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Romania End-of-Term Report 2016-2018

Dr. Ioana S. (Hanna) Deleanu, Independent Researcher 

The implementation of Romania’s third action plan took place amid a volatile political environment and frequent government changes. Half of the commitments were stalled at the end of the action plan. Major achievements include simplification of the citizenship application process and improved publication of open data on the national open data portal.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarizes the results of the period August 2016 to June 2018 and includes some relevant developments up to November 2018.

Table 1: At a Glance
Mid-term End of term
Number of Commitments 18
Level of Completion
Completed 2 2
Substantial 5 7
Limited 6 5
Not Started 5 4
Number of Commitments with…
Clear Relevance to OGP Values 17 17
Transformative Potential Impact 2 2
Substantial or Complete Implementation 7 9
All Three (✪) 1 1
Did It Open government?
Major 2
Outstanding 0
Moving Forward
Number of Commitments Carried Over to Next Action Plan 11

Romania joined OGP in 2011 and the implementation of the first plan started in April 2012. The Chancellery of the Prime Minister (CPM) coordinated the OGP process in Romania until January 2017 and afterwards, this task was taken over by the Secretariat General of the Government (SGG). A Memorandum of Understanding established the National Steering Committee for OGP Implementation in November 2017, which is comprised of representatives from seven public institutions and seven civil society representatives and functions as a formalized multi-stakeholder forum (MSF).

Among the successes of Romania’s third action plan[1] were the reduction of delays in processing of citizenship applications through digitization, the publication of statistics on the management of the recovered proceeds of white-collar crime, and the increase in the quality and quantity of data published on the national data portal.

The government published an end-of-term self-assessment report in November 2018. Romania’s fourth action plan was developed from March to June 2018 and implementation began in November 2018.[2] The fourth action plan contains 18 commitments. It seeks to continue implementing 11 commitments from the third action plan.[3]

Consultation with civil society during implementation

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during development and implementation of their action plan.

Romania had two forums for dialogue on OGP during the implementation of the third action plan:

  • The informal OGP Club: Romania established an OGP Club in February 2014 as informal place for stakeholders interested in open government to discuss relevant topics.
  • The formal Multi-Stakeholder Forum: The National Steering Committee was created in November 2017 through a Memorandum of Understanding and serves as Romania’s multi-stakeholder forum (MSF). The National Steering Committee has equal representation from seven public institutions and seven civil society representatives.[4]

The National Steering Committee met twice (in November 2017 and in March 2018) to discuss the status of the implementation of the third action plan and the development of the fourth action plan. It also determined the roles of each National Steering Committee member and criteria for selecting new civil society representatives. At the March meeting, the National Steering Committee agreed to have thematic meetings, to assign accountability for each theme, to establish a plan of actions with clear deadlines, and to plan a budget for realizing these actions.[5]

However, a civil society representative argued that the National Steering Committee should have decision-making power, in order to encourage civil society to become involved,[6] while another[7] expressed concern that the National Steering Committee would not deliver meaningful change because of the declining levels of trust between civil society and the government,[8] which the government must first address.[9]

Finally, civil society representatives argued that high political turnover led to low levels of communication during the implementation of the third action plan.[10] Romania’s third action plan was implemented during four different governments.[11] The political transformations generated reforms that impacted the dynamics between government and civil society and the nature of the dialogue between the two during implementation. For instance, the reforms of the public administration introduced by the Grindeanu government in January 2017[12] consumed resources, generated uncertainty, and provided no extra resources to the OGP coordination team.[13] Additionally, the creation, reform, and dissolution within two years of the Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue—which was dedicated exclusively to conversing with civil society—illustrates how visions and strategies of predecessor governments were not followed through or were reversed.[14]

Table 2: Consultation during Implementation

Regular Multistakeholder Forum Midterm End of Term
1. Did a forum exist? Yes Yes
2. Did it meet regularly? Yes Yes

 

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[15] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Table 3: Level of Public Influence during Implementation

Level of public influence During the development of the action plan During the implementation of the action plan
Empower The government handed the 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

 

About the Assessment

The indicators and method used in the IRM research can be found in the IRM Procedures Manual.[16] One measure, the “starred commitment” (✪), deserves further explanation due to its particular interest to readers and usefulness for encouraging a race to the top among OGP-participating countries. Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. 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 judgment 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.[17]
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of “substantial” or “complete” implementation.

