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Romania Action Plan Review 2020-2022

This product is an IRM review of Romania’s 2020–2022 action plan. The action plan is made up of 12 commitments. This review emphasizes its analysis on the strength of the action plan to contribute to implementation and results. For commitment-by-commitment data, see Annex 1. For details regarding the methodology and indicators used by the IRM for this action plan review, see Section III: Methodology and IRM Indicators.

Overview of the 2020–2022 Action Plan

Romania’s fifth action plan largely continues existing government initiatives and includes promising commitments on reducing bureaucracy and opening data. The IRM recommends ensuring stakeholder engagement during implementation, particularly on commitments related to open data, de-bureaucratization, and transparency of public investments. Future action plans could benefit from greater dialogue with civil society during co-creation on which topics to prioritize and on the overall direction of OGP in Romania.   

AT A GLANCE

 

Participating since: 2011

Action plan under review: 2020–2022

IRM product: Action plan review

Number of commitments: 12

Overview of commitments:

  • Commitments with an open gov. lens: 11
  • Commitments with substantial potential for results: 2
  • Promising commitments: 3

Policy areas carried over from previous action plans:

  • Public participation in decision making
  • Youth participation
  • Open government at local levels
  • Integrated community services
  • Transparency of investments
  • Open data

Emerging policy areas:

  • Rights of linguistic minorities
  • Health and social responsibility
  • De-bureaucratization

Compliance with OGP minimum requirements for co-creation:

  • Acted in accordance to OGP process: Yes

Romania’s fifth action plan consists of 12 commitments. The action plan continues or expands several policy areas from the previous plan, including open government at the local level, access to community services, youth participation, integrated community services, transparency of national investment funds, and open data.[1] New initiatives include improving access to information on government-funded projects in the Republic of Moldova, improving information on the rights of linguistic minorities, and decreasing the bureaucratic burden in the central public administration. The action plan also aims to strengthen the healthcare system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several commitments entail institutional changes and could potentially lead to long-lasting results. These include Commitment 11, where the government and civil society jointly assess Romania’s entire public administration in order to reduce bureaucracy, and Commitment 12, where Romania will transpose the EU’s 2019 Open Data Directive into national legislation. Other commitments offer positive but incremental changes, such as Commitment 5 to centralize information on nonrefundable grants from public funds, Commitment 6 to publish data on national investment funds, and Commitment 7 to publish information on projects financed by the Romanian government in the Republic of Moldova. The action plan does not directly address the previous IRM recommendations to include commitments on furthering the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary or publishing information on all concluded government contracts as open data.[2]

The commitments in the action plan were mainly initiated by public institutions and were taken from pre-existing government strategies; there is limited civil society investment in their implementation. The co-creation of the action plan, which lasted from February to August 2020, provided opportunity for both public institutions and nongovernmental stakeholders to submit proposals online. However, most proposals (51 out of 57) came from public institutions.[3] The OGP Technical Secretariat then filtered the proposals that were in line with OGP principles and organized consultations between the institutions and interested nongovernment stakeholders in order to improve the existing proposals.[4] Following these consultations, the institutions sent the updated commitments (with civil society proposals integrated) back to the OGP Technical Secretariat, which then finalized the action plan. The final action plan was not formally approved until February 2021.

Although the co-creation process was open, several limitations that the IRM noted during the previous plan persisted, including low levels of civil society involvement and a weak exchange of ideas.[5] According to the point of contact at the General Secretariat of the Government (SGG), some civil society proposals were not included in the action plan because they are being discussed in other contexts, such as beneficial ownership and the National Anticorruption Strategy.[6] A civil society stakeholder on the multistakeholder forum suggested that future action plans could include commitments to increase transparency of political parties financing, public procurement, and activities of state-owned enterprises.[7]

For successful implementation, SGG and lead agencies should ensure higher levels of stakeholder engagement for individual commitments. This is important to not only complete commitments that require consultations with relevant experts and civil society, but also to raise overall interest in the plan, given that most commitments reflect the existing work of public institutions. This action plan review offers specific recommendations on ensuring stakeholder engagement for three commitments, but engagement is needed generally throughout the plan (i.e., for commitments on marginalized communities and linguistic minorities).

For future action plans, the IRM recommends providing greater opportunities for civil society to shape the priorities, beyond submitting proposals online. More dialogue in the early stages of co-creation could help stakeholders set the agendas for future action plans. In May 2021, after adopting this action plan, Romania revived its multistakeholder forum (the National Coordination Committee) to oversee the implementation of the current action plan and the co-creation of the next plan.[8] This could ensure greater stakeholder engagement in the process and allow the forum greater influence in shaping Romania’s priorities in OGP.

Promising Commitments in Romania’s 2020–2022 Action Plan

The following review looks at three commitments that the IRM identified as having the greatest potential to realize the most promising results. This review will inform the IRM’s implementation assessment in the results report. The results report will use this early identification of potential results to contrast with the outcomes at the end of the implementation period. This review also analyzes challenges, opportunities, and recommendations to contribute to the learning and implementation process of this action plan.

