Introduction of civic control and accessibility mechanisms for municipal services (TBI0005)
Action Plan: Tbilisi, Georgia Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Municipal Services Development Agency NCLE
Support Institution(s): Legal Department, relevant departments of Tbilisi City Hall that are responsible for thematic functions of the commitment (Department of Healthcare and Social Services, Department of Education, Sport and Youth Affairs, District Administrations)
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Education, Health, Legislation & Regulation, Marginalized Communities, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Subnational
Issue to be Addressed: Along with local context described in the Description part, problem exists in two directions: 1) there is no civic control mechanism for Tbilisi City Hall services; 2) online services are supplied only by very few service providers. Web application exists only for architecture, partly property management and kindergarten registration services. These services are not harmonized. Primary Objective: To simplify process of providing Tbilisi City Hall services, raise awareness and accessibility, increase accountability, create of interactive participation mechanisms in two direction: 1) to create two types of civic participation mechanisms (civic monitors and service’s feedback system) 2) to transfer services of main providers into online platform.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
5. Introduction of civic control and accessibility mechanisms for municipal services.
To simplify the process of providing Tbilisi City Hall services, raise awareness and accessibility, and increase accountability, the commitment seeks to create interactive participation mechanisms in two directions: 1) to create two types of civic participation mechanisms (civic monitoring and service’s feedback system) 2) to transfer services of main providers into an online platform.
1. Civic participation mechanisms: The first part authorizes civic monitoring groups to undertake some type of control over services in healthcare, social services, education, sport and youth affairs (homeless shelter, homecare, education, sport and youth projects – programs supporting initiatives, also educational, youth and sports services provided by organizations under Tbilisi City Hall control) and free canteen. It will also include the establishment of registration monitoring and definition of the scope of their activities, as well as setting the conditions in which Tbilisi residents (and organizations) will be able to monitor the services. They will be required to register as a member of the monitoring group and they will be given special marks to ensure their rights and easy access to see and monitor the services and activities, request and get certain type of information. The findings of the group will be communicated to Tbilisi City Hall. The information will be periodically analyzed, summarized and general information related to response actions and/or countering arguments will be made publicly available.
2. Services on online platforms: This second part comprises an integrated web application, which will allow online access to all services provided by the Tbilisi City Hall system. At a first stage in 2017, healthcare, social services, education, sport and youth affairs (at least 5 general services in healthcare, social care, sport, youth affairs and education which will be broke down into subcategories and fully cover services by 2 relevant largest service provider departments of Tbilisi City Hall) services will be included in web application. This will be a significant step towards establishing a one stop shop principle. It will allow and improve public access to full information on specific services in Tbilisi City Hall system. The Application will let members of the public create their online account and, without having to come to the Municipality, receive their services and manage their own information. A mobile version will also be available. Its format will enable citizens to enter service related comments. The information will be periodically analyzed, summarized and general information related to response actions and/or countering arguments will be made publicly available. Legal procedures will be established to support the mechanism.
1. Consensus, development and integration of the civic monitoring registration’s e-tool format with unified electronic portal (by September 2017)
2. Description and documentation of work processes in Municipal Departments of Healthcare and Social Services, and Education, Sport and Youth affairs (by February 2017)
3. Define procedures for citizen’s application grading and processing. Develop internal work process panel – employees page (by May 2017)
4. Creation of unified service’s public platform. Introduction of citizens’ personal pages in Municipality (which will be integrated with other obligations functional) (by September 2017)
5. Testing and introduction of system and civic monitors electronic tools (by December 2017)
6. Training of Civic monitors coordinators, employees of Municipal Department of Healthcare and Social services as well as Municipal department of Education, Sport and Youth Affairs, in how to use the system (by November 2017)
7. Making one video clip covering portal and other OGP obligation and its dissemination through social media, mass media or municipalities local units (by December 2017)
8. Legal consultancy, development of system support legislative act(s), approval (by December 2017)
Editorial Note: The commitment text above is an excerpt from the Tbilisi 2017 action plan. The complete text provides detailed and technical information on how the milestones will be carried out, assigns responsibility to specific actors and provides concrete deadlines for its implementation.
