Fiscal Transparency (HR0027)
Action Plan: Croatia Action Plan 2018-2020
Action Plan Cycle: 2018
Lead Institution: Ministry of Finance
Support Institution(s): Fina, Open Spending Project Team
Policy AreasAccess to Information, E-Government, Fiscal Openness, Open Data, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information
Measure 2. FISCAL TRANSPARENCY
Implementation of the measure is under way and will be conducted until 21 August 2020
Leader of the measure MINISTRY OF FINANCE
Description of the measure
Which public issue does the measure address? Budget transparency implies that citizens are able to gain budget
information which is full, essential, accurate, timely, and presented in
an understandable way. Budget transparency contributes to the better
management of budget funds and enables citizens to call the authorities
to account, thus increasing confidence in political processes. Apart from
the positive effects on good management, budget transparency also
results in considerable financial benefits for the state. Research has
shown that countries with transparent budgets have better access to
international financial markets and lower borrowing costs. Fiscal data
must be made more accessible to the public and published in open
format. In addition, since the publication of databases on payments
executed from the single State Budget account, it has been noted that
improvements need to be made in order to provide better search options
and download data in machine-readable form.
What does the measure include? The main goal of the measure is to increase fiscal transparency,
primarily by the timely publication and opening of fiscal data for reuse.
The measure includes several activities which will guarantee the
regular publication of accurate, relevant information on fiscal data and
the option to download them for reuse.
How does the measure contribute to resolving the public
The measure contributes to resolving the issue of the timely
publication of data in open format.
Why is this measure relevant to the values of the Open
The measure is relevant in terms of transparency, since it increases
fiscal transparency, thus enabling citizens to participate more easily in
budget processes (which should result in the more efficient provision
of public services). In addition, the measure is relevant in regard to the
issue of public accountability, because by increasing budget
transparency and the entire budget process further, opportunities will
arise to assess the accountability of civil servants and officials
regarding the conduct of public policies within their competences.
Additional information Resources for the implementation of the measure have been assured
in the State Budget, section 025 Ministry of Finance, activity A538000
Administration and Management.
The measure is in line accompanying the Anti-Corruption Strategy for
2015-2020, in which, among other things, the following measures are
envisaged: Effective management and control of public finances and
effective collection of revenues in the competences of budget
beneficiaries and units of local and regional self-government, and
Strengthening integrity, accountability and transparency in the work of
Ministry of Finance personnel.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:
"Measure 2. Fiscal Transparency" 
"The main goal of the measure is to increase fiscal transparency, primarily by the timely publication and opening of fiscal data for reuse. The measure includes several activities which will guarantee the regular publication of accurate, relevant information on fiscal data and the option to download them for reuse. (…) Resources for the implementation of the measure have been assured in the State Budget"
2.1. Improving the database on payments executed from the single State Budget account
- Improving the options for searching the database:
- By year, quarter, month
- By budget classification, from levels one to four
- By the name of the beneficiary, PIN, section/heading number
- By the name of the supplier of the legal person and OIB of the supplier of the legal person
- By the name and surname of the supplier of the legal person using another identifier instead of the PIN
- Downloading data from the database in machine-readable form suitable for reuse enabled
- Given the size of the database, it cannot be downloaded in full, but by query. The entire database is available on demand and there will be a note to this effect on the Ministry of Finance website
- CAPTCHA codes removed
2.2. Publishing in a timely manner in one place machine-readable balance sheets of all units of local and regional self-government
- The balance sheets of units of local and regional self-government published in a timely manner, in one place, and in machine-readable form which is easily searchable
2.3. Publishing a unified, machine-readable archive of the balance sheets of all units of local and regional self-government for the previous five years
- The balance sheets of all units of local and regional self-government for the previous five years published with the deadline, in one place, in a machine-readable, easily searchable form
2.4. Publishing the draft State Budget in a timely manner, with machine-readable tables
- By 15 November 2017, a machine-readable draft State Budget was published, with the Statement of Reasons for the State Budget 2018 and projections for 2019 and 2020, that is, for the coming years with the appropriate time periods, supplemented with the pertinent elements, so that it contains the following data or information on where the data can be found:
- The planned status of public debt for the previous year and public debt projection for the mid-term period;
- The planned structure of public debt for the budget year and the previous year (domestic and foreign debt, interest rates, settlements, etc.);
- Information on financial and non-financial state assets (list of assets and values)
- Information on the effect of various macroeconomic assumptions (such as the inflation rate, level of interest rates and actual GSP) on budget revenues, expenditures and public debt (sensitivity analysis).
2.5. Publishing statistical accounts by the Ministry of Finance with machine-readable tables in a timely manner
- Statistical accounts with machine-readable tables published in a timely manner
2.6. Publishing a biannual report on the execution of the State Budget (with machine-readable tables) in a timely manner
- Biannual reports on the execution of the State Budget published in a timely manner, with machine-readable tables, including a review of data on planned values for the current year
2.7. Publishing regularly information on the financial plans and execution of financial plans of public authority bodies at the level of the section of organisational classification on their internet pages in open format for reuse
- The Ministry of Finance has produced a memorandum on publishing information on the budget and its execution and sent it to state administration bodies and agencies
- State administration bodies and agencies regular publish on their websites information on the budget, including the fourth level of execution of the budget (annual and biannual) in machine-readable forms suitable for reuse
2.8. Publishing a unified, machine-readable database of financial reports by all budgetary and extra-budgetary beneficiaries
- Financial reports of all budgetary and extra-budgetary beneficiaries published within the deadline, in one place, in a machine-readable, searchable form
2.9. Presenting budget data with the options of visualisation, searching and downloading data in a machine-readable form
- On the website of the Ministry of Finance access enabled to an application for viewing budget data with search options. The data can be visualised with several types of graph and in tabular form. Searching is enabled by year and any budget classification. Data can be viewed graphically by classification and arranged in depth by hierarchy. It is possible to download data in a machine-readable form for the entire budget.
