Creation of NGO Database. (LT0022)
Action Plan: Lithuania National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice
Support Institution(s): State Enterprise Centre of Registers (hereafter referred to as “Centre of Registers”), Ministry of Social Security and Labour; NGO Council, National NGO Coalition
Policy AreasCivic Space, E-Government, Fiscal Openness, Freedom of Association, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information, Records Management, Tax
Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment The NGO database it at the disposal of the main body – the Centre of Registers since 2004 but the organizations that comply with the concept of NGO defined in Law on Development of Non-governmental Organisations are unidentified in this data base. The State Tax Inspectorate under the Ministry of Finance also has a certain database (containing data on non-profit legal entities having the status of beneficiary) but NGOs are not divided by the nature of independence and the definition of NGO provided for in the Law. Therefore, a single information system for data collection on NGOs is needed which would not only distinguish the actual NGOs but would also allow for reducing the administrative burden and expenditure related to change in management bodies or reporting. The main problem is that up to date the number of registered and actually functioning NGOs is unclear, i. e. there is no concrete database on NGOs and their activities. According to the data of the Centre of Registers currently there are over 20 000 NGOs registered in Lithuania (associations, charity and support funds, public enterprises). This number is inaccurate due to 2 reasons: 1) it is unknown which organizations are indeed operational, as they might have been registered many years ago but do not perform actual activities; 2) it is not clear whether organizations established on the basis of these legal forms can be treated as NGOs. The indicated number of the NGOs registered in Lithuania does not show neither the actual scale of operation nor compliance with the NGO definition provided for in the Law. Under such uncertainty for the majority of potential supporters and even NGOs themselves it is unknown how many and what type of these organizations are actually operational in Lithuania. Main objective The objective of a single NGO data base (including data on potential applicants seeking state funding and reporting on the funds paid) is to create an exclusive data system that would provide standardised information on the nongovernmental sector of Lithuania and its involvement in the implementation of the programmes financed by public state / municipal institutions through an open tender. This database would enable the creation of an instrument of collection and dissemination of consolidated information for the department of Statistics of Lithuania, representatives of the non-governmental sector and public institutions, academic community and the society as a whole. Brief description of commitment The objective of the creation of the database is to create a basis for the implementation of more effective practical instruments for the cooperation between the NGO and the public sector, and with the use of specific examples to demonstrate the possibilities of ensuring quality and transparent process of implementation of national programs and reporting on achieved results. Such a database would save time and financial resources both in the public institutions responsible for the preparation and administration of programs and NGOs that each time when participating in tenders of different institutions face the same requirements to prove their eligibility to apply. Data on an organization (statute, list of board members, contacts of the sole holder, etc.) would be kept in the database with a possibility to update the contact details or management information by connecting via electronic means (e-bank, esignature, etc.).
IRM Midterm Status Summary
The objective of a single NGO data base (including data on potential applicants seeking state funding and reporting on the funds paid) is to create an exclusive data system that would provide standardised information on the nongovernmental sector of Lithuania and its involvement in the implementation of the programmes financed by public state / municipal institutions through an open tender. This database would enable the creation of an instrument of collection and dissemination of consolidated information for the department of Statistics of Lithuania, representatives of the non-governmental sector and public institutions, academic community and the society as a whole.
Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice
Supporting institutions: State Enterprise Centre of Registers, Ministry of Social Security and Labour, NGO Council, National NGO Coalition
Start date: 30 September 2016
End date: 31 December 2017
Context and Objectives
Data on NGOs in Lithuania is currently stored at the State Enterprise Centre of Registers where legal entities provide information about their structure, contacts, activities, and financial performance.[Note: State Enterprise Centre of Registers, http://www.registrucentras.lt/. ] This kind of accountability is required by law, but data is not publicly available unless purchased. The only portal to provide updated information on NGOs is a voluntarily database, NGO Atlas, where all NGOs may register and publish information on their activities, their donors, and how to get involved.[Note: A voluntary NGO database 'NGO Atlas,' http://www.nvoatlasas.lt. ] However, the platform is run by an NGO, Transparency International Lithuania, and it is not officially used at the government level. Besides this platform, there is no central authorized portal which contains information on NGO activities, structure, and funding.
