Interview with Misa Popovikj from IDSCS, by IRM researcher, 12 July 2017.], and the general public was able to comment on the draft version. However, most of the events took place in Skopje, which lowered the accessibility of the process for CSOs outside the capital, although given the size of the country, this did not pose a major challenge.

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of the Republic of Macedonia during the 2014–2016 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed:  7 of 7

Before

1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advance Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation

Yes

No

Advance notice of consultation

Yes

No

 

 

3. Awareness Raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness-raising activities

Yes

No

4a. Online consultations:     

Yes

No

 

 

4b. In-person consultations:

Yes

No

 

5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided

Yes

No

 

During

6. Regular Multi-stakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?

Yes

No

6b. Did it meet regularly?          

Yes

No

 

 

After

7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual self-assessment report published?     

Yes

No

7b. Report available in English and administrative language?

Yes

No

 

 

7c. Two-week public comment period on report?

Yes

No

7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?

Yes

No

 

 

                 

Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[Note: IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Level of public input
During development of action plan
During implementation of action plan
Empower

The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.

 

 

Collaborate

There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.

Involve

The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.

 

 

Consult

The public could give inputs.

 

 

Inform

The government provided the public with information on the action plan.

 

 

No Consultation

No consultation

 

 

3.4 Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarizes that information.

In March 2016, the first consultation event consisted of a plenary forum where six working groups were formed. The mandate of the forum (working groups) was to exclusively prepare and implement the OGP process. Each group addressed a different thematic area: (1) participatory policy-making, (2) open data, (3) FOI, (4) preventing corruption, (5) fiscal transparency, and (6) local level governance. Each working group comprised representatives from both civil society and government, in total 55 CSOs and 37 members of government institutions participated. Of the 92 participants, 55 women and 37 men attended the event. The IRM researcher attended all working group discussions as an observer.

The forum did not have any strict criteria for participation, but the working groups were formed based on the knowledge and experience of the participants and the organizations they were affiliated with. Participants applied for the first public event in March 2016, including information on their policy area and background in the application. The information gathered was used as a criterion for allocating CSO representatives in working groups, based on the field they cover.

Technical assistance to civil society organizations (TACSO) distributed the call for the first event to more than 3,400 CSOs, which could be considered a very plural and inclusive process. Throughout the action plan development process, all participants could propose commitments and milestones, object to the content of commitments, and comment on the given topics during the process. A number of the members had previously been involved in OGP, but the process included many new members as well. The working groups held in-person and online meetings, and the coordinators were responsible for bringing all the working groups together for the full forum at least once every six months. MISA informs that it left the coordinative function to CSO representatives exclusively to motivate and raise the level of civic participation in the process. All coordinators are from CSOs and they exclusively coordinate working group activity.

A second consultation event was held on 11 May 2016 and included 115 participants. Two additional ad hoc meetings were held in May 2016, where two additional working groups were formed, adding public services and climate change as the seventh and eighth thematic area addressed. The Government supported dividing implementation of the action plan amongst the working groups through a government decision passed in July 2016,[Note: Decision of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia on formation of working groups with all stakeholders for implementation of the National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership 2016–2018 (27 July 2016).] and amended to add the two additional working groups in September 2016.[Note: Decision of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia on formation of working groups with all stakeholders for implementation of the National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership 2016–2018 (03 September 2016).]

All events that the working groups participated in were held in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, although both MISA and CSOs are considering a regional approach for the next action plan. Minutes from the meetings of the working groups were for internal use only, and only the draft of the action plan was open to public comments during April 2016. The working groups and stakeholders were, at any time, able to track progress in the implementation of the commitments and direct questions to PoCs in state institutions, although most of the commitments are in their early phase of implementation. CSOs could directly require information from coordinating institutions (in person or via email) regarding the implementation of the milestones. It is unclear whether coordinating institutions give regular updates to stakeholders in working groups on milestones’ implementation.

The IRM researcher was a part of all public events and all eight working groups, but solely as an observer with the mandate to advise but not interfere in the process.

