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Armenia

State Travel Transparency (AM0027)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Armenia’s Third National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia

Support Institution(s): Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia; Helix Consulting LLC (upon consent), Armenian Young Lawyers Association NGO (upon consent)

Policy Areas

E-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018, Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Issue subject to regulation: Decision of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia 1087-N of 26 November 2013 “On official business trips of representatives of republican executive bodies and territorial administration bodies” defines the procedures for receiving the permission of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia for business trips of heads of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies, their deputies or other officials, and for submitting to the Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia reports on the results of the official business trip after its completion. Reports must contain information on the purpose of the official business trip, the inviting party, the topics discussed, speeches, meetings, decisions made, documents signed, expected outcomes, etc. Individual decisions of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia on official business trips of the above-mentioned persons are posted on the website of the Government of the Republic of Armenia at www.e-gov.am. Nonetheless, reports on the results of official business trips are not posted.; Main objective: Raise the level of efficiency and accountability of funding allocated from the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia for the purpose of sending on official business trip heads and deputy headsand other officials of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies; improve the transparency of activities of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.; Brief description of commitment: A unified platform with a search engine will be created under the “open data” principle for posting decisions on official business trips of officials and reports thereon.; OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: More efficient management of public resources, Enhancement of public integrity; Relevance to OGP values: Making the reports on the results of officials business trips public will help to provide citizens with access to information not previously posted and raise the level of public accountability.; Ambition: Accessibility of reports on official business trips will ensure more goal-oriented use of public resources and raise the level of accountability and increase public confidence.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Transparency of public officials’ trips

Commitment Text:

Title: Responsible official trips: Ensuring transparency and accountability of official trips of representatives of republican executive bodies and territorial administration bodies

A unified platform with a search engine will be created based on the 'open data' principle for posting decisions on official business trips of officials and reports thereon. The main objective is to raise the level of efficiency and accountability of funding allocated from the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia for the purpose of sending on official business trips heads, deputy heads and other officials of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies on official trips; improve the transparency of activities of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1. Drafting of amendments and supplements to legal acts defining the procedure for permissions for international official trips of officials, and discussion thereon with interested representatives of civil society (Sep 16 - Jan 17)

2. Coordination of draft legal acts with interested government agencies and adoption thereof (Jan 17 - Apr 17).

3. Creating a unified information platform accessible to users for posting decisions and reports on official business trips of heads, deputies or other officials of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies (May 17 - Oct 17).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institution(s): Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: September 2016 End date: June 2017

Context and Objectives

To ensure efficient and proper use of public funds by officials, in 2013 the government of Armenia adopted legal acts defining procedures for business travel permission and for submitting the related narrative reports.[Note89: Decision of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia No 1087-N of 26 November 2013 'On international official trips of representatives of republican executive bodies and territorial administration bodies', http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=112868 ] Reports must contain information on the purpose of the trip, the inviting party, topics discussed, meetings, decisions made, documents signed, expected outcomes, etc. Individual decisions on official trips of heads of state, executive bodies or territorial administration bodies, their deputies or other officials are posted on Armenia’s electronic government website—www.e-gov.am. Nonetheless, reports on the results of trips were not published, which provided grounds for various interpretations on the goals and efficiency of the trips by the media and general public. The media has reported a public concern that the trips are used for tourism purposes and are often a waste of public funds, rather than serving the purposes of the particular state body.[Note90: Hraparak.am, 'I am not concerned about visiting London or shopping', 17.06.2014, http://bit.ly/2jA1zo7 ],[Note91: 'From your pocket to new business trips', CivilNet, 20.12.2015, https://www.civilnet.am/news/2015/12/20/from-your-pocket-per-diem-expenses/283974 ],[Note92: Marina Mkhitaryan (UNDP Kolba Lab), interview by IRM researcher, 8 November 2017]

This commitment entails the creation of a platform where the official trip reports will be publicly available. It is expected that the platform, with a search capability, will provide public access to information on the aims and outcomes of such trips and thus justify the relevant budget spending.

The commitment text refers to the 'open data principle' without identifying the specific features of open data except for the availability of a search option. While the commitment lists steps for drafting and adopting amendments to the relevant legal acts and creation of a portal, it falls shorts on specifying the content of reports and whether or not financial information will be disclosed. Thus, the specificity of the commitment is rated as medium.

As noted, reports on officials’ trips have been required since 2013 but were not published online. If the commitment is fully implemented as written, it can have a minor impact in terms of more efficient budget spending through better transparency of officials’ travel expenses and allow a more effective public oversight on government spending on travel.

