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Serbia

Increasing transparency and participation in parliament (RS0042)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Serbia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Civic Space, E-Government, Legislature, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Serbia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Increasing transparency and participation at sessions of parliamentary comittees of the National Assembly outside of its headquarters
Q4 2018 - Q1 2020
(October 2018 - February 2020)

Lead implementing agency: National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia

Description

Public opinion surveys and focus group results indicate there is a
need to improve knowledge of the public participation mechanisms
which exist under the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly
of the Republic of Serbia. An improvement in this area would help
build trust in the parliament. The mechanism of sessions outside the
headquarters of the National Assembly should ensure greater
participation of the civil sector (citizens and civil society), to improve
as much as possible access to information on the work of
representative bodies. So far, citizens and civil society representatives
have not sufficiently participated actively in the discussions during
the sessions of parliamentary committees outside the headquarters,
nor have they made sufficient use of the opportunities to make
proposals and ask questions to members of parliamentary
committees, national deputies and representatives of the executive
who attend parliamentary committee sessions.

Main objective: To establish two-way communication with citizens via a separate
section of the National Assembly website dedicated to sessions
outside of the headquarters, in order to give citizens and
representatives of the civil society opportunities to raise issues they observed in their local communities. Specifically, the National
Assembly will develop a subpage through which citizens and civil
society representatives will be able to contact the relevant
parliamentary committee and submit their proposals or questions in
this way. Parliamentary committees of the National Assembly will
plan their sessions outside the headquarters on the basis of such
proposals.
Parliamentary committees of the National Assembly will enable
attendance and participation of representatives of citizens and civil
society organisations at committee sessions outside of the
headquarters when specific issues within the purview of the relevant
committee are discussed. Participation will be ensured through a
contact form on the subpage dedicated to sessions outside the
headquarters, which will create an opportunity for citizens and at
least one representative of the civil society to attend sessions outside
the headquarters.

How will this activity contribute to problemsolving?
In line with the principle of parliamentary transparency, the general
public would have access to parliamentary committees of the
National Committees, which would ensure two-way communication
with citizens. This would give citizens and civil society
representatives an opportunity to highlight specific issues, which
could potentially result in legislative amendments.
Attendance at parliamentary committee sessions would enable them
to participate in the discussion, make proposals and ask questions to
members of parliamentary committees, national deputies and
representatives of the executive who attend parliamentary committee
sessions.

The way in which this activity is relevant to further advancing OGP values?

This activity is relevant for civic participation, transparency and
public accountability, as values promoted and fostered by the Open
Government Partnership. Implementation of the activity will lead to
greater involvement of civil society organisations and citizens in
decision-making, allowing them to highlight specific issues through
two-way communication so that legislative provisions could be
amended as appropriate, as well as to greater visibility of issues at the
local level. Two-way communication promotes and contributes to
greater interest and involvement of civil society organisations and
citizens and awareness of the parliament’s work, which is conductive
to further development of mutual understanding and citizens’ trust of
the government.

Additional information: No additional budget funds are required to implement this commitment.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

15. Transparency and participation in parliamentary committees

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

Title: Increasing transparency and participation at sessions of parliamentary committees of the National Assembly outside of its headquarters

To establish two-way communication with citizens via a separate section of the National Assembly website dedicated to sessions outside of the headquarters, in order to give citizens and representatives of the civil society opportunities to raise issues they observed in their local communities. Specifically, the National Assembly will develop a subpage through which citizens and civil society representatives will be able to contact the relevant parliamentary committee and submit their proposals or questions in this way. Parliamentary committees of the National Assembly will plan their sessions outside the headquarters on the basis of such proposals.

Parliamentary committees of the National Assembly will enable attendance and participation of representatives of citizens and civil society organisations at committee sessions outside of the headquarters when specific issues within the purview of the relevant committee are discussed. Participation will be ensured through a contact form on the subpage dedicated to sessions outside the headquarters, which will create an opportunity for citizens and at least one representative of the civil society to attend sessions outside the headquarters.