Conflicts between CSOs themselves and CSOs and governmental institutions were very rare during the preparation of the action plan. Given the specific political context in which the OGP process took place in Macedonia in 2016 and 2017, one could conclude that the process was mostly devoid of political interference. Moreover, a number of CSOs involved in the process took part in the anti-governmental protests during the so-called “Colorful revolution” in 2016 but did not boycott the cooperation with MISA and other state institutions under the auspices of the OGP process, nor did MISA and other state institutions boycott the CSOs partaking in the protests. On the contrary, both MISA and CSO members agree that the OGP process was completely isolated from the political context in 2016, which speaks positively on behalf of the democratic capacity of all sides involved in the OGP process. Nevertheless, CSO members have reported minor resistance by some institutions to disclose data and undertake OGP commitments, but this was not a major obstacle to the process and was not related to politics in any sense.

3.5 Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self-assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self-assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

MISA prepared the draft version of the self-assessment report in accordance with the projected timeframe for this activity. The report was publicly announced on the MISA and e-demokratija.gov.mk websites on 15 August 2017 and was available for comment by stakeholders for a two-week period.[Note: Self-assessment report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/macedonia-mid-term-self-assessment-2016-2018] After the expiration of this period, MISA forwarded the report to the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, and it was expected to adopt it by the end of October. The consultative process for the preparation of the report started with a publicly announced invitation for public consultation. At the same time, the draft report was sent for consideration and comment to the coordinators of the working groups who are in charge of passing the report to the remaining members of the working groups. The e-demokratija.gov.mk web portal has an integrated tool for commenting on each published document and according to this data, the report has been downloaded 348 times and no comment has been recorded regarding the content of the text of the report. In terms of quality, the report provides a broad overview of the consultative process for the development and implementation of the action plan, and in detail elaborates the sequence of organized events and actions undertaken by the national relevant OGP stakeholders. In addition, the report provides a summary overview on the level of implementation for each individual priority of the action plan for which implementation has been started, reviews progress and the main results achieved so far.

However, for some commitments there is limited evidence in the report that confirms the level of achievement of the commitments, such as a lack of links to the reports from the events, minutes from coordination and consultative meetings, or lists of participants. Finally, although the report outlines the deadlines for the realization of the commitments, there could have been more information included on whether commitments are progressing on time, if there are any potential challenges that would delay the realization of the activities, and what the future steps are in the next phase of implementation of the national action plan.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Recommendation
Addressed?
Integrated into Next Action Plan?

1

The third national action plan should focus on substantial problems already identified in the previous years of the OGP process in Macedonia. These problems should be matched with transformative but realistic commitments that can be achieved in a two-year action plan.

 

 

2

The development of the next action plan should be at least as inclusive as the second plan. The process should also continue to be transparent and allow for more diverse stakeholder participation. Consider using participatory deliberative methods to ensure commitments are prioritized and the action plan is focused.

 

 

3

Allocate resources, including budget allocations, for the implementation of the OGP action plan. If resources are limited, prioritize commitments.

 

X

 

X

4

The next plan should focus on commitments to ensure reforms from the following key areas, all identified as potentially transformative priorities by stakeholders or the researcher’s analysis of the national context:

- Budget transparency, including transparency of public spending and payments

- Quality of data management and record keeping within state and public institutions

- Effectiveness of the institutional mechanism for public participation

- Safeguards for the right to free expression, freedom of the press, and right to assembly

 

 

5

Engage parliament in the process to foster public trust in the institution. Consider participating in the Open Parliament initiative.

 

X

 

X

Three out of five recommendations from the previous IRM Report were addressed by the government in the new action plan. The two recommendations (3 and 5) were not incorporated into the action plan. They are competences beyond the OGP-coordinating institution, MISA.

The plan focuses on issues stemming from topics identified in previous phases of the OGP process. Open data, transparency and accountability at local level, as well as advancement of technical tools for communication with LSUs, are examples of commitments based on previously detected challenges in the national context. The implementation process to this point indicates that commitments are realistically formulated with commitments and milestones that could be implemented in the given timeframe, regardless of realistic political setbacks.