The IRM selected these three commitments based on their aim to offer institutionalized or comprehensive reforms within their policy areas. Commitment 11 calls for government and civil society to jointly assess all of Romania’s central public institutions for bureaucracy reduction. Under Commitment 12, Romania will transpose the EU’s Open Data Directive into national legislation, to be the country’s first binding regulation for open data publication. Both commitments foresee the involvement of civil society in their implementation: the joint government-civil society collaboration in Commitment 11’s bureaucracy assessments and working groups for identifying high-value datasets in Commitment 12. The IRM also reviewed Commitment 7 on creating a database for information on all projects financed by Romania in the Republic of Moldova. Although this commitment lacks certain details, the potential scope of the information and its possible significance to civil society and journalists in both countries make it a promising endeavor.

Several commitments carry forward unfinished activities from the previous action plan, and so are not analyzed in detail in this action plan review. For example, the CSO Expert Forum proposed carrying forward an unfulfilled commitment on increasing the transparency of national investment funds (Commitment 6 in the current plan).[ix] This commitment could deliver strong results, given the size and scope of investment funds, their importance for the sustainable development of local communities, and past controversies over their allocation. Therefore, the IRM reiterates its recommendations from the 2018–2020 design report to publish the reasons why certain datasets can or cannot be opened, use public consultations to understand what data citizens would like to have opened, and publish the official justification notes that local public administrations put forward in order to receive funding.[x]

In addition, Commitment 2 continues the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ efforts to increase youth participation in its work, while Commitment 3 carries forward the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration’s improvements of open government at the local level. Commitment 4 continues the creation of interactive maps of integrated community services, while also aiming to provide at least 100 community assistance services for marginalized communities. Although these commitments include new activities beyond the previous action plan, they do not go beyond modest activities, so the IRM has not reviewed them further.

The action plan contains several new initiatives, but as they also are modest changes to the status quo, the IRM has not assessed them further in this review. Commitment 8, for example, aims to improve the availability of information on the rights of linguistic minorities in dealing with local public administration. However, it mainly consists of online video campaigns and smartphones apps, and it is unclear if these activities will reach their targeted population and what engagement the information will receive. Commitment 9 addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, but mostly focuses on strengthening the internal readiness of health institutions to address future crises rather than opening government. It also calls for publishing open data on COVID-19 infections, but does not explain how this data will exceed what Romania has been already publishing on COVID-19 prior to the action plan’s adoption in February 2021.[xi] Finally, while Commitment 1 aims to streamline participation in public administration decisions, it does not clarify what kind of participation it will enable. This commitment appears to focus on consulting civil society expertise rather than facilitating their involvement in decision-making.

Table 1. Promising commitments

7. Information on projects financed by the Romanian Government in the Republic of Moldova. This commitment launches a database with information on all projects financed by the Romanian government in the Republic of Moldova. Given the potential volume of projects and information to be published, this commitment could improve transparency of these projects.
11. De-bureaucratization for the central public administration. This commitment will use a joint government-civil society committee to assess all institutions in Romania’s central public administration for unnecessary bureaucracy. Its implementation could institutionalize collaboration in the assessment of bureaucracy in the public administration and could help reduce red tape.
12. Open data. This commitment will transpose the EU Open Data Directive into national legislation, use working groups to identify high-value datasets to open, and continue publishing open data. This transposition of the EU directive would create binding rules for public institutions around which datasets they must publish, the regularity of publication, and the interoperability of data.

[1] Government of Romania, Open Government Partnership: Romania National Action Plan 2020-2022 (OGP, Feb. 2021), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Romania_Action-Plan_2020-2022_EN.pdf.

[2] I. S. Deleanu, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Romania Design Report 2018–2020 (OGP, 28 May 2020), 60–62, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Romania_Design_Report_2018-2020_EN.pdf.

[3] The list of proposals is available at http://ogp.gov.ro/nou/consultare-propuneri-primite/. The nongovernment stakeholders that sent proposals were the Center for Public Innovation, Expert Forum, SmartCity Association Timisoara, and the Association for Information and Communication Technology in Romania.

[4] Government of Romania, Open Government Partnership: Romania National Action Plan 2020-2022 at 5.

[5] Deleanu, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Romania Design Report 2018–2020 at 11–12.

[6] Larisa Panait (OGP point of contact, Sec. Gen. Secretary of Government), online interview by IRM researcher, 16 Jun. 2021.  

[7] Septimius Parvu (Expert Forum), email to IRM researcher, 11 Aug. 2021.

[8] Gen. Secretariat of the Government, “Selecție Comitetul Național de Coordonare OGP 2021” [Selection of the National Steering Committee OGP 2021] (21 May 2021), http://ogp.gov.ro/nou/2021/05/21/rezultate-selectie-comitetul-national-de-coordonare-ogp-2021/.

[ix] Parteneriatule Pentru Guvenare Deschisa, “Consultare – propuneri primite” [Consultation – proposals received] (accessed 15 Sep. 2021), http://ogp.gov.ro/nou/consultare-propuneri-primite/.

[x] I. S. Deleanu, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Romania Design Report 2018–2020 (OGP, 28 May 2020), 40–42, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Romania_Design_Report_2018-2020_EN.pdf.

[xi] Code for Romania, “Informații din surse sigure” [Information from reliable sources] (15 Sep. 2021), https://stirioficiale-ro.translate.goog/informatii?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=es&_x_tr_pto=ajax,se.

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