Start Date: Q4 2018

End Date: Q1 2020

For full commitment text, please refer to the National Action Plan at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Serbia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf

Context and Objectives

The Serbian Parliament has a diversity of transparency mechanisms (e.g., live streaming, public hearings, citizen questions to the MPs), [174] but they are underused in practice. Voters lack the feeling of closeness or identification with the MPs and have limited means to hold them accountable between elections. [175] Few (20%) MPs have their local offices outside of the capital, [176] and only the Committee for Environmental Protection (out of 20 committees) has doors open for participation of citizens and CSOs in its sessions. [177] Public hearings are rare, [178] which is concerning given that the current Parliament adopted more than 70% of laws in urgent procedures between 2016 and 2018. [179] Stakeholders also point to a lack of space for parliamentary debate due to filibustering. [180]

With this civic participation commitment, Parliament intends to re-open itself to citizens and CSOs, offering them a better chance to participate in committee sessions organized in local communities, via a special section on its webpage for submitting questions or proposals to a specific committee. These inputs should serve for planning the committee sessions outside the parliamentary seat and enable participation of a selected group of invited contributors. The commitment aims for a minimum of five sessions attended by at least two civil society representatives.

If implemented as designed, the commitment will have a minor impact on civic participation with Parliament, and participation of local-level CSOs in the Committee sessions will help the MPs better grasp concrete local issues. However, the commitment does not go far enough to ensure a meaningful institutionalized approach to citizen engagement during drafting and deliberation of laws. As stated by the Parliament representatives, organizing sessions based on citizen inputs would not be obligatory but dependent on the will of the committee presidents. [181] Second, the goal of minimum five sessions attended by at least two CSO representatives lacks ambition. Third, the parliamentary rules of procedures that allow only the Environmental Protection Committee to be open for civic engagement limit the scope and goals of this commitment. The Centre for Research, Transparency and Accountability believes there are no reasons for this committee to be an isolated case and reported that a majority of interviewed MPs agree that it should apply to other committees, too. [182]

Two deliverables are unclear what It is also unclear whether the subpage will allow for a regular feedback by the parliament on the received inputs.

Next steps

The IRM researchers suggest the following measures during the implementation of this commitment:

The parliamentary staff could:

  1. Clarify and specify two currently vague milestones about “results mapping” and “organizational parameters.” [183]
  2. Increase the number of organizations targeted for the sessions and increase the number of sessions to at least 10. The Parliament should aim toward an equal balance between the committee members and the citizens/civil society. To overcome potential financial constraints, the Parliament could partner with local CSOs that can provide free space for the sessions.
  3. Publish past and future citizen inquiries and official responses on the Parliament page.
  4. Make the new page for submitting inputs to committee president more prominent on the website and promote it on social media.
  • To the members of Parliament:
    1. Amend the Rules of Procedures to enable citizen participation in all committee sessions, notwithstanding committees that deal with sensitive data such as security and defence.
    2. Diversify channels of communication with the citizens, such as opening more local offices of MPs for face-to-face approach, which would help those citizens who do not use the internet (e.g., elderly population). [184]
[174] The following tools ensure the public-facing aspect of the work of the Parliament: presence and observation of the parliamentary sessions and sessions of its working bodies, through group visits to the parliament, press releases and press conferences. Committees may organize public hearings for the purpose of gathering expert opinions on the proposal of the act that is in the parliamentary procedure. Additional options are live streaming of the sessions, “ask the president or MPs,” submission of initiatives, petitions, applications and suggestions. Finally, there is an application form for civil society to register in the parliament’s database of CSOs for potential cooperation.
[175] Representative of a CSO dealing with the electoral process in Serbia and institutional transparency, interviewed by IRM Researcher, 26 February 2019.
[176] Offices for communication between the MPs and citizens: http://www.parlament.gov.rs/gradjani/poslanicke-kancelarije.3682.html
[177] Article 74 of the Parliament Rules of Procedures limits participation in all other committees to scientists and experts, only upon invitation.
[178] According to interviewed experts, in the last two years, there have been two public hearings (one in 2017 and another in 2018), which is a decrease compared with 2016 (7 hearings) and 2015 (14 hearings). Representatives of a CSO monitoring the electoral process, interviewed by IRM researcher, 8 March 2019.
[179] Representatives of a CSO monitoring the electoral process, interviewed by IRM researcher, 8 March 2019.
[180] The ruling majority reduces time for debate through submitting hundreds of amendments without relevant content, on the first items of the agenda or on the first articles of the first agenda items.
[181] Representatives of the Parliament, interviewed by IRM researcher, 13 February 2019.
[182] CRTA, „Making Better Law: Improving work of committees of National Assembly of Republic of Serbia,” Belgrade, 2016, available at https://bit.ly/2HeqjRe
[183] It is unclear what two deliverables entail: “result mapping of all sessions held outside the National Assembly headquarters by cities and municipalities” and “development of organisational parameters when preparing and holding sessions of parliamentary committees of the National Assembly outside the headquarters.”
[184] Originally recommended by a representative of a CSO focused on parliament work and the elections.