The co-creation of the action plan included a large number of actors and a variety of CSOs and government agencies. In this regard, the recommendation from the previous IRM researcher has been taken in consideration.

Budget allocation and synchronizing the budgetary process in Macedonia with OGP dynamics has not occurred. It remains a recommendation in this current Midterm Report, being a crucial aspect for future processes within OGP.

For the fourth recommendation, given by the previous IRM researcher in Macedonia, three out of four topics have been implemented in the new action plan, including budget transparency, data management and effectiveness of institutional mechanisms for public participation. The only topic that has not been taken into consideration when formulating commitments in the new plan is the safeguarding of the right to free expression, freedom of the press, and right to assembly. This topic is not substantially present in the action plan.

The fifth recommendation has not been taken into consideration. Although several CSOs in Macedonia support the Open Parliament Process, no commitments in the action plan have been devoted to efforts in this area. Both the fourth and fifth recommendations required parliamentary action and due to the political situation and early elections in the country, they resultantly were not addressed.  

Stakeholders have called for the continuation and strengthening of current access to information commitments in the next action plan. Additionally, the government needs to expand the commitments on whistleblower protection and budget transparency and consider introducing disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies participating in public procurement.

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those civil society and government priorities identified while elaborating this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1 Stakeholder Priorities

The stakeholder priorities of this action plan mostly focused on opening datasets, developing open data platforms, fiscal transparency, and improving governmental and local services. In the next action plan, stakeholders call for the continuation of existing commitments in these priority areas, especially those regarding access to government-held information. Stakeholders emphasized the need for a new open data portal and a common database for all institutions to publish their data in open format. Additionally, they recommend the government pass legislation mandating the publication and monitoring of open data at the local level. Other priorities identified by stakeholders for future action plans include:

·       Create advisory bodies to enhance the process of consulting on legislative issues between CSOs and the government;[Note: Interview with Marija Sazdevski from MCMS, by IRM researcher, 13 July 2017.]

·       Provide more effective legal protection to whistleblowers and enhance institutional capacity to absorb and process whistleblowing cases;[Note: Interview with Dona Dimov from Transparency International Macedonia, by IRM researcher, 19 July 2017.]

·       Address the lack of transparency of state authorities in the areas of foreign programs assistance, public procurement, concession contracts and assistance on rural development;[Note: Interview with Gabriela Dimevska form Center for Economic Analysis, by IRM researcher, 13 June 2017.]

·       Develop mechanisms for cooperation between LSUs and CSOs and set clear financial rules for granting funds to CSOs at the local level;[Note: Interview with Martin NIkolic, UNDP, by IRM researcher, 3 August 2017. ]

·       Provide dedicated budget for addressing climate change as well as enhancing human resources and the capacity of the Sector for Climate Changes within the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning.[Note: Interview with Teodora Obradovic Grncarovska. MOEPP, by IRM researcher, 13 July 2017. ]

5.2 IRM Recommendations

Strengthen the action plan development process

Macedonia's third national action plan contains 34 commitments. Of these commitments, however, 14 have been assessed as having minor potential impact and three commitments have unclear relevance to OGP values. In several cases, the vague formulation of commitments makes it difficult to ascertain potential impact and the resulting outcomes. When developing the next action plan, the IRM researchers recommend the government consider the following: 

·       Work with stakeholders to prioritize the most relevant and ambitious commitments that should be included in the next action plan.

·       When formulating commitments, clearly identify planned changes in selected policies and practices and list verifiable activities for achieving these policy changes. 

·       Synchronize OGP activities with the overall budgetary process in the Republic of Macedonia in order to dedicate concrete funds for activities in commitments (where needed). 

·       Some commitments in this action plan overlap so those with similar intended results should be consolidated.

·       Titles should more accurately reflect the commitment content and intended changes.

Improve the Law on Free Access to Public Information

In the next action plan, stakeholders propose including a commitment to address the shortcomings in the FOI Law. Specifically, they propose the following additions:

·       Sanctions for non-complying organizations

·       The inclusion of political parties to the list of organizations required to disclose public information, and

·       Implement a “damage test” where authorities must demonstrate evidence of compelling state interest for preventing the disclosure of public information in order to safeguard against abuse by public authorities.

