Develop a Model of Job Description or Part of Job Description of an Officer Responsible for Cooperation with Civil Society in Local Administration (RS0014)
Action Plan: Serbia Second National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Department of Local Self-Government (MPALSG), SCTM
Support Institution(s): Office for Cooperation with the Civil Society, LSGU; Civic Initiatives
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Public Participation
THEME: Improve the consulting process with the civil sector at the local level when adopting public policy documents; Name and number of the commitment: COMMITMENT 1: Develop a model of job description or part of job description of an officer responsible for cooperation with civil society in local administration; Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment: As part of development of the Strategy for an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in the Republic of Serbia for the Period 2016-2020, a survey of cooperation between LSGUs and CSOs in the process of enactment of regulations was conducted in 122 municipalities in 2015. The results of this survey showed that, of the total number of enactments adopted in 2014 (11,000 enactments, including budgets, strategic development plans, decisions, zoning plans, statutes etc.), only 3% had been subject to public hearings. Furthermore, those municipalities that did hold such public hearings, tended to involve CSOs in those hearings usually in the drafting stage, rather than in the follow-up on implementation and application. According to the available figures, the existence of a CSO liaison unit has positive effects both in terms of the number of public hearings held and in terms of involvement of CSOs in those public hearings. The average number of received comments, comments taken into consideration and accepted comments was higher in those municipalities that had designated a CSO liaison officer/body; those municipalities were also more likely to directly inform CSOs of public hearings they had held compared with the LSGUs which lack such officer/body.
The results of this survey show there is a clear need for a post if this type in the job classification documents of LSGUs, i.e. a post whose duties would, among other things, include liaison with CSOs, based on a previously developed job description model for such post. Main objective: To increase the number of LSGUs with a civil society liaison post in their job classification rules. Inclusion of such post in the job classification rules and setting of relevant job descriptions would improve cooperation between public administration bodies and the civil society and improve and develop mechanisms of cooperation between public administration and CSOs. Brief description of commitment (140-character limit): Prepare and submit a model job description or part of a job description for a post in charge of civil society liaison for all LSGUs in the Republic of Serbia. The model job description should include a description of duties and a designation of job complexity and responsibility, with recommended civil service title, required level and type of education, qualifications and skills. OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: Improving public services, strengthening public integrity; Relevance: The Public Administration Reform Strategy in the Republic of Serbia (Official Gazette of RS Nos. 9/14 and 42/14) highlights a need to improve the principles, standards and measures of cooperation between national and other authorities and organisations with CSOs in the making of decisions which pertain to issues of common interest and stands on matters of common interest. The core principles underlying the involvement of CSOs in the drafting, passing and follow-up of regulations are set out in the Guidelines on Inclusion of Civil Society Organisations in the Process of Passing Regulations (Official Gazette of RS No. 90/14) are in line with the core OGP principles: openness and accountability of public administration and active engagement with citizens in all stages of the legislative process. The Guidelines contain recommendations for compliance with these principles by LSGUs and advise public administration bodies to appoint civil society liaison officers with the knowledge and skills required for these duties. In this context, this commitment, in particular adoption of the proposed model job by LSGUs, will contribute to improved cooperation and greater engagement with citizens in the formulation and implementation of public policies. Defining of a job description for civil society liaison officers will contribute to implementation of the core OGP principles by those LSGUs that opt for this model. Ambition: An open and democratic society is based on constant dialogue between citizens, various social groups and sectors. While public administration bodies and a wide range of civil society organisations often have different roles, their common goal – improving the quality of life for citizens – can be achieved only on the basis of trust and mutual respect. In this context, it is necessary to develop methods and mechanisms of cooperation at all levels of their engagement, to the extent necessary for achieving their common goal. Development of the said model job description for civil sector liaison officers at LSGU level and its acceptance by or adaptation to the needs of each local -self-government and subsequent inclusion of this position in the staff of local self-governments should contribute to more active cooperation between LSGUs and civil society organisations, build mutual trust and foster greater openness and accountability of public administration bodies.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
For Commitment details, please see Serbia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1).
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 1 aimed to standardize job requirements across local governments and create a new CSO liaison position that would work proactively to foster and nurture cooperation with civil society at the local level. Activities included developing a model job description, distributing the job description across the local government units, and monitoring uptake.
Following the first year of the plan, this commitment's implementation was substantial. The MPALSG and Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM) developed the model job description together with the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society (OCCS) and Civic Initiatives. The key responsibilities of the CSO liaison were to improve cooperation with CSOs, help organize debates and consultations, ensure participatory local budgeting, collect best practices, and report on results. The envisaged rank of the model officer was, however, at the lower to medium level of seniority. This limited their decision-making capacity in the formal hierarchy. At the time when the midterm report was being written, monitoring the model's application was the last remaining activity and the SCTM was finalizing its analysis on the increase in the number of bodies with a liaison position foreseen in the organizational structure.