Overall Objective & Relevance
Tbilisi City Hall has been changing their approach to service delivery in the past few years, improving public access to government services and fostering a better relationship between civil servants and citizens. For example: the “Local Governance with Rights Based Approach” program with the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy in 2015-2016, which aims to train civil servants and reform public structures. For more information:
‘New Conception of Citizens’ Service Center’, Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy, http://www.icld.se/en/article/new-conception-of-the-citizens-service-center For example, multiple websites were created for the provision of electronic services, such as a platform for issuing construction permits and another for disposing of municipal property. These electronic services were available prior to the creation of the 2015 website and are still accessible on the following websites, www.iauction.ge and www.tas.ge, respectively. However, in 2014, as reported by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, journalists, citizens and non-governmental organizations raised concerns about the limited access to information and government communication (especially related to financial documents and information on projects from subordinate agencies). “Transparency and Accountability of Tbilisi City Hall”, Open Society Georgia Foundation, http://www.osgf.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=15&info_id=4017 In 2015, City Hall created a new city portal, in partnership with the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), to increase access to information through a centralized platform and encourage civic participation (http://www.tbilisi.gov.ge). “A new Portal of Tbilisi City Hall”, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, https://idfi.ge/en/tbilisi-city-halls-new-portal-the-move-towards-transparent-and-open-government This platform provides information on existing government services and the possibility to participate in polls and assessments of public works.
However, during public consultations for the formulation of the action plan, citizens requested more civic control and accessibility to services provided by the government and third-party contractors. The issue was mainly raised due to the lack of a mechanism for citizens to actively monitor the government and service providers in the delivery of municipal services. For example, participants stated a need to monitor public spending and administration of canteens (public cafeterias) for the socially vulnerable. In Tbilisi, this has been a subject of public debate, considering that the number of beneficiaries from this program has risen from approximately 15,000 in 2015 to more than 30,000 in 2016 and the budget continues to increase accordingly. Factcheck: Sevdia Uregkhelidzie vs Rima Beradze, http://factcheck.ge/en/article/sevdia-ugrekhelidze-vs-rima-beradze/ This commitment proposes the creation of a civic mechanism to monitor and evaluate the performance of services provided by the city government. To do so, City Hall planned to create and authorize ‘civic monitoring groups’ to undertake some type of monitoring of current services provided by the government (in healthcare, social services, education, sport and youth affairs – specific projects include: homeless shelters, homecare and free of charge canteens for the socially vulnerable). The action plan does not provide an explicit methodology for this monitoring process.
The action plan specifies that City Hall is to create a web platform and mobile application that integrates all services provided by the different departments of City Hall. Citizens would be able to voluntarily join a group through a registration process for residents and organizations. These groups would have access to privileged information to carry out their functions of studying and understanding how the programs are being run and prepare relevant conclusions and recommendations to City Hall. According to the commitment language, all reports from the monitoring groups should be periodically analyzed, aggregated and made public, including all information related to responses to citizen requests or concerns.
The commitment is relevant to the OGP values of access to information, civic participation and technology and innovation for transparency. The civic monitoring groups invite citizens to oversee the performance of service providers and civil servants by providing access to government-held information. In addition, the commitment calls for the publication of results from the monitoring groups’ investigation. Civil servants are to respond to the groups’ results, requests and concerns and publish general information about their response. However, the commitment text does not specify what this response should contain and whether it would be enough to ensure justification of the government’s actions, act upon criticisms or requirements made of citizens, and accept responsibility for failure to perform with respect to laws or commitments.
Specificity and Potential Impact
The commitment is of medium specificity as most milestones are, to some extent, objectively verifiable and represent subsequent steps to form civic monitor groups with a unified electronic portal, to describe and document the processes of municipality services, testing of system and civic monitors’ electronic tools, and to train civic monitors’ coordinators and employees from relevant departments at City Hall. However, the commitment could be clearer in defining which services are to be accessible online. The commitment requires interpretation from the reader, especially as it speaks about providing monitoring groups with the capacity to undertake “some type of control” over services without defining the extent to which stakeholders will participate in oversight, what information they will be privy to, what ‘consensus’ means and among whom, and other important details.
The commitment has moderate potential impact. The idea of civic monitoring is an innovative concept to actively integrate citizens and make service providers and civil servants accountable to taxpayers. Moreover, the integration of all services under one platform, to meet the one-stop shop principle (also known as one window policy), is a significant step forward that, coupled with the monitoring efforts, could signify an important change in the status quo. However, the commitment is limited in scope, as it does not explain how the monitoring groups will be formed and exactly what information citizens will be provided with to fulfill the monitoring role.
The level of completion of the commitment is considered as limited. While some activities have taken place, the intended system has not started functioning and the overall implementation level is low.
The Municipal Services Development Agency (MSDA) was responsible for the development of all the technical tasks required for the completion of the commitment. MSDA created a unified system and created a web-platform that was tested and introduced to the members of the working group. The government launched the pilot versions of the portals that intended to be integrated as two separate modules: a civic participation mechanism and the services on online platform. The sub-portal services on online platforms are developed and integrated as one of the modules under the my.tbilisi.gov.ge and registered citizens will have access through their personal user pages to any online service. The pilot version of the sub-portal included services from healthcare, youth affairs and education, which are broken down into sub-categories for easy accessibility. It also enables citizens to enter service-related comments, and publish them.