Completion

The commitment is on time but has not been fully completed. The relevant amendments have been passed but a separate platform with search capabilities has not been created. In April 2017, an amendment to the Prime Minister’s decision[Note93: Decision No 367-N dated 13.04.2017 'On making amendments to the Decision of Prime Minister No 1087-N of 26.11.2013' , http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=112853 ] was adopted enforcing the publication of official trip reports within one day of presenting the reports. The decision entered into force on 1 May 2017. Presently, the reports on international official trips, from May 2017 onwards, are available on the website www.e-gov.am in the section 'Reports on Official Trips.'[Note94: Electronic government of the Republic of Armenia, Trip Reports, https://www.e-gov.am/trips/ ] According to the Ministry of Justice representatives, it was deemed purposeful not to establish a different platform but to use an available e-government platform.[Note95: Suren Krmoyan, Mariam Galstyan (Ministry of Justice), interview by IRM researcher, 25 October 2017] An independent expert interviewed for this report finds that creating the platform with data search possibilities is realistic, however, it would not be cost-effective, as the number of users would be limited.[Note96: Aram Mkhitaryan (Helix Consulting LLC), interview by IRM researcher, 2 November 2017]

The level of commitment completion is assessed as substantial as the reports are published on the government’s website. However, due to the lack of search engine and open data format, the commitment cannot be considered as completed. The reports on officials’ business trips are provided in PDF format (with a list of 20 reports on each page) without search possibilities other than those provided by the browser, which allows to find a link to the report on the given page through browsing the official’s name, date, or destination country. The MoJ representatives state that the signed reports are provided in scanned format and thus posted in PDF.[Note97: Suren Krmoyan, Mariam Galstyan (Ministry of Justice), interview by IRM researcher, 25 October 2017]

The reports contain narrative information on the trip, mostly following the same headings such as the purpose of the trip, topics discussed, and commitments made. No information is provided on the budget amount or the source of funding, though, as implied in the commitment context and highlighted by CSOs.

Early Results (if any)

According to the CSOs interviewed and those who participated in group discussions, the reports currently posted are useful as a means of tracking the outcomes of the trips and can be used by journalists and other interested stakeholders. However, reports do not contain the financial data to provide a basis for assessing the cost-effectiveness of trips.[Note98: Focus group discussion in Yerevan, 26 October 2017] As to usability, the platform does not allow filtering data by branches, agencies, time periods, destination countries or review budgets to sufficiently analyze the cost efficiency of the reports or find out the costs and outcomes of trips by a specific agency. The PDF format is not machine readable which makes it difficult to process the texts of the reports. However, the very fact of publishing the reports can serve as a stimulus for officials to provide more specifics and be more cost- and time-efficient on trips.[Note99: Naira Arakelyan (Armavir Development Center NGO), interview by IRM researcher, 30 October 2017; Focus group discussion in Gyumri, 23 November 2017]

The data provided by Helix Consulting LLC on the officials’ trips report page visits shows that 2,179 page views were registered between May and October 2017, with an average visit duration of 2:23 minutes, which proves that visitors spend some time checking the reports.[Note100: Aram Mkhitaryan (Helix Consulting LLC), interview by IRM researcher, 2 November 2017] The IRM researcher did not find any media publications reflecting on the narrative reports on official trips that could indicate that the information is used by journalists to reach a larger audience. The journalists interviewed indicated that the information provided could be useful in terms of checking the outcomes and follow-up actions of trips, which can serve as material for media publications. However, they note that reports do not provide complete information or a systematic summary of outcomes in the context of priorities and programs of the given executive agency to make general conclusions on the performance of the given program or state body.[Note101: Gagik Aghbalyan (journalist), Tirayr Muradyan (Armenian Times), telephone interviews by IRM researcher, 15 November 2017 ]

Next Steps

It is recommended to take forward the commitment to ensure compliance with the ‘open data’ principle for easy search and usage of reports. If a searchable platform is not created, it is recommended to:

· Include the title of the position of officials in the links of the documents for easier search through browser;

· Standardize titles and content of all report documents, ensuring compliance of the reports with the approved reporting structure;

· Produce reports in machine readable format, providing structured data;

· Allow proper monitoring on spending and evaluation of cost-effectiveness of trips. Reports need to include the total budget amount and source of funding for the trip and provide linkages with the corresponding decisions and budget spending reports;

· Include attachments or links for details of the trips, e.g. the signed documents, speech texts, photos;

· Include the strategic direction and/or the program priority of the relevant state agency which informed the purpose of a trip.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1. Transparency of public officials’ trips

Commitment Text:

Title: Responsible official trips: Ensuring transparency and accountability of official trips of representatives of republican executive bodies and territorial administration bodies

A unified platform with a search engine will be created based on the “open data' principle for posting decisions on official business trips of officials and reports thereon. The main objective is to raise the level of efficiency and accountability of funding allocated from the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia for the purpose of sending on official business trips heads, deputy heads and other officials of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies on official trips; improve the transparency of activities of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1.Drafting of amendments and supplements to legal acts defining the procedure for permissions for international official trips of officials, and discussion thereon with interested representatives of civil society (Sep 16 - Jan 17)

2.Coordination of draft legal acts with interested government agencies and adoption thereof (Jan 17 - Apr 17).

