Portal Drafting Legislature and Development of Planning Documents (LV0019)
Action Plan: Latvia National Action Plan 2015-2017
Action Plan Cycle: 2015
Lead Institution: State Chancellery
Support Institution(s): Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development
Policy AreasDemocratizing Decision-Making, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance
Status quo: The decision making process is complicated, and, due to that, hardly transparent and not easily accessible for the public. This places limitations on public engagement. the main objective is to Make easier and increase civic participation in public administration processes through expanding possibilities for the use of e-participation tools.
To this end, there are plans to develop and put into operation by the beginning of 2016 a joint portal for drafting of legislation and development planning documents. The portal is expected to enhance the transparency of the processes of document drafting and decision-making in the central government and local authorities, as well as making it easier for the general public to quickly obtain clear information on the legislation and development planning documents being drafted, and engage and participate in the drafting. The decision making process will be visible and accessible as a whole, from the idea to making the final decision.
The general public will have opportunities for presenting their proposals on changes in legislation or administrative practice, as well as for following the progress of draft legislation through all the stages until the adoption and directly contributing their opinions.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
2. Portal for development and harmonization of draft legal acts
The decision making process is complicated, and, due to that, hardly transparent and not easily accessible for the public. This places limitations on public engagement.
The main objective is to make easier and increase civic participation in public administration processes through expanding possibilities for the use of e-participation tools.
To this end, there are plans to develop and put into operation by the beginning of 2016 a joint portal for drafting of legislation and development planning documents. The portal is expected to enhance the transparency of the processes of document drafting and decision-making in the central government and local authorities, as well as making it easier for the general public to quickly obtain clear information on the legislation and development planning documents being drafted, and engage and participate in the drafting. The decision making process will be visible and accessible as a whole, from the idea to making the final decision. The general public will have opportunities for presenting their proposals on changes in legislation or administrative practice, as well as for following the progress of draft legislation through all the stages until the adoption and directly contributing their opinions.
Responsible institution: State Chancellery
Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development
Start date: 2013.................... End date: 2016
Editorial note: The original name of this commitment was: “Single portal for the drafting of legislative and development planning documents”. The name of the commitment is now the official translation of the portal’s name.
Context and Objectives
The policy development process in Latvia is well structured with clear “doors” for NGOs and the public to step through to give their opinions and suggestions. Government institutions are required to seek consultation with civil society organizations on documents, online or via other formats, depending on the issue, affected target groups, and institutional resources. The government must also publish drafts for comment on the Cabinet of Ministers website, report on consultations and civic involvement in annotations to drafts (publically available before the Cabinet makes a decision), and react to questions raised by NGOs and report on progress at the Memorandum Council (an open meeting, streamed online, with presentations in advance online).
At the same time, it is not always easy for NGOs to track the development of new draft policy documents or legal acts. Planned amendments and timelines are not published beforehand, hence, the various ministry websites must be checked regularly for updates. It is difficult, therefore, for citizens to be proactive participants. For the first action plan, NGOs advocated for easier tracking of drafts, from the proposal of the project to its approval by the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament. This included access to records of discussions and opinions submitted on drafts by ministries, institutions, and NGOs. These were already available, but required searching the individual records of participating institutions, such as a ministry, the Cabinet of Ministers, Parliament, or the European Union.
In the current version of the commitment, the State Chancellery proposes a joint portal for elaborating legal and policy documents so opinions of and changes in drafts can be tracked. Moreover, NGOs and politicians would save resources by being able to access all prior debates when reviewing drafts. The portal would simplify the process for ministries; they would be able to develop drafts directly on the site, instead of sending them from one institution to another.
The objective of the commitment is to increase civic participation in public administration processes by expanding opportunities to use e-participation tools. http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?dateFrom=2015-09-23&dateTo=2016-09-22&mk&text=653&org=0&area=0&type=0. The commitment is an integral part of a large investment project that seeks to build new IT systems for public administration use. The portal would also provide a user-friendly interface for civil society members interested in tracking the development of particular drafts. In this way, the commitment is relevant to access to information and civic participation because it makes information on policy discussions more accessible and easy to follow, which in turn facilitates active participation by citizens.
The commitment has a medium level of specificity as it establishes a clear deliverable (the portal). However, it provides no details on the portal’s building blocks, such as which drafts and institutions would be included. The State Chancellery has suggested that it (the portal) could link all data on the elaboration of draft policy documents, laws, and regulations (i.e., from the creation of a working group to approval by the Cabinet of Ministers). This would entail linking the resources of ministries at the State Chancellery. However, the NGOs interviewed Interviews with Iveta Kažoka, Policy Centre “Providus,” 22 August 2016; and Kristīne Zonberga, Civic Alliance Latvia, 23 August 2016. interpreted the commitment text differently and would still like to see Parliament’s inclusion.
