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Georgia

Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly Meetings (GE0064)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation, Subnational

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly meetings; Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly is actively working to improve transparency, accountability and public participation and to introduce modern technologies in the Assembly activities. In the framework of this commitment, Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly shall ensure direct transmission of assembly meetings and uploading of their complete video recordings on the Ozurgeti Municipality webpage. The following innovations are envisaged by this commitment: - During direct transmission citizens will be able to leave comments and questions, the number and the content of which will be publicly published by Assembly office, the results of the interaction will be reflected in the Assembly annual report. - Stakeholders’ groups will be created and with each member (employees of government, private or nongovernmental organizations and private persons) a form-memorandum will be drawn, providing members with relevant information. The system of SMS will also be introduced for these groups. The Assembly will also create a database so that information delivery will be systematic. - Population will be notified about the meetings and current services by email and SMS. Database of stakeholders will be created and those included in the database will receive information about the topics of their interest via special software. - Electronic interviews will be introduced; the results of which will be reflected by the Assembly in the normative acts. - In 28 territorial units of Ozurgeti Municipality, Centers of Civic Engagement will be set up and equipped with modern digital technologies (today similar centers function in 5 villages of the Municipality: Konchkati, Melekeduri, Likhauri, Tkhinvali and Bakhvi). Date ofImplementation: 2016-2017; Issues to be Addressed: Ozurgeti Municipality needs significant support to introduce modern management methods and improve innovation technologies. The challenge is a low level of public participation and motivation. Inactivity of citizens in decision-making process, shortage of information and lack of application of modern technologies by local population are also problematic. Main Objective: Introduction of electronic management in Ozurgeti Municipality; Build the capacity of the municipalitites ; Raising awareness on advantages of application of innovation technologies; Promotion of information and public participation mechanism in the decision-making process.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

23. Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly meetings

Commitment Text:

Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly is actively working to improve transparency, accountability and public participation and to introduce modern technologies in the Assembly activities.

In the framework of this commitment, Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly shall ensure direct transmission of assembly meetings and uploading of their complete video recordings on the Ozurgeti Municipality webpage.

The following innovations are envisaged by this commitment:

  • During direct transmission citizens will be able to leave comments and questions, the number and the content of which will be publicly published by Assembly office, the results of the interaction will be reflected in the Assembly annual report.

  •  Stakeholders’ groups will be created and with each member (employees of government, private or nongovernmental organizations and private persons) a form-memorandum will be drawn, providing members with relevant information. The system of SMS will also be introduced for these groups. The Assembly will also create a database so that information delivery will be systematic.

  • Population will be notified about the meetings and current services by email and SMS. Database of stakeholders will be created and those included in the database will receive information about the topics of their interest via special software.

  • Electronic interviews will be introduced; the results of which will be reflected by the Assembly in the normative acts.

  • In 28 territorial units of Ozurgeti Municipality, Centers of Civic Engagement will be set up and equipped with modern digital technologies (today similar centers function in 5 villages of the Municipality: Konchkati, Melekeduri, Likhauri, Tkhinvali and Bakhvi).

Responsible institution: Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly

Supporting institution(s): None

Start date: September 2016 End date: December 2017

Commitment Aim:

The Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly committed to introduce a number of services to increase transparency of the Assembly meetings and enhance civic engagement in local governance. These included live transmission of Assembly meetings, an archive of meeting videos, online questionnaires, centers for civic engagement, and an SMS service to inform the local population about municipality activities, upcoming Assembly meetings, and events.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The commitment was substantially completed by the midterm, as the municipality introduced most of the services proposed in National Action Plan (NAP) 2016−2018. Live transmission of Assembly meetings, the video archive, online questionnaires and the SMS service were all launched by August 2017. The key remaining activity was the establishment of 23 out of 28 Centers for Civic Engagement in different villages in the municipality. With five fully functioning centers, the Assembly had to make 23 new centers available to citizens within the remaining action plan cycle.