3.Creating a unified information platform accessible to users for posting decisions and reports on official business trips of heads, deputies or other officials of state executive bodies or territorial administration bodies (May 17 - Oct 17).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institutions: Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: September 2016 End date: June 2017

Commitment Aim

The commitment aimed to publish reports on officials’ business trips online. In 2013, the government of Armenia adopted legal acts defining procedures for business travel permission and for submitting the related narrative reports. [Note1: Decision of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia No 1087-N of 26 November 2013 'On international official trips of representatives of republican executive bodies and territorial administration bodies', http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=112868 ] At the time the commitment was adopted, individual decisions on official trips of heads of state, executive bodies or territorial administration bodies, their deputies, or other officials were posted on Armenia’s electronic government website—www.e-gov.am, while the reports on the results of trips were not published. This provided grounds for speculation on the goals and efficiency of the trips by the media and the public. This commitment entailed the creation of a platform where official trip reports will be publicly available, providing the public with access to information on the aims and outcomes of such trips, thus justifying the relevant budget spending.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

An amendment to the Prime Minister’s Decision No 1087-N of 2013 [Note2: Decision No 367-N dated 13.04.2017 “On making amendments to the Decision of Prime Minister No 1087-N of 26.11.2013” , http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=112853 ] was adopted, requiring the publication of official trip reports within one day of presenting the reports. The amendment entered into force on 1 May 2017. There was no electronic or in-person consultation with civil society on this Decision. From May 2017, the reports on international official trips are available on the website www.e-gov.am in the section 'Reports on Official Trips.' [Note3: Electronic government of the Republic of Armenia, Trip Reports, https://www.e-gov.am/trips/ ] However, the reports are only available in PDF format (with a list of 20 reports on each page) without search possibilities other than those provided by the browser. The browser search uses the official’s name, date, or destination country to find the link to a report on its given page. Many reports are published in the scanned format with the signature of the officials. For more information, see the IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018. [Note4: IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018 (Year 1), 01 State Travel Transparency, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/01-state-travel-transparency ]

End of term: Substantial

No additional actions took place in the framework of the commitment within the second year of the action plan, as the platform remained the same. The reports continue to be published at the corresponding section of the e-gov.am website. A new e-government platform was prepared in 2018 by Helix Consulting LLC to replace the current e-gov.am web platform, which, among other features, includes search and filtering options of trip reports by government agency, date, and destination of the trip. [Note5: Lilia Afrikyan (Staff of the Government), interview by IRM researcher, 19 September 2018; Electronic communication with Aram Mkhitaryan (Helix Consulting LLC), 27 September 2018.] The launch dates for the new platform are not yet available.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Armenian law has required public officials to present their report on trips to the staff of the government since 2013, but the reports were not published online prior to this commitment. The reports contain narrative information on the trip, such as the purpose of the trip, topics discussed, and commitments made. However, the reports do not provide the budget of the trips, which, according to interviewed stakeholders, could improve the transparency of officials’ travel expenses and allow greater public oversight on government spending on travel. [Note6: IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018 (Year 1), 01 State Travel Transparency, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/01-state-travel-transparency ] The general budget amount and source of funding is provided in the orders of the prime minister, which were available before the adoption of the commitment.

As highlighted in the IRM Progress Report, stakeholders note that the trip reports published on www.e-gov.am lack a systematic summary of outcomes in the context of priorities and programs of the given executive agency. Including this would allow the public to make general conclusions on the performance of the given program or state body. [Note7: IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018 (Year 1), 01 State Travel Transparency, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/01-state-travel-transparency ] If the platform included search possibilities to filter the reports by agency, this analysis might be feasible to perform. In addition, the fact that the trip reports of officials are published online and can be reviewed by the public could make the officials more responsible and accurate in preparation of the reports.