Enhance the legal framework and develop institutional mechanisms for the effective protection of whistleblowers

Despite activities taken in Commitment 4.1 of the current action plan, more work needs to be done to improve the legal framework and the practical mechanisms for whistleblower protection. More generally, the IRM researchers recommend that the government take into account the objections raised by the Venice Commission Council of Europe and improve on the ambiguous materials covered in the Law, scope, and institutionalization of public disclosure, and clarify the definition of “public interest”. To this end, the IRM researchers recommend the following activities be included as a commitment in the next action plan:

·       Provide infrastructural and human capacities for attainment of protected reports.

·       Raise awareness of the heads of state institutions on the importance of the process of whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers.

Improve Budget Transparency by meeting the standards of the Open Budget Initiative

In order to address the current challenges to budget transparency, the IRM researchers recommend that, as a pre-requisite activity, the government align all existing and future documents related to budgetary transparency with the Guide to Transparency in Government: Budget Reports[Note: Guide to Transparency in Government Budget Reports https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/Guide-to-Transparency-in-Government-Budget-Reports-Why-are-Budget-Reports-Important-and-What-Should-They-Include-English.pdf], as well as the Open Budget Survey Guidelines on the Public Availability of Budget Documents.[Note: Open Budget Survey Guidelines, https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/open-budget-survey-2017-guidelines-on-public-availability-of-budget-documents.pdf.]

Once this is achieved, the IRM researchers recommend implementing the recommendation provided by the Open Budget Initiative to publicize the pre-budget statement and mid-year report on the budget as an OGP commitment.

Introduce a commitment to disclose beneficial ownership in public contracts

In light of the 2015 wiretapping scandal in Macedonia, the IRM researchers recommend that the next action plan include a commitment on beneficial ownership in the area of public contracts that the state auctions with public money. Specifically, the IRM researchers recommend including commitment activities on developing an open, public register of ultimate beneficial owners and shareholders of companies bidding on public service delivery contracts.

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations

 

1

Strengthen the action plan development process

2

Improve the Law on Free Access to Public Information

3

Enhance the legal framework on whistleblowing and develop institutional mechanisms for effective protection of whistleblowers

4

Improve Budget Transparency by meeting the standards of the Open Budget Initiative

5

Introduce a commitment to disclose beneficial ownership in public contracts

The IRM progress report is written by researchers based in each OGP-participating country. All IRM reports undergo a process of quality control to ensure that the highest standards of research and due diligence have been applied.

Analysis of progress on OGP action plans is a combination of interviews, desk research, and feedback from nongovernmental stakeholder meetings. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s own self-assessment report and any other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations.

Each IRM researcher carries out stakeholder meetings to ensure an accurate portrayal of events. Given budgetary and calendar constraints, the IRM cannot consult all interested or affected parties. Consequently, the IRM strives for methodological transparency and therefore, where possible, makes public the process of stakeholder engagement in research (detailed later in this section.) Some contexts require anonymity of interviewees and the IRM reviews the right to remove personal identifying information of these participants. Due to the necessary limitations of the method, the IRM strongly encourages commentary on public drafts of each report.

Each report undergoes a four-step review and quality-control process:

1.     Staff review: IRM staff reviews the report for grammar, readability, content, and adherence to IRM methodology.

2.     International Experts Panel (IEP) review: IEP reviews the content of the report for rigorous evidence to support findings, evaluates the extent to which the action plan applies OGP values, and provides technical recommendations for improving the implementation of commitments and realization of OGP values through the action plan as a whole. (See below for IEP membership.)

3.     Prepublication review: Government and select civil society organizations are invited to provide comments on content of the draft IRM report.