- Data shown via an application developed by the Open Spending Project Team international non-profit organisation Open Knowledge International (OKI) in cooperation with GIFT (Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency) and the BOOST initiative of the World Bank
- Data refreshed with every new budget document
Start date: Underway
End date: 21 August 2020
Context and Objectives
For years, fiscal data in Croatia has not been published in easily accessible and understandable formats. Most available data is highly technical and can only be interpreted by experts. Additionally, most of the data does not follow a uniform standard and often, when it includes inputs from public authorities other than the ministries, is not reported to the Ministry of Finance on time, though the Ministry has an obligation to publicly disclose this information.
The main feature of all activities within this commitment is to secure timely and accurate information on state, local, and regional budgets at various stages of the budgetary process (Milestones 2.2−2.7) in a machine-readable, searchable, open, and reusable form. The need for such measures was emphasized as one of the most important issues in the previous IRM report.  Other milestones relate to improving the available database on payments from the state budget account (2.1) and creating an application to enable the search and visualization of available data in graph form to help citizens navigate published documents (2.8). 
The commitment both repeats milestones from the previous OGP action plan,  with significant additions regarding the use of open formats (2.3−2.5) and introduces new milestones (2.2 and 2.6−2.8). It is also in line with the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2015-2020.  The Budget Act  already mandates most of the commitment activities, along with the calendar of their implementation. After a slight improvement Croatia demonstrated between 2010 and 2012, the 2015 OBI Survey  saw a sharp decline, indicating that the Ministry of Finance limited itself to traditional forms of financial transparency.
This commitment’s indicators are specific enough to be verifiable, and each milestone is relevant to the values of access to information and technology and innovation. Namely, the commitment reflects the Ministry of Finance’s intent to improve on identified problems, such as the lack of relevant data, data that cannot be reused, data that is overly complex and technically demanding for the average citizen, insufficient budget-related information for certain levels of government (e.g., local and regional budgets), and shortcomings of the publicly searchable database on payments from the single state budget account.  According to stakeholders, this is important for meeting the 5th Star for Open Data design.  The commitment has a transformative potential impact as it is the first time the methodology and technology described in Milestone 2.8 has been used by the Ministry of Finance (Open Spending application ), and the first time comprehensive data on local and regional self-governments’ spending  will be available in an open format (2.2).
Both public and civil sector stakeholders from the OGP Council were enthusiastic about this commitment, believing that its measures were highly important in providing a basis for transparency in other important areas. Non-governmental actors are also participants in implementing the measures, due to the "Open Data Budgeting" joint project.  This will help alleviate the workload for the Ministry of Finance.
The IRM researcher recommends the government consider the following activities in implementing this commitment:
- Strive to reach the 5th star-level of data design when publishing data for reuse;
- Increase administrative capacity, e.g., education of existing employees, recruitment of new staff, partnering with CSOs in projects and other activities, more mobile and flexible organization of work, etc.;
- Improve the user-friendliness of the website of the Ministry of Finance or consider exporting the published data into a separate repository, making it easier to navigate; and
- Provide a mechanism for ensuring that citizens can give feedback or even collaborate in disclosing more data and in making the existing data more useful.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
2. Fiscal Transparency
Aim of the commitment
This commitment aimed to ensure timely and accurate information on state, regional, and local budgets at various stages of the budgetary process in a machine-readable, searchable, open, and reusable form. The commitment would increase transparency and access to information by improving the existing database on payments from the state budget account, including more data in machine-readable format, providing better search options, and creating an application to search and visualize available data to help citizens navigate published documents. 
Did it open government?
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) stated that it fully implemented seven of nine activities,  including the two most impactful ones: publishing balance sheets of local and regional units, including a 5-year archive; and creating visuals of state budget data. Institute of Public Finance representatives  stated that despite minor shortcomings in implementation (e.g., delays in data publishing and not publishing all data in machine-readable formats),  the visualization of budget data in machine-readable format is available on the MoF’s website. 
The MoF published balance sheets of local and regional units from the past 17 years in machine-readable, and easily searchable formats (standard Excel documents of the financial report form). This exceeded the original plan that requested making data available for the past five years. 
The MoF also reports  that it significantly improved the database on payments from the single State Budget account,  and began creating a unified, machine-readable database of financial reports by all budgetary and extrabudgetary beneficiaries.  According to the self-assessment report, the MoF plans to publish the database of financial reports by all beneficiaries by 2021, and continuously publish all data envisaged by the action plan (see Milestone 2.8. regarding financial reports by all budgetary and extra-budgetary beneficiaries). 
However, Institute of Public Finance representatives stated that the MoF’s website transitioned to the gov.hr platform, completely changing its original configuration, which they now find more difficult to navigate. 
Four of the nine activities were a continuation from the previous action plan, so no particular change in practice was made in that regard. On the other hand, publicly available, open data on local and regional budgets spanning almost two decades, as well as a visual of the state budget, are novelties for Croatia, and signify a major step toward improved transparency in public finances and ensuring citizen and stakeholder access to information.