According to the government, within the registration process, the rules and conditions will be defined for Tbilisi residents or organizations to be able to monitor the services and evaluate the performance of the services provided by the government. During the specified period, citizens will have the opportunity to register as members of the volunteer monitors for the specific program.
The draft legal act presented to the working group in October 2017 defined the recruitment policy of the volunteers. The working group was supposed to work as a recruiter, and was eligible to select candidates that would be able to become members of the civic monitoring volunteers’ group. The government wanted the selection criteria to be basic to ensure that volunteers are able to proceed with the monitoring activities. Khasia, February 2018. However, CSOs argued that the government should not be involved in the process of recruitment, instead an independent commission should be in charge or a random selection method should be used. Tsintsabadze, February 2018.
The next step included sending the selected volunteers to be trained and get the specific knowledge characteristic for the program/service to be monitored. Each department coordinating the program has elaborated specific monitoring regulations, which will make it easier for volunteers to start the monitoring process. The selected volunteers would have full access to the facilities to monitor the services and activities, and request and obtain certain types of information. The plan was to register through the my.tbilisi.gov.ge web-portal following the same registration portal, but additional access will be provided with the facilities within the programs. For example, if an individual wants to monitor the performance of a free canteen program, by registering as the volunteer, the monitor enables citizens to gain full access to the facilities such as the kitchen, served meals, etc. Khasia, February 2018. The plan was to publish the findings of the groups and communicate them to City Hall. The information will periodically be analyzed and summarized, with general information related to response actions from City Hall, as it is obliged to respond publicly.
However, due to the municipal elections and changing of the government of Tbilisi, the process of approval of the legal acts (scheduled for December 2017 in the action plan) has been delayed. According to the government, most of the recommendations suggested by CSOs have been taken into consideration. However, CSOs do not know how their feedback was incorporated as they have not seen the final drafts of the legal acts. Topuria, February 2018.
USAID GGI mentioned that they have no clear understanding of the process of selecting volunteers for the monitoring group, and the watchdog organizations already have the opportunity to be involved in, and monitor, the process. The researcher considers that due to the lack of a developed volunteering culture in the country it will be hard to find volunteers to dedicate time to conducting monitoring activities free of charge. It is not clear what the participation incentives would be for random citizens given that, in general, public participation rates in government affairs are low. According to the government, any watchdog organization can also be registered as a member of the civic monitoring groups, which will make the process to undertake some type of monitoring over current services provided by the government easier. Darchiashvili, Gorgadze, February 2018. OSGF argues that the adopted recruitment policy would significantly impact on the results of the monitoring process, as the selected volunteers could be biased and only report in a positive way. In addition, there were no predefined measures on how the results of the monitoring will impact on the process of solving the identified problems, or whether it will impact at all. Tsintsabadze, February 2018.
The preparation of the video clip about the portal and other OGP commitments, scheduled to be prepared by December 2017, has been delayed.
Early results: did it open government?
Access to Information: No change
Civic Participation: No change
Since this commitment has had only limited completion, there are no early results to indicate any changes in government practice on access to information or civic participation. Tsintsabadze, February 2018. According to the CSO representatives, after the election and the change of the city government, there has been no publicly available information about plans for the next steps of implementation.
The idea of creating a public monitoring tool for the services provided by the city is a welcome step. However, the implementation of this commitment showed that the concepts and specific activities for creating such a monitoring mechanism need to be better thought through and carefully planned.
Given the skeptical perception of stakeholders on the effectiveness of civic monitoring groups, the IRM researcher does not recommend continuing this commitment in the next action plan without major modifications. Moving forward, City Hall could consider making a better designed commitment, including the following:
· The portal could start with a few selected areas that are deemed to be most critical, such as construction, urban planning, environmental issues, including green spaces and air quality.
· City Hall should continue efforts to publicly launch the services portal where users can leave feedback and start discussions on various services provided by City Hall; the portal could be complimented with a mobile app that could give opportunity to specific target groups (e.g. parents of kindergarten children) to rate specific services and give feedback directly to the municipality.
Tbilisi, Georgia's Commitments
Smart Map Civic Activity Portal
TBI0006, 2018, E-Government
TBI0007, 2018, Capacity Building
Access to services and civic engagement
TBI0008, 2018, Capacity Building
TBI0009, 2018, Capacity Building
City Hall Transparency
TBI0010, 2018, E-Government
Information and Civic Activities portal “Smart Map”
TBI0001, 2017, Capacity Building
Introduction of Petition System to Tbilisi City Hall, Electronic Petition
TBI0002, 2017, Capacity Building
Implementation of Participatory Budget Mechanism
TBI0003, 2017, Capacity Building
Interactive accessibility to budget spending and introduction of civic control mechanisms
TBI0004, 2017, Audits and Controls
Introduction of civic control and accessibility mechanisms for municipal services
TBI0005, 2017, Capacity Building