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Serbia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

While the Serbian Action Plan addressed many core open government issues, including access to information and civic space, it mostly lacked transformative commitments. For the next plan the national actors will need to identify how they can improve the overall ambition, perhaps by closely integrating commitments with the relevant European Union accession requirements.

Highlights

Commitment Overview Potential Starred? *
6. Develop information booklets This commitment could have a transformative impact on the way information is disseminated to citizens, given that these booklets are the primary tool of proactive transparency in Serbia (as all public authority bodies are obliged to publish them). Yes
7. Amend free access to information law The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and civil society organizations have previously advocated for amending the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance in order to increase compliance by public bodies. No

* 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

Process

The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government, with support of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, established a working group gathering government and civil society representatives early in 2016. This group led the consultation process which, unlike the previous action plan, included advance notice of meetings and awareness-raising activities. Hence, the depth and breadth of consultations were more extensive, especially taking into consideration that both central- and local-level events were organized. However, regular multi-stakeholder consultations stopped following the adoption of the working plan due to the 2017 presidential elections.

Serbia 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

Performance

Serbia’s second action plan had 14 commitments that were organized into five broader themes: public participation and government integrity; access to information; open data; fiscal transparency; and, public services. Completion and ambition of the commitments are limited after the first year of implementation with only three commitments complete and only one with a transformative potential impact.

IRM Recommendations

  1. To ensure continuity of OGP activities in the context of frequent administration changes and high frequency of the electoral process, proper handover mechanisms are needed. IRM recommends establishing an OGP multi-stakeholder forum with an adequate mandate and scope of work covering all phases of the action plan cycle, including the implementation.
  2. To increase financial transparency, the next action plan should include a commitment introducing open budgeting at national and local levels, specifically disclosing financial plans and expenditure reports in open data formats.
  3. To ensure the continuity of high-impact commitments, the government should carry forward commitments and scale up activities with demonstrated impact. For example, the current commitment on the open data portal should be expanded to encompass a wider range of institutions and datasets.
  4. Focus on commitments with clear citizen engagement and public accountability tools. Expand citizen inputs mechanisms such as the portal developed by the Public Policy Secretariat, which is currently limited to business representatives. Authorities need to ensure transparent and timely feedback to citizens’ proposals.
  5. Develop a more targeted communication approach and awareness-raising activities to increase citizen involvement. Additionally, the government needs to consider wider cooperation with CSOs at central and local level.

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