End of term: Substantial

“Manage from Home:” live transmission of the Municipality Assembly meetings: The Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly introduced “Manage from Home” on its website, which allows users to leave comments and ask questions of decision-makers. An Assembly representative stated that the exact number of users and interaction outcomes are to be published in the Assembly annual report 2017, which is still in the development process as of October 2018. [115] Since the launch of “Manage from Home” in 2016, there have been 123 published comments on the transmission page, including greetings, questions, and various remarks. [116] Some comments pointed out concrete infrastructure problems (such as damaged roads, insufficient streetlights, or expanding internet penetration in villages), while other comments criticized decision-makers about budget spending and general local government performance. Video recordings are also available in a video gallery on the website for those who could not watch it live. [117]

SMS notifications about meetings and relevant updates: As a second activity, the Assembly created a database of citizen stakeholders who signed a memorandum with the Assembly to receive thematic SMS updates, based on their selected interests regarding the Assembly meetings. [118] The service has up to 2,000 subscribers, or 14% of the overall population of Ozurgeti. [119]

Electronic interviews: This service is also functional on the municipality website, which allows citizens to submit three important issues of their villages. [120] According to an Assembly representative, the proposals are then transferred to relevant thematic groups at the Assembly, which decide whether the proposal will proceed to the Assembly meetings. [121]

Establishing 28 Centers for Civic Engagement: At the end of the action plan period, Centers for Civic Engagement are not operational in all 28 territorial units of Ozurgeti Municipality, as planned within NAP 2016−2018. There are fully functional centers in five villages (Konchkati, Melekeduri, Likhauri, Tkhinvali and Bakhvi). [122] Despite buildings in place for the remaining 23, the municipality could not equip them with needed digital technologies in the 2016−2018 period due to financial constraints.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Civic Participation: Marginal

By introducing the direct transmission of Assembly meetings, “Manage from Home”, the Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly took a major step toward increasing residents’ access to information and the opportunity to monitor local decision-making. As a result, citizens can follow agenda items of Assembly meetings, including discussions on budget spending, petitions, debates on new initiatives, or progress of socio-cultural and sports projects. Direct broadcasts enable following the live meetings remotely, and the archived video recordings permit their viewing at any time. Prior to “Manage from Home,” Assembly meeting reports were published on the municipal website. However, the process was unsystematic and irregular, did not seek a wide public audience, nor did it allow interaction. [123] In terms of expanding civic engagement, the new platform makes it easier for citizens to engage with current Assembly discussions without the need to travel, and delivers information in a more accessible and engaging way. Citizens can comment and ask relevant questions, and online questions are read at the end of Assembly meetings. [124] This enables the public to become part of the public discourse.

In addition to increasing transparency of Assembly meetings, by sending out SMS notifications and e-mails to subscribers, the government diversified its communication channels, which resulted in providing more people information on upcoming Assembly meetings. A representative of a local CSO, “Progress House,” assessed the service as useful for active citizens, who like to be informed of Assembly activities. [125] Previously, the information on upcoming meetings was posted on social media and its reach was limited. Yet, stakeholder interviews and the focus group results showed that there is a general reluctance of the population to subscribe, engage in civic activities, and receive the information, which was explained by a general distrust toward the local government. [126]

A representative stated the Assembly would organize outreach campaigns with partner CSOs, through which they had met already with the local populations from 24 out of 28 territorial units, introduce them to e-services and offer a form on-site for new SMS-update subscribers. Focus group participants expressed willingness to receive such information with their consent. They also mentioned e-mails were useful for receiving municipality updates. However, there is lower internet penetration in the rural settlements in Georgia and alternative outreach methods should also be considered. [127] A representative of another local group, Democratic Development Union of Georgia, stated that information desks at administrative buildings in each of the 28 territorial units in Ozurgeti must be updated regularly to provide detailed information for citizens without internet. [128] These information desks inform the public on local news and announcements, for example, upcoming Assembly meetings and presentations of local governors’ reports. However, as mentioned by this representative, they are not updated regularly, and information is often missing.