Implementation is complete. The SCTM has tracked the number of local governments (town and municipal administrations) that embedded the function into their legal acts on internal organization and job classification. XX[Note1: Marko Tomasevic, Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, Interview with IRM Researcher, 17 September 2018.]XX The SCTM finalized the analysis in December 2017, finding that only half of the of towns, and 12 percent of municipalities, envisage jobs related to cooperation with CSOs within their organizational structures. XX[Note2: SCTM, 'Analiza primene model a pravilnika o sistematizaciji radnih mesta u opstinskoj i gradskoj upravi i pravobranilastvu, strucnim sluzbama i posebnim organizacijama', Belgrade, December 2017, p. 34 and 52.]XX The analysis was done on a sample of 51 municipalities (out of 119) and 18 towns (out of 26).
Did It Open Government?
Civic Participation: Did Not Change
Prior to implementation of this commitment, civic participation on the local level was limited to few public debates and ad hoc, poorly managed mechanisms for cooperation with civil society. Despite completion of this commitment, the level of civic participation (i.e., opportunities to impact decision-making) has remained unchanged.
The CSO liaison was intended to perform several tasks. The liaison would be tasked with organizing public debates, CSO consultations, and meetings between local authorities and CSOs. They would also be tasked to ensure civic participation in local budgeting, consider financing of CSOs' projects, establish a database of local CSOs, and identify good practices and obstacles to cooperation. Finally, they would produce reports on achievements and foster networking within the local civil society.
The model was proposed as a voluntary measure for local authorities, considering that their constitutionally and legally given autonomy to adopt legislation governing their work. Therefore, mechanisms to enforce compliance were not possible, which its challenge implementation from the outset.
There is still no analysis of the actual number of employees working as CSO liaison officers. SCTM argues that lack of financial and human resources, including existing staff lacking competency and being overburdened with work, were the key reasons why a large number of towns and municipalities decided not to create the position. XX[Note3: SCTM, 'Analiza primene model a pravilnika o sistematizaciji radnih mesta u opstinskoj i gradskoj upravi i pravobranilastvu, strucnim sluzbama i posebnim organizacijama', Belgrade, December 2017, p.23.]XX The SCTM analysis points out that positions for equally significant portfolios, such as managing public investments, issuing energy permits, spatial planning, were also not institutionalized for similar reasons.
There is no publicly available evidence that indicates that the small percentage of those local governments that designated a CSO liaison has changed government civic engagement practices. In those administrations that have implemented such model, liaisons lack sufficient autonomy and decision-making powers to tangibly shift practices. The low-to-medium rank of the liaison, who is placed in the very formalistic departments for general administrative affairs, has hindered their potential influence. A more senior civil servant may be able to influence the decisions of the local administration's leadership, to reach the head of the administration personally and internally advocate for a more inclusive approach to local decision-making. On the other hand, entrusting this position to junior administrators demonstrates low priority given to the work with CSOs. During the midterm assessment, an MPALSG representative confirmed that this position would not have enough authority and autonomy to design and implement strong cooperation mechanisms. XX[Note4: Sasa Mogic, Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, interview with IRM researcher, 5 September 2017.]XX
Municipalities face resource constraints in creating and funding positions within the administration. However, SCTM expects the number of CSO liaison officer positions to increase, owing indirectly to the new Law on Local Self-Governments. XX[Note5: Marko Tomasevic, Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, Interview with IRM Researcher, 17 September 2018]XX The law aims to stimulate citizen activism and provide space for participation in local decision making, XX[Note6: For example, Art. 68 of the Law on Local Self-Government (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia 129/2007-41, 83/2014-22 (Ð´Ñ€. Ð·Ð°ÐºÐ¾Ð½), 101/2016-9 (Ð´Ñ€. Ð·Ð°ÐºÐ¾Ð½), 47/2018-3) introduces the obligation to the local governments to announce the start of drafting of each act, and provides the citizens with the possibility to gather 100 signatures for submitting a request for a public debate.]XX which means that more public servants will be needed to coordinate the processes.
Considering the voluntary nature of this commitment, the inadequate positioning of the liaison in the formal hierarchy, and a general lack of capacity at the local level, the IRM researchers assess that this commitment is not an optimal solution to effect changes in government openness and current practice.
At the time of writing of this report, the Government is still drafting the next Action Plan. There have been no indications to the IRM researcher that this commitment will be carried forward. MPALSG may continue to help local authorities understand the benefits of maintaining sustainable relationships with local civil society. Additional analysis should be done to determine the actual number of employees that correspond to the prescribed model, as a baseline for further monitoring. The MPALSG, together with non-state actors, could start monitoring appointments of new liaisons, what authority they are given, and what resources are made available to them. Finally, it would be useful to monitor and assess the needs of those units that have established a dedicated liaison to identify areas for improvement of civic participation on the local level.
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