Public Administration Website Harmonization and Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance (RS0009)
Action Plan: Serbia First Action Plan 2014-2015
Action Plan Cycle: 2014
Lead Institution: Ministry in charge of e-government, Ministry in charge of public administration
Support Institution(s): Civil Society Organizations
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Anti Corruption and Integrity, E-Government, Public Participation, Right to Information
In the field of transparency, the Republic of Serbia has done a lot in recent years, and its competent state administration authorities continuously monitor the situation and make efforts to implement the principle of transparency in all aspects of public administration. Currently, this area is regulated by the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance. Application of the Law led to the conclusion that it is neccessary to improve certain parts of the Law, in order to overcome the obstacles to application and ensure greater transparency in the work of public authorities and better realization and protection of citizens' rights through better access to updated information on websites of public authorities and ensuring forced execution of the final, enforcable, and binding decisions of of the Commissioner. In this regard, the Government has adopted the improved Guidelines for website design of the state administration authorities and local self-governments.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 9. Public administration website harmonization and amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance
1. Harmonization of public administration authorities', and local self-government units' websites, according to the Guidance for website design:
a. Expand the scope of assessment of harmonization according to Guidance to local self-government units
b. Annual report on website harmonization that should be adopted by the Government
2. Improve the provisions of the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance so to determine the obligation of public authorities to develop and maintain a website with all the information about the work of the Authority in accordance with applicable regulations, to establish the obligation of public authorities to submit draft legislation to the Commissioner for opinion, and to authorize the Commissioner to file misdemeanor charges for violation of the right of access to information.
a. Preparation of Draft Law on amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance;
b. Determination and publishing of Public Hearing Program;
c. Conducting public debate;
d. Submitting Draft Law to the Government for consideration and formulation of the Bill
Responsible Institution(s): Ministry of E-Government; Ministry of Public Administration
Supporting Institution(s): CSOs
Start Date: Quarter IV 2014 End Date: Quarter IV 2015
The level of information provided on LSU websites varies to a great extent. This commitment aims to increase the level of transparency of public authorities as well as to enhance and to enforce access to information on the authorities’ websites. Additionally, the commitment intends to tackle compliance issues. In the context of the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, this is an issue that impedes the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection’s efficacy and success in enforcing the right to free access to information.
The harmonization of public administration authorities' and LSUs' websites was substantially completed. The scope of assessments was expanded and the annual report on website harmonization was adopted, although outside the scope of the midterm report. However, the improvements set out in the draft amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance were not started, despite the fact that three of the four activities should have been completed before the midterm period, according to the action plan timeline. For more information, see the 2014-2015 Serbian midterm IRM report.
End of term: Substantial
The expansion of the scope of assessment of harmonization of websites, according to the Guidelines for the Development of Websites for Public Administration Bodies and Local Self-Government Units (“Guidance”), was completed in the first year of implementation. The annual report was adopted in July 2015.[Note 40: The adopting document was previously available here: http://www.digitalnaagenda.gov.rs/media/docs/Zakljucak_Vlade_Izvestaj_o_ocenjivanju_za_2014.pdf ] Therefore, expanding the scope of harmonization was completed within the timeline in the action plan. At the same time, limited progress was made on the draft amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information. Although a working group for drafting the amendments was formed on 31 March 2015, no other activities in the commitment were completed. Overall, the level of completion of this commitment remains substantial, but not completed.
Did it open government?
Access to information: Marginal
Civic participation: Did not change
On one hand, the completion of the process of harmonization would have had a moderate effect on increasing the level of transparency of public authorities’ work. On the other hand, the amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information could have had a transformative effect on raising the level of transparency. Nonetheless, both civil society and expert opinions received through interviews and consultations with the IRM researchers revealed that progress has been made in terms of the amount and quality of information. For example, information on current activities implemented by an institution was available on government websites, as well as up-to-date publishing. Only a minority of institutions followed the Guidance to a substantial degree vis-à-vis their websites. The government's assessments are comparable to the statements of civil society and experts. For example, a recent government report outlines the areas in which local self-government websites need to be improved.[Note 41: Ljiljana Mihajlović and Ivan Branisavljević, “Podrška Unapređenju EUsluga na Lokalnom Nivou u Republici Srbiji,” Republic of Serbia, April 2016, http://bit.ly/2g7rnor ]
The overall opinion from interviews and consultations is that accessibility and ease of use need to be improved. This is because of the extensive amount of information that government institutions have to publish. Nevertheless, as an ICT expert who previously worked for the government noted, civil servants do not have enough skills and knowledge to organize it in a user-friendly manner.[Note 42: Ivan Branisavljević, consultation with the IRM researchers, October 2016, Belgrade.] Because none of the activities within the process of drafting the amendments to the law were implemented, the harmonization has had only a marginal effect on access to information.
Civic participation was not affected by the commitment progress made up to June 2016. More precisely, given that the public debate is late, the commitment might affect public participation, depending on how and whether the inputs of the public are taken into account.
Serbia’s 2016-2018 action plan contains a commitment for amending the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance (Commitment 7), as well as a commitment on improving the guidelines and criteria for the evaluation of government websites (Commitment 9).