4.     Public comment period: The public is invited to provide comments on the content of the draft IRM report.

This review process, including the procedure for incorporating comments received, is outlined in greater detail in Section III of the Procedures Manual.[Note: IRM Procedures Manual, V.3 : https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/irm-procedures-manual]

Interviews and Focus Groups

Each IRM researcher is required to hold at least one public information-gathering event. Researchers should make a genuine effort to invite stakeholders outside of the “usual suspects” list of invitees already participating in existing processes. Supplementary means may be needed to gather the inputs of stakeholders in a more meaningful way (e.g., online surveys, written responses, follow-up interviews). Additionally, researchers perform specific interviews with responsible agencies when the commitments require more information than is provided in the self-assessment or is accessible online.

The IRM team Macedonia consisted of three researchers: Mr. Kiril Ristovski, director of CED “Florozon”; Ms. Natasa Serdarevikj, also from CED “Florozon”; and Mr. Nenad Markovikj, from the political science department of the Law Faculty in Skopje. All researchers have educational backgrounds in social or natural sciences, as well as a rich portfolio in activities and projects in civil society, thus all researchers were previously acquainted with the various methodologies of data gathering. Additionally, all researchers had the necessary contacts to satisfy the requirements of the IRM standards necessitated by the OGP.

The methodological approach of the IRM team in Macedonia was based on a predominantly qualitative approach. The two main sources of information included interviews with stakeholders and relevant experts in the fields of the commitments of the action plan, as well as in-desk analysis of relevant documents, papers and reports by international organizations related to topics present in the action plan. The original research plan, submitted to OGP in summer 2017, was followed as much as possible in terms of selection of interviewees, number of interviewed persons and structure of questions. Minor alterations were made during the implementation phase, which mostly regard the structure of the interviews, which, on occasion, needed on-the-spot adaptations in length or questions.

Semi-structured interviews were used as a main instrument for implementing the qualitative methodology. However, interviews as well as the complete methodological approach could be divided into two parts:

·       Interviews and data gathering on action plan drafting, implementation as well as possible challenges to the process in the country;

·       Interviews and data gathering on the commitment’s implementation and challenges in this domain.

Although the original research plan included clustering of interviews, two separate tracks were implemented during data gathering related to the abovementioned two categories; thus, some persons were interviewed twice. The IRM team assessed that although time-consuming, this approach makes a clear distinction between two different aspects of the OGP process, diffusing the possibility to gather a large quantity of information on too many topics that would be hard to systematize. Firstly, interviews were made on the OGP process and the action plan drafting, after which a completely new set of interviews were implemented, related to the commitments in the action plan. Clustering was implemented only in the second set of activities.

Three types of interviews were implemented. The vast majority of interviews were face-to-face interviews, supported by audio transcripts and pictures (already submitted to OGP). If the possibility did not exist for a face-to-face interview, the IRM team implemented Viber or Skype interviews, and, in very rare cases (when respondents were not in the country), interviews via email were conducted. A comprehensive list of all interviewed persons, topics and type of interview conducted can be found in the table included in this section.

There were several challenges to the methodological aspect of the data gathering process in Macedonia. The first one regards the period of implementation of interviews. July–August is the holiday season, which meant it was impossible to meet some of the interviewees in person. Thus, many of the interviews had to be rescheduled, but were implemented nonetheless. This is the reason why the originally planned focus group on the process of drafting the action plan was cancelled and was replaced with interviews. The second challenge arises from the responsiveness of some of the institutions when contacted by the IRM team, which, however, was overcome with frequent efforts to contact the institutions, resulting in implemented interviews. The third issue regards the refusal of one CSO to cooperate with the IRM team, which has been noted in the report.

Table 1: List of interviewed persons, dates, and topics

 

#

Source

Date

Format of Interaction

Topic

1

Gordana Dimitrovska,

Ministry of Information Society and Administration

18 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

2

Misha Popovikj,

Institute for Democracy “SocietasCivilis” - Skopje (IDSCS)

12 July 2017

Viber interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

3

Marija Sazdevski

MCMS

12 July 2017

Viber interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

4

Gabriela Dimovska

Center for Economic Analysis (CEA)

12 July 2017

Viber interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

5

Marija Ristovska

Center for Research and Policy Making

24 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

6

Suncica Sazdovska

TAKSO

25 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Action plan drafting, OGP process in the country

7

Gordana Dimitrovska

MIOA

29 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of participatory policy creating