According to the data provided to the IRM researcher by Helix Consulting LLC on the officials’ trips report, page visits shows that 4,474 page views were registered between January and October 2018, showing an increase in the platform usage compared to 2,179 page views in May-October 2017. [Note8: Electronic communication with Aram Mkhitaryan (Helix Consulting LLC), 6 October 2018] Overall, this commitment has contributed to opening access to information, as it disclosed new information to the public, but has not significantly affected the policy. In the case that the new platform with a search engine is available, and the information provided in the reports includes budget-spending details, it might better serve for accessing information on trip reports due to ease of access and enhanced information.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report (September 2018), Armenia’s fourth action plan is not available yet. During consultations for the fourth action plan, this commitment has not been suggested to carry forward. Though some of the IRM researcher’s recommendations related to the search possibilities have been taken into account in the expected new e-government platform, some recommendations from the IRM Progress Report are related to the content of the trip reports. The report recommended to take into account the following for ensuring better access to information on officials’ trip reports:

·Standardize the content of all report documents, ensuring compliance of the reports with the approved reporting structure;

·Produce reports in machine readable format, providing structured data;

·Include the total budget amount and source of funding for the trip and/or provide linkages with the corresponding decisions and budget spending reports to allow monitoring on spending and evaluation of cost-effectiveness of trips;

·Include attachments or links for details of the trips, e.g. the signed documents, speech texts, photos;

·Include the strategic direction and/or the program priority of the relevant state agency which informed the purpose of a trip.

For Commitment detail, see Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018.


Armenia's Commitments

  1. Open data in official declarations

    AM0035, 2018, Asset Disclosure

  2. Government grant transparency

    AM0036, 2018, Fiscal Transparency

  3. Beneficial ownership register

    AM0037, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  4. Modernization of community website

    AM0038, 2018, E-Government

  5. State water Cadastre

    AM0039, 2018, E-Government

  6. Land cadastre

    AM0040, 2018, E-Government

  7. Integrated social services

    AM0041, 2018, E-Government

  8. UNIFIED INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR MANAGEMENT OF EDUCATION

    AM0042, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. exploring medical assistance program

    AM0043, 2018, E-Government

  10. Platform for submitting petitions

    AM0044, 2018, E-Government

  11. public service dashboard

    AM0045, 2018, E-Government

  12. State Travel Transparency

    AM0027, 2016, E-Government

  13. Accountability for Grants of the Government

    AM0028, 2016, E-Government

  14. Transparency of the State Budget

    AM0029, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  15. "Open Data" in Official Declaration:

    AM0030, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  16. Portal for Community Decisions.

    AM0031, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Accountability Licensing

    AM0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Accessibility of Integrated Social Services

    AM0033, 2016, E-Government

  19. "One-stop-shop" Pilot Project Within Military Registration Offices

    AM0034, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Digitization and publication of data in the “Republican Geological Fund” SNCO

    AM0016, 2014, Extractive Industries

  21. Ensuring transparency in mining

    AM0017, 2014, Extractive Industries

  22. Ensuring public awareness about health care financing

    AM0018, 2014, E-Government

  23. Ensuring transparency of asset and income declarations of the RA high-ranking officials

    AM0019, 2014, Asset Disclosure

  24. Online broadcasting of the State Procurement Appeals Board sessions

    AM0020, 2014, E-Government

  25. Community microsurvey introduction in 10 communities

    AM0021, 2014, E-Government

  26. Ensuring open, transparent, participatory and accountable process of state policies and legislative reforms

    AM0022, 2014, E-Government

  27. Public awareness on the lawmaking activity of state governance bodies

    AM0023, 2014, E-Government

  28. Ensuring transparency of the election of Governing Boards of the RA general secondary education institutions and of the annual budget planning and expenses of RA general secondary education institutions

    AM0024, 2014, Education

  29. Knowledge and capacity building of public servants in the freedom of information and anticorruption field

    AM0025, 2014, Capacity Building

  30. Ensuring transparency of local self government bodies of large communities

    AM0026, 2014, E-Government

  31. Reviewing the regulatory normative legal acts (Regulatory Guillotine Project)

    AM0001, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  32. Improving Internal Audit System for the Public Sector

    AM0002, 2012, Audits and Controls

  33. Improving Procurement Procedures

    AM0003, 2012, Capacity Building

  34. Improving budget planning and reporting systems through full utilization of program budgeting

    AM0004, 2012, Audits and Controls

  35. Promoting Transparency and Objectiveness in Tax Administration

    AM0005, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  36. Fight Against Corruption

    AM0006, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  37. Introduction of a unified payment system (portal)

    AM0007, 2012, E-Government

  38. State car inspection improvements

    AM0008, 2012, Infrastructure & Transport

  39. Implementation of an electronic system for consular services

    AM0009, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  40. Implementation of Mail-Armenia system

    AM0010, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  41. Introduction of e-statistics system

    AM0011, 2012, E-Government

  42. Introduction of e-documentation sharing system in urban communities

    AM0012, 2012, E-Government

  43. Ensuring Transparency of Asset Declarations

    AM0013, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  44. Standardization of Offical Websites Content

    AM0014, 2012, E-Government

  45. Improvement of Knowledge and Skills of Public Servants on Access to Information

    AM0015, 2012, Capacity Building