Despite the meetings, representatives of both the Assembly and local CSOs (i.e., Guria Youth Resource Center and Progress House) noted low public interest in using the provided services. [129] They stressed the importance of expanding outreach initiatives to better inform the public. Focus group participants stated that the population was reluctant to engage in local governance initiatives due to skepticism that the municipality would consider their complaints and suggestions. [130] This underscores the need for stronger communication to build trust and inform the public on available services.

Three out of 6 Ozurgeti focus group participants recalled receiving SMS texts from the municipality in the Fall of 2016 without signing up or being registered on any platform. As a result, they expressed concern regarding confidentiality and disclosure of their numbers to third parties for advertising reasons. However, according to a Progress House representative, this was a single campaign held in the 2016 pre-election period, where citizens received notifications regardless of their preference, while the current SMS service requires subscription. Some participants have heard about the SMS service, however, they thought that only media representatives and journalists received SMS notifications on upcoming Assembly meetings, while ordinary citizens did not. This indicates a lack of awareness on some of the services provided by the Assembly.

Beyond the commitment, the Assembly introduced an electronic petition mechanism in Spring 2018. The municipality has received 6 e-petitions since. It must be noted that the government lowered the number of voter signatures required to register petitions to the Assembly, which made the petition submission process easier for citizens. [131]

Carried Forward?

The commitment was not carried forward in the new Action Plan 2018−2019. According to an Assembly representative, they are working on resource mobilization to finalize the establishment of the remaining 23 centers, especially as the buildings are already in place; resources will be directed at purchasing digital technologies. As the number of Centers for Civic Engagement has remained the same since the midterm assessment, it is still important that the remaining 23 CCEs become fully functional.

Within the latest NAP 2018−2019, the Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly and the Ozurgeti City Hall has committed to develop evaluation standards to assess previously introduced public services and citizen satisfaction with these services. This can be seen as a logical step after launching the services in order to identify gaps and plan sufficient actions to address them, including communication and outreach.

As a continuation of the SMS service, a Progress House representative recommended sending follow-up text messages regarding outcomes of Assembly meetings, with links to the municipality website for more detailed information. To take the commitment forward, the IRM researcher also advised development of a standardized procedure, which will require the Assembly to provide feedback on citizens’ proposals submitted to the Assembly through the online survey portal. [132]

[115] Nana Tavdumadze (Chief of Staff, Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly), phone interview with IRM researcher, 25 Oct. 2018.

[116] Ozurgeti Municipality, “Manage from Home” live transmission of Assembly meetings is available at: http://ozurgeti.mun.gov.ge/ge/live.

[117] Ozurgeti Municipality, “Video Gallery,” http://oz.gov.ge/ge/pages/view/video.

[118] Tavdumadze, interview, 25 Oct. 2018.

[119] Id.; National Statistics Office of Georgia’s statistics on population by regions and self-governed units (2017) is available at: https://bit.ly/2SnTK5w.

[120] Ozurgeti Municipality, “Online Poll,” https://bit.ly/2qeXlpM.

[121] Tavdumadze, interview, 25 Oct. 2018.

[122] Government of Georgia, Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2017 (OGP, 3 Nov. 2016), http://bit.ly/2t2eFxU.

[123] Tavdumadze, interview, 25 Oct. 2018.

[124] Id.; Levan Khintibidze (Democratic Development Union of Georgia), interview, 28 Oct. 2018.

[125] Mindia Salukvadze (“Progress House”), phone interview with IRM researcher, 25 Oct. 2018.

[126] Id.

[127] Caucasus Research Resources Center, 'FRQINTR: Frequency of internet usage by SETTYPE: Settlement type (%),' https://bit.ly/2SCa3M9.

[128] Khintibidze, interview, 28 Oct. 2018.