8

Filip Manevski

MIOA

09 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Open Data Commitments

9

Martin Todevski

Center for Change Management

11 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Open Data Commitments

10

Oliver Serafimovski

CRFAPI

25 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of openness on freedom of information

11

Stefan Vasilevski

AFSARD

17 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of efficient management of public resources

12

Gabriela Dimovska

CEA

17 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of financial transparency

13

Dusica Perisic

Association of local self-government units (ALSU)

18 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

14

Dance Danilovska – Bajdevska

Foundation Open Society Macedonia (FOSM)

18 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of freedom of information

15

Eli Cakar

Ministry of local self-government

 

22 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

 

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

16

 

Aleksandar Nikolov

ZENIT

 

22 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

Commitments on efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

17

 

Fatmir Shaqiri

Ministry of Economy

 

22 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

 

Commitments on efficient management of public resources

18

Keti Stefkova

Ombudsman of the Republic of Macedonia

23 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

19

Bari Iseni

Ministry of Finance

 

24 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

Commitments on efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

20

Ljubica Jovcevska

Ministry of Finance

 

24 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

Commitments on efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

21

Maja Markovska

Sustainable Development Agency Milieucontact Macedonia (MKM)

 

24 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

 

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

22

Marija Ristevska

CRPM

25 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of participatory policy creating

23

Aleksandar Cekov

Center for Research and Policy Making

25 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

24

Malinka Nikolic

Commission for Competition Protection

25 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments on efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

25

Marija Sazdevski

MCMS

21 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of participatory policy creating

26

Baze Petrusev

Free software

12 August 2017

Viber interview

Open data commitments

27

Darko Antic

ESE

18 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of freedom of information

28

Dragica Milosevska

Women’s Action

28 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

29

Blagica Dimitrovska

INKLUZIVA

17 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of openness at the local level

30

Pavlina Zdraveva

UNDP

24 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of climate change

31

Natasa Markovska

MASA

16 July 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of climate change

32

Teodora Obradovic Grncarovska

MoEPP

13 July 2017

Face- to-face interview

Commitments in the area of climate change

33

Orhieda Kaljosevska

SEA

04 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

34

Biljana Veselinovska

Ministry of Health

17 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

35

Dona Dimov

Transparency International Macedonia

19 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

36

Meto Zajkov

Transparency International Macedonia

19 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

37

Vesna Doneva

State Commission for Prevention of Corruption

25 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

38

Vladimir Gjeorgiev

25 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

39

Ilmiasan Dauti

UNDP

16 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

40

Suzana Stojanovska

17 July 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of public services

41

Zoran Bogdanovski

SOS Children’s Villages

31 July 2017

Email interview

Commitments in the area of public services

42

Sofija Spasovska

Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs

17 July 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of public services

43

Marija Ristevska

Center for Research and Policy Making

31 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of public services

44

Aleksandar Nikolov

Zenith

14 August 2017

 

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of participatory policy creating

45

Vasilka Salevska

Ministry of Health

23 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

46

Harald Schenker

UNDP

03 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

47

Martin Nikolic

UNDP

03 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

48

Aleksandar Cekov

31 August 2017

Face-to-face interview

Commitments in the area of prevention of corruption and promotion of good governance

49

Aleksandar Danailov

Ministry of Finance/ Public Procurement Bureau

14 August 2017

Email interview

Commitments on efficient management of public resources (fiscal transparency)

About the Independent Reporting Mechanism

The IRM is a key means by which government, civil society, and the private sector can track government development and implementation of OGP action plans on an annual basis. The design of research and quality control of such reports is carried out by the International Experts Panel, comprised of experts in transparency, participation, accountability, and social science research methods.

The current membership of the International Experts Panel is

·       César Cruz-Rubio

·       Mary Francoli

·       Brendan Halloran

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M'Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Juanita Olaya

·       Quentin Reed

·       Rick Snell

·       Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

A small staff based in Washington, DC, shepherds reports through the IRM process in close coordination with the researchers. Questions and comments about this report can be directed to the staff at irm@opengovpartnership.org.

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