Government representatives Interview with Signe Rudzīte, State Chancellery, 17 August 2016. indicate that the project will not include access to national policy positions on EU issues, nor allow the tracking of drafts in Parliament. This is a problem because NGO arguments on drafts are submitted multiple times to decision makers in ministries, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament Committee and, in some instances, the Deputies of the European Parliament and Committees. Although adequate technical means for accessing the records of individual institutions are already in place, citizens still need to consult several other sources to get a full picture of debates on particular drafts. Despite this limitation, the potential impact of the commitment is moderate as it would begin centralizing draft discussions, which would help citizens be proactive in following the policy development process.
The government began, but did not complete, this commitment during the first action plan. It developed regulations regarding the publication of discussion documents, public involvement in legislative documents, and planning documents. http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=270934. The result is that ministries now publish discussion documents on their websites, and the home page of the Cabinet of Ministers has become the central location to track discussion documents. http://www.mk.gov.lv/content/ministru-kabineta-diskusiju-dokumenti. There are also provisions for public access to draft documents before they are circulated throughout ministries, and for enhancing the agenda-setting powers of NGOs in the Memorandum Council. The government instituted further a new page on the Cabinet of Ministers’ website that will link to the portal upon its launch. The portal and its planned functionality was presented at the Memorandum Council in October 2013. http://www.mk.gov.lv/content/2013gada-30oktobra-sedes-darba-kartiba.
During the second action plan’s first year of implementation, the Cabinet of Ministers elaborated and approved a legal basis for developing the portal on 17 November 2015. Decree No. 653http://www.varam.gov.lv/lat/likumdosana/normativo_aktu_projekti/2014__2020_gada_eiropas_savienibas_fondi/?doc=20890. includes the portal as one of the funding priorities of the investment program, financing for which will begin in April 2017. According to the government, the portal is expected to be ready for use by late 2019 or the beginning of 2020. The proposed timeframe of the commitment is not expected to be met, hence, it is delayed.
The State Chancellery conducted an initial phase of procurement, gathered technical ideas for developing the portal, and shortlisted bidders for the next stages. Two professional Latvian IT associations applied for the bid. The State Chancellery will hold additional discussions on user needs during later stages of the project’s development. The company that wins the bid will be required to respond to the needs of civil society organisations. Presently, the portal will offer three open data sets — draft legal acts with annotations, the classification of legal acts, and the classification of policy areas.
Early Results (if any)
The portal is not yet operational. Therefore, there are no early results in terms of greater access to information or civic participation. The usability and functionality of the portal will be assessed once it is in public use.
Moving forward, implementation of the commitment will require a high level of collaboration between ministries, the State Chancellery, and Parliament, as well as significant financial investments. The IRM researcher suggests including this commitment in the third action plan when practical IT solutions will be modeled and citizen monitoring will be most needed. NGOs interviewed Interviews with Iveta Kažoka, Policy Centre “Providus,” 22 August 2016; Kristīne Zonberga, Civic Alliance Latvia, 23 August 2016; and Andris Gobiņš, 22 August 2016. expressed an interest in including the elaboration of national positions on EU issues on the portal, as well as helping to define functionalities and test solutions during later stages of the portal’s development. The government could also consider including drafts under review by Parliament on the portal during later stages.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 2. Single Portal for Draft Laws
Single portal for the drafting and harmonisation of draft legislative acts and public participation in producing the draft legislative acts
The decision-making process is complicated, and often hardly transparent and not easily accessible for the public. This places limitations on public engagement. Fragmented and heterogeneous process of drafting, harmonisation, approval and control of draft legislative acts, large amount of unautomated actions.
This project is aimed at facilitating and improving the public participation in the public administration processes by strengthening and expanding the possibilities for the use of e-participation tools.
To this end, there are plans to develop by 2019 a joint portal for drafting of draft legislative acts and policy planning documents and consultation process (hereinafter — TAP). The portal is expected to enhance the transparency of the processes of document drafting and decision-making, as well as to make it easier for the general public to quickly obtain timely and transparent information on the legislation and development planning documents being drafted, and engage and participate in the drafting. The decision-making process will be visible and accessible as a whole, from the idea to the moment of making the final decision.
The citizens will have the opportunity to submit proposals on the regulatory framework or administrative practise to be elaborated through the e-service 'Public Discussion of Draft Legislative Acts'.
Launched in 2011 the portal ManaBalss.lv is an important platform for citizen engagement and citizen initiatives. It is aimed at encouraging the public participation in better law-making using this portal as an e-participation tool. Every citizen of Latvia at the age of 16 can initiate and sign initiatives in the portal ManaBalss.lv, incl. the ones that focus on improving the regulatory framework. Within the framework of ManaBalss.lv, every initiative signed by at least 10 000 citizens and that complies the legal criteria of the Saeima is submitted to the Saeima. The Saeima is the parliament of Latvia. For more information, see http://www.saeima.lv/.