Starred commitments can lose their starred status if their completion falls short of substantial or full completion at the end of the action plan implementation period.

In the midterm report, Romania’s action plan contained one starred commitment. At the end of term, based on the changes in the level of completion, Romania’s action plan retained one starred commitment:

  • Commitment 4: Improve Citizenship Application Process

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its reporting process. For the full dataset for Romania, see the OGP Explorer at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/explorer.

About “Did It Open Government?”

To capture changes in government practice, the IRM introduced the variable “Did It Open Government?” in its end-of-term reports. This variable attempts to move beyond measuring outputs and deliverables to looking at how the government practice has changed as a result of the commitment’s implementation.

As written, some OGP commitments are vague and/or not clearly relevant to OGP values but achieve significant policy reforms. In other cases, commitments as written appear relevant and ambitious, but fail to open government as implemented. The “Did It Open Government” variable attempts to captures these subtleties.

The “Did It Open Government?” variable assesses changes in government practice using the following spectrum:

  • Worsened: Government openness worsens as a result of the commitment.
  • Did not change: No changes in government practice.
  • Marginal: Some change, but minor in terms of its effect on level of openness.
  • Major: A step forward for government openness in the relevant policy area but remains limited in scope or scale.
  • Outstanding: A reform that has transformed “business as usual” in the relevant policy area by opening government.

To assess this variable, researchers establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan. They then assess outcomes as implemented for changes in government openness.

Readers should keep in mind limitations. IRM end-of-term reports are prepared only a few months after the implementation cycle is completed. The variable focuses on outcomes that can be observed in government openness practices at the end of the two-year implementation period. The report and the variable do not intend to assess impact because of the complex methodological implications and the timeframe of the report.

Commitment Implementation

General Overview of Commitments

As part of OGP, countries are required to make commitments in a two-year action plan. The tables below summarize the completion level at the end of term and progress on the “Did It Open Government?” metric. For commitments that were complete at the midterm, the report will provide a summary of the progress report findings but focus on analysis of the ‘Did It Open Government?’ variable. For further details on these commitments, please see the IRM progress report 2016–2017.

Romania’s third national action plan was progressively more audacious, in that it increased the number of commitments from 11 to 18,[18] attempted to increase public institutions’ engagement in the implementation of new commitments and created the Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue (MCPDC)—a new ministry that would help the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (CPM) coordinate the implementation of the OGP commitments. Open governance was further listed as top priority of the Governance Plan[19] of the Ciolos government, and the third national action plan was aligned with the National Anticorruption Strategy 2016–2020 and with the Strategy for Consolidating the Public Administration 2014–2020 to increase its institutional support.

[1] Romania’s third national action plan (2016–2018) is available at https://goo.gl/Q3X3hr.

[2] Romania’s fourth national action plan (2018–2020) is available at https://goo.gl/BVwnSC.

[3] Commitments 2: “Open Government at local level”, 3: “Citizens Budgets”, 4: “Improve consultation and public participation for youth”, 11: “Annual mandatory training of civil servants on integrity matters”, 13: “Improving transparency in the management of seized assets”, 16: “Open education”, and 18: “Publication of open data” in the fourth action plan are the respective continuations of Commitments 9, 7, 8, 13, 16 and 18 of the third action plan.  Moreover, Commitments 1: “Standardization of practices on public consultation processes” and 6: “Extending standards on access to public information at the level of local public Authorities” of the fourth action plan continue parts of Commitments 5 and 6, and of 1 and 10 of the third action plan, respectively.

[4] The public institutions are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Communications and Informational Society, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration, the Ministry of Public Finances, the Ministry of Justice and the Secretariat General of the Government. The civil society representatives are the Assistance and Programs for Sustainable Development Association, the Pro Democracy Association, the Smart City Timișoara Association, the Association for Electronic Industry and Software (Transylvania), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania, the Greenpeace Foundation, and the Institute for Public Policies.