[129] Tamar Glonti (Guria Youth Resource Center), phone interview with IRM researcher, 25 Oct. 2018.

[130] Focus Group with the local population, Ozurgeti, 22 Oct. 2018.

[131] Glonti, interview, 25 Oct. 2018; Ketevan Magalashvili, “House of Progress in Guria” (Europe Foundation), https://bit.ly/2DkfzQ2.

[132] Lasha Gogidze and Tamar Gzirishvili, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Georgia Progress Report 2016-2017 (OGP, 30 Apr. 2018), https://bit.ly/2NIr097.


Georgia's Commitments

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  2. Citizen Engagement Platform

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  3. Unified Authentication System

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  4. Economic Governance

    GE0069, 2018, E-Government

  5. Environment Portal

    GE0070, 2018, E-Government

  6. Strengthen Anti-Corruption Institutions

    GE0071, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  7. Monitor SDGs

    GE0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Citizen Engagement Legislation

    GE0073, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Publish Court Decisions

    GE0074, 2018, E-Government

  10. Increasing Transparency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

    GE0075, 2018, E-Government

  11. Citizen Participation in Public Finance

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  12. Transparent Public Funding System

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  13. Public Procurement Improvements

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  14. Housing Policy Planning

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  15. Openness and Accountability of State-Owned Enterprises

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  16. Transparency and Good Governance

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  17. Open Data Collection and Publication

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  18. Participation for Disabled Individuals

    GE0083, 2018, Infrastructure & Transport

  19. Participatory Budgeting

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  20. Your Idea for the Zugdidi Mayor

    GE0085, 2018, Capacity Building

  21. Electronic Services

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  22. I. Gov. Zugdidi

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  23. Service and Citizen Satisfaction Assessment

    GE0088, 2018, Capacity Building

  24. Promoting and Monitoring SDGs

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  25. Citizen Involvement in Budget

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  26. Technology for Transparency

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  27. Citizen Engagement Center

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  28. Raising Public Awareness About Parliamentary Democracy

    GE0093, 2018, E-Government

  29. Electronic Innovations for More Transparency and Efficiency of Public Procurement

    GE0056, 2016, Capacity Building

  30. Starred commitment Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

    GE0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Introduction of a Mobile App as an Alternative Channel to Connect to “112”

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  32. Development of Local Councils for Crime Prevention

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  33. Development of a Guidebook for Economic Agents

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  34. Development and Introduction of the Quality Control Program of Commercial Service

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  35. Presentation of Company Reports in an Electronic Form and Provision of Their Accessibility

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  36. Introduction of an Electronic Petition Portal and “Zugdidi-INFO” on the Webpage of Zugdidi Municipality Assembly

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  37. Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly Meetings

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  38. Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe

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  39. Adapting the Public Service Hall to the Needs of the People with Disabilities

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  40. Launch of the Unified Healthcare System Information Portal

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  41. Introduction of Electronic Licensing System in the Field of Natural Resources Application

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  42. Creation of Spatial (Geographic) Data Web-Portal for the Energy Sector

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  43. Creation of Innovation Ecosystem

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  44. Electronic Portal for Registering and Disposal of State Property – Customer’S Module

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  45. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

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  46. Development of a Monitoring and Assessment System of the Government Policy and Legislative Acts

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  47. Starred commitment Introduction of the Public Officials’ Asset Declarations Monitoring System

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  48. Establishing Unified Regulations to Publish Court Decisions

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  50. Improvement of the Database of the Convicted and Transfer of the Penitentiary Department Entirely Onto the Electronic Workflow Management

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  52. Starred commitment Increasing Citizen Participation in Supervision of Public Finances (Public Audit)

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  54. JUSTdrive

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  71. Digital Human Resource Management System

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  72. Digital Preservation System: E-Archive

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  73. Openness and Accessibility of National Archives

    GE0033, 2014, E-Government

  74. Electronic Catalogues of Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) Archives

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  76. Alternative Channels to "112"

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