Responsible Institution: State Chancellery
Supporting Institutions: Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, State Regional Development Agency, Portal “ManaBalss.lv”
Start date: 2013..................... ...................... End date: 2019
Editorial Note: The commitment text above is drawn from the updated version of the action plan, published in October 2016 and available at http://bit.ly/2EK34dH. It has been shortened for brevity. The original version of the action plan is available at http://bit.ly/2ptZ0sq. To see the changes between the two versions, please visit http://bit.ly/2FPvK4r.
This commitment aims to increase civic participation in public administration processes by expanding the opportunities to use e-participation tools. “Draft Regulation ‘Amendments to Cabinet Regulation No. 653 of 17 November 2015,’” Legislative Proposals, Draft Legislation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?dateFrom=2015-09-23&dateTo=2016-09-22&mk&text=653&org=0&area=0&type=0. In practise, the commitment is an integral part of a large, long-term investment project that aims to build new information technology (IT) systems for public administration use. The specific portal for legal and policy drafts mentioned in the commitment is meant to help citizens become proactive participants in the policy-planning process. Previously, planned amendments and timelines were not published on the same website, so citizens had to check several institutional websites regularly for updates.
This portal would also have several public-facing characteristics: (1) a user-friendly interface for civil society members interested in reviewing the development of particular drafts; (2) a platform for citizens to offer their opinions on draft policy documents and laws; and (3) three open datasets—policy documents, legal documents including drafts, and annotations—classified by organisational structure and in machine-readable format. With these elements, the commitment would make policy and legal drafts—along with consultations on these documents—accessible on a single online portal, thus simplifying the process for participation.
The time frame for the implementation of the project exceeds the two-year OGP action plan cycle. In the updated action plan, Cabinet of Ministers, Second National Action Plan of Latvia: 01.07.2015–30.06.2017, http://www.mk.gov.lv/sites/default/files/editor/ogp_2_plans_aktualizets_05.12.2016_eng_clean.pdf. the Latvian government reports that, according to the procedures for investment projects, financing for this project would begin in April 2017. The updated plan also specifies that the portal will be ready for use in 2019. In a comment to an earlier draft of this report, the government noted that the deadline for implementing the portal is now 7 January 2021. Comments submitted to the IRM by the Latvia Point of Contact for OGP, 14 March 2018.
In addition, the revised plan outlines several milestones for achieving the commitment: (1) the establishment of the platform, (2) the establishment of an e-service on the portal for the public to discuss draft legislative acts, and (3) the disclosure of substantive datasets through the portal for reuse and shared use. The text lists two discrete activities to be implemented during the 2015-2017 timeframe: the closing of the competition for the draft portal and the launch of the portal’s development. The revised commitment text also includes a new paragraph describing the ManaBalss.lv platform, a separate initiative that allows citizens to raise issues for discussion by the Saeima. For more details, see commitment 7 in this report.
During the first year of the action plan’s implementation, a legal basis for development of the portal was developed and later approved on 17 November 2015 by the Cabinet of Ministers. The Decree No. 653 “Added: Cabinet Regulation No. 17 of 17 November 2015. 653 ‘Growth and Employment’ Operational Program 2.2.1,” Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, http://www.varam.gov.lv/lat/likumdosana/normativo_aktu_projekti/2014__2020_gada_eiropas_savienibas_fondi/?doc=20890. included the project as one of the investment programme’s funding priorities.
The State Chancellery also conducted an initial phase of procurement, gathered ideas for technical solutions regarding the development of the portal, and short-listed bidders for the next stages. The company that wins the bid will be required to respond to the needs of civil society organisations. For more information, see the 2015–2016 IRM midterm report. Open Government Partnership, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Latvia Progress Report 2015–2016, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Latvia_Progress-Report_2015-2017_for-public-comment_0.pdf.
End of term: Limited
Although financing for the investment project was to start in April 2017, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the financing for the project after the implementation period of the action plan, on 29 August 2017. “Draft Order ‘On Implementation of the Information Society Development Guidelines in the Field of Public Administration Information Systems,’” Legislative Proposals, Draft Legislation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40435034&mode=mk&date=2017-08-29. In the meantime, according to information provided by the State Chancellery, it had prepared all of the documentation necessary for financing the project.
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Did Not Change
Civic Participation: Did Not Change
To enable citizens to follow policy developments and the drafting of laws and regulations, they need to be able search the various ministry web pages. For this reason, the commitment aims to simplify the consultation processes during policy development and enable better tracking of changes to draft policy documents, laws, and regulations. Since the new portal is not yet developed or operational, there is no change to the levels of access to information or to the quality of consultation practises.
The commitment is included in the third action plan and is condensed to specific activities that are achievable in the two-year action plan cycle, namely public awareness measures and trainings on the use of the new portal, the launch of the new system’s public consultation features, and the opening of data for reuse relating to policy development processes.