This commitment seeks to establish a single public NGO database, which would include a pool of all NGOs and would help distinguish actual NGOs from other organizations (e.g. social businesses). It would also provide at least part of the information free of charge. According to the action plan, this database would contain information about NGO activities, field of expertise, structure, contacts of the employees, and their annual budgets. Marija Saraite, a member of the NGO Council, said that one of the main issues is specifying what exactly an NGO is, because the current Law on NGOs does not explicitly define what constitutes an NGO.[Note: Marija Saraite, NGO Council, interview by IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.]
This commitment provides clear delineation between information that would be public (i.e. contact details, short description of activities, and available human resources) and limited to the public (i.e. financial data, registration certificates, and statutes). Therefore, the specificity is marked as high. However, in practice it seems to be an open question because the NGO Council is still considering the level of publicity for each data set. If created, the NGO database could have a moderate potential impact on access to information. For the first time in Lithuania, data on NGOs from the State Enterprise Centre of Registers would be open to the public. Public sector institutions calling for project proposals would see financial and narrative records, statutes, registration certificates, and other supporting documents that NGOs must submit to receive funding for their project proposals. This would make the NGO sector more transparent and reduce administrative burdens for NGO activities. However, the commitment would likely not have a transformative impact, because it offers to make financial information and strategic documents like statutes or registration certificates available only to public sector institutions, not to the public.
Implementation of this commitment is not on schedule. The deadline to establish the NGO register is 31 December 2017, but at the time of writing this report (September 2017), the design of the NGO register has not been confirmed. The Office of the Government marked the implementation progress as 'half way' in its self-assessment report, but agreed that it should be changed to 'started.'[Note: Self-assessment report of OGP Action plan, Vilnius, 11 September 2017, http://epilietis.lrv.lt/uploads/epilietis/documents/files/OGP%20ataskaita_LT_galutine.pdf. ] Gitana Jurjoniene from the Office of the Government noted they had doubts over the progress and raised those concerns in their email to the OGP working group.[Note: Gitana Jurjoniene, the Office of the Government, interview by IRM researcher, 14 September 2017. ]
The NGO Council is working to propose the layout of the register but faces opposition from the Ministry of Justice. According to Marija Saraite, there is a Ministry of Justice representative who is part of the NGO Council, but they oppose the idea of creating an NGO database.[Note: Marija Saraite, NGO Council, interview by IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.] Jolita Slikiene of the Ministry of Justice noted that because of the lack of consensus on what the database should look like and the lack of a clear vision for the database, the commitment was beyond the responsibilities of Ministry of Justice. Slikiene said that it should be coordinated by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour instead.[Note: Jolita Slikiene, Ministry of Justice, interview by IRM researcher, 22 September 2017.] On 9 July 2017, the Ministry of Justice sent the Office of the Government a letter advising that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour should be responsible for this commitment instead of them.[Note: Ieva Cesnulaityte, the Office of the Government, interview by IRM researcher, 14 September 2017.] Martinas Zaltauskas, the CEO of the Non-Governmental Organisations Information and Support Centre and a member of NGO Council, specified that the correct level of implementation is only at the 'talking' stage, and neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Center of Registers support the idea.[Note: Martinas Zaltauskas, Non-Governmental Organisations Information and Support Centre, stakeholders' meeting, 1 August 2017.]
In September 2017, Create Lithuania, a program for young professionals with international experience who consult public sector institutions on national issues, began a new initiative to implement the commitment.[Note: Program Create Lithuania, 'About Us,' http://kurklt.lt/en/apie-mus/. ] According to Aurelija Olendraite from Create Lithuania, the group is in the process of gathering examples of NGO databases from other countries to draft a concept for Lithuania.[Note: Aurelija Olendraite, 'Create Lithuania' programme', interview by IRM researcher, 29 September 2017.] Despite this initiative, concerns over the ownership of the commitment remain.
The IRM researcher recommends amending the Law on NGOs to clarify the criteria that all currently listed NGOs fulfill the requirements to be considered NGOs. This would help answer the question of which legal entities would qualify to be included in the NGO database.
Also, the commitment clearly shows that cooperation and clear communication between public sector institutions is key to achieve concrete results. The current situation, with the responsible institution not willing to lead the implementation, creates obstacles for further implementation. The confusion over the responsibility for this commitment demonstrates a clear lack of communication between institutions during its development. Because of this confusion, the IRM researcher recommends to explicitly delegate the responsibility for this commitment to the Ministry of Social Security and Labour and to continue its implementation.