Commitments

  1. Increasing transparency and participation in parliament

    RS0042, 2018, Civic Space

  2. Publishing Budget Law

    RS0028, 2018, E-Government

  3. e-calendar for financing civil society

    RS0029, 2018, E-Government

  4. publish data on environmental protection funds

    RS0030, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. opening data for public calls for media development

    RS0031, 2018, E-Government

  6. open data reports on CSOs

    RS0032, 2018, E-Government

  7. amending media registration bylaws

    RS0033, 2018, E-Government

  8. Assistance with and monitoring of adoption of LAP

    RS0034, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  9. Updating of electoral roll

    RS0035, 2018, E-Government

  10. ePAPER

    RS0036, 2018, E-Government

  11. e-notice board

    RS0037, 2018, E-Government

  12. Improving proactive transparency – Information Booklet

    RS0038, 2018, E-Government

  13. Access to Information Law

    RS0039, 2018, Capacity Building

  14. cooperation with CSOs on regulations

    RS0040, 2018, Capacity Building

  15. e-civic engagement

    RS0041, 2018, E-Government

  16. Develop a Model of Job Description or Part of Job Description of an Officer Responsible for Cooperation with Civil Society in Local Administration

    RS0014, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Organise Trainings for Public Administration Officers in Connection with the Application of the Guidelines on Inclusion of Civil Society Organisations in the Process of Passing Regulations

    RS0015, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Organise Trainings for CSO in Connection with Application of the Guidelines on Inclusion of Civil Society Organisations in the Process of Passing Regulations

    RS0016, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Improve the System for Collecting Initiatives from Citizens and Businesses

    RS0017, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Introducing Standards for Civic Participation in the Public Policy Management System

    RS0018, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Improving Proactive Transparency – Information Booklet

    RS0019, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance

    RS0020, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  23. Development of an Open Data Portal

    RS0021, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Draft a Bylaw Based on the Guidelines for Evaluation of Websites

    RS0022, 2016, Capacity Building

  25. Improve the Institute of Public Hearing in the Drafting of Laws

    RS0023, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  26. Development of a Uniform Methodology for Planning, Monitoring and Performance Evaluation of Programmes and Projects Implemented by Civil Society Organisations and Monitoring the Spending of Allocated Funds

    RS0024, 2016, Capacity Building

  27. Amend the Regulation on Funds to Support Programmes or Missing Amount of Funds for Programmes of Public Interest Implemented by Associations

    RS0025, 2016, Capacity Building

  28. Enactment of a Law on Electronic Documents, Electronic Identification and Trusted Services in Electronic Business

    RS0026, 2016, Capacity Building

  29. Establish a Single Public Register of Administrative Procedures and Other Conditions for Pursuing a Business Activity

    RS0027, 2016, Capacity Building

  30. Transparency in Monitoring Budget Expenditures

    RS0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  31. Law on Financing Political Activities

    RS0002, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  32. Transparent Public Procurement Procedures

    RS0003, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  33. Transparent Financing of Civil Society Organizations

    RS0004, 2014, Civic Space

  34. Extending and Clarifying Responsibilities of the Anti-Corruption Agency

    RS0005, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  35. Whistleblower Protection Trainings and Campaigns

    RS0006, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  36. Draft Law Regulating Inspections in Public Administration

    RS0007, 2014, Audits and Controls

  37. e-Governmental Portal Awareness and Mobile Application

    RS0008, 2014, E-Government

  38. Starred commitment Public Administration Website Harmonization and Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance

    RS0009, 2014, E-Government

  39. New Technologies to Improve Citizen Services

    RS0010, 2014, E-Government

  40. Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations in Public Policymaking

    RS0011, 2014, Civic Space

  41. Citizen Participation in Local Government Affairs

    RS0012, 2014, Public Participation

  42. Civil Society Participation in Monitoring the Public Administration (PAR) Strategy

    RS0013, 2014, Audits and Controls