[5] Minutes of the MSF meetings are available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/qxHxNV.

[6] Ovidiu Voicu, Centre for Public Integrity, interview by IRM researcher on 8 November 2018.

[7] Elena Calistru, Funky Citizens, interview by IRM researcher on 13 November 2018.

[8] Several civil society representatives previously involved in the OGP Club suggested that the government’s refusal to consult more established consultative bodies (e.g. the Coalition for the Development of Romania or the Economic and Social Council) threatens the credibility of the assignment of decision-making powers to the National Steering Committee. (See interviews with Ovidiu Voicu, Centre for Public Integrity, on 8 November 2018 and with Bogdan Manolea, APTI, on 8 November 2018.)

[9] Ovidiu Voicu, Centre for Public Integrity, interview by IRM researcher on 8 November 2018, Andrei Nicoara, Open Data Coalition, interview by IRM researcher on 15 November 2018, and Dan Bugariu, SmartCity, interview with IRM researcher on 14 November 2018.

[10] Ovidiu Voicu, Centre for Public Integrity, interview by IRM researcher on 8 November 2018 and Elena Calistru, Funky Citizens, interview by IRM researcher on 13 November 2018.

[11] The technocrat Ciolos Government (November 2015–December 2016); the social democrat Grindeanu Government (January–June 2017); the social democrat Tudose Government (June 2017–January 2018); the social democrat Dancila Government (January 2018–present).

[12] The text of the government decision HG 21/2017 on the organization, functioning, and attributes of the SGG are available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/rXn4B4.

[13] The OGP coordination team retained the same full-time allocated staff. Key leaders were replaced with political dignitaries of lower rank or less experienced in working with civil society. Mr. Puchiu (State Secretary and responsible for the OGP coordination since 2013), thus resigned in November 2017, was replaced by Mr. Vodita (Secretary of State) who, in turn, was dismissed in January 2018 and replaced by Ms. Pastarnac (State Councilor on Foreign Policy). Several civil society representatives viewed this resignation as detrimental to OGP progress, as he was key enabler of the cooperation between civil society and public administration (see Bogdan Manolea, APTI, interview by IRM researcher on 8 November 2018, Elena Calistru, Funky Citizens, interview with IRM researcher on 13 November 2018, and Dan Bugariu, SmartCity. interview with IRM researcher on 14 November 2018). Furthermore, several interviewees referred to the lack of experience and interest in OGP, and to the lower political leverage of Mr. Puchiu’s replacement as shortcomings for the purpose of rebuilding cooperation between civil society and public administration, and for the purpose of furthering the OGP agenda (see Bogdan Manolea, APTI, interview with IRM researcher on 8 November 2018 and Andrei Nicoara, Open Data Coalition, interview with IRM researcher on 15 November 2018).

[14] In 2016, the Ciolos Government created the Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue (MCPDC) and authorized it to elaborate and monitor the implementation of the third action plan (see government decision HG 961/2015, available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/uL7zt4). In January 2017, the Grindeanu government changed its focus from civic dialogue to civic and social dialogue, i.e. dialogue with civil society, labor unions, and work councils (see Government decision HG 25/2017, available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/AzCM2S). In January 2018, the Dancila government dissolved it and transferred its OGP-related tasks to the SGG (see Government Emergency Ordinance OUG 1/2018, available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/kGnqQu).

[15] International Association for Public Participation, “IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum”, available at https://goo.gl/Vwpq4W.

[16] IRM Procedures Manual is available at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/about-irm.

[17] The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015, is available at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919.

[18] Only commitments 1, 17, and 18 of the third national action plan are carried forward from the second national action plan (see Claudiu D. Tufis, “IRM 2016 End-of-Term Report”, Independent Reporting Mechanism, Open Government Partnership, page 1, https://goo.gl/x6UZbn.).

[19] “Governance Plan”, Ciolos Government, 16 November 2015, available [in Romanian] at https://goo.gl/FfFkym.

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