Reports

Serbia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

Country : Serbia
Dates Under Review : November 2016 - September 2017
Report publication year : 2018
Researcher : Milena Lazarević

Overview - Serbia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

While the Serbian Action Plan addressed many core open government issues, including access to information and civic space, it mostly lacked transformative commitments. For the next plan the national actors will need to identify how they can improve the overall ambition, perhaps by closely integrating commitments with the relevant European Union accession requirements. 

Process 

The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government, with support of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, established a working group gathering government and civil society representatives early in 2016. This group led the consultation process which, unlike the previous action plan, included advance notice of meetings and awareness-raising activities. Hence, the depth and breadth of consultations were more extensive, especially taking into consideration that both central- and local-level events were organized. However, regular multi-stakeholder consultations stopped following the adoption of the working plan due to the 2017 presidential elections. 

Serbia did not act contrary to OGP process

A country is considered to have acted contrary to process if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The National Action Plan was developed with neither online or offline engagements with citizens and civil society
  • The government fails to engage with the IRM researchers in charge of the country’s Year 1 and Year 2 reports
  • The IRM report establishes that there was no progress made on implementing any of the commitments in the country’s action plan

Level of Input by Stakeholders

During Action Plan Development
Y1
No Consultation
Inform
Consult
Involve
Collaborate
Who was involved? 
Civil Society Involvement
Beyond "governance" civil society
Mostly "governance" civil society X
No/little civil society
Narrow / little government consultation Primarily agencies that serve other agencies Significant involvement of line ministries and agencies
Government Involvement

Participation was limited to a small number of ministries and offices that already cooperate with civil society. In the consultative Working Group, which produces a draft action plan, the Ministry of Finance and the Legislative Secretariat have the most decisive influence. Overall, the core of the consultation process was primarily focused on expert organizations already familiar with the OGP process, while informal citizens’ initiatives did not shape the action plan. 

OGP Co-Creation Requirements Followed 

Commitment Performance 

Serbia’s second action plan had 14 commitments that were organized into five broader themes: public participation and government integrity; access to information; open data; fiscal transparency; and, public services. Completion and ambition of the commitments are limited after the first year of implementation with only three commitments complete and only one with a transformative potential impact. 

Commitment Completion 

Current Plan
Year 1: 21%
2014-2016
Year 1: 15%
Year 2: 31%

Commitment Ambition 

Current Plan
Year 1: 7%
2014-2016
Year 1: 8%

Starred commitments 

Current Plan
Year 1: 0%
2014-2016
Year 1: 0%

IRM Recommendations 

  1. To ensure continuity of OGP activities in the context of frequent administration changes and high frequency of the electoral process, proper handover mechanisms are needed. IRM recommends establishing an OGP multi-stakeholder forum with an adequate mandate and scope of work covering all phases of the action plan cycle, including the implementation.
  2. To increase financial transparency, the next action plan should include a commitment introducing open budgeting at national and local levels, specifically disclosing financial plans and expenditure reports in open data formats.
  3. To ensure the continuity of high-impact commitments, the government should carry forward commitments and scale up activities with demonstrated impact. For example, the current commitment on the open data portal should be expanded to encompass a wider range of institutions and datasets.
  4. Focus on commitments with clear citizen engagement and public accountability tools. Expand citizen inputs mechanisms such as the portal developed by the Public Policy Secretariat, which is currently limited to business representatives. Authorities need to ensure transparent and timely feedback to citizens’ proposals.
  5. Develop a more targeted communication approach and awareness-raising activities to increase citizen involvement. Additionally, the government needs to consider wider cooperation with CSOs at central and local level.

Commitments Overview

Commitment Title Potential Starred* Complete Overview
1. Develop model job description of civil society liaison No No This commitment seeks to introduce a model job description for a CSO liaison position within local self-government units. The model’s potential impact is limited due to concerns about the liaison’s actual administrative authority.
2. Organize trainings for public servants No Yes These commitments propose relevant trainings of public administration employees and civil society organizations to enhance citizen involvement in decision-making processes and foster trust. Although implementation has been delayed, the government has developed the training program and has completed two trainings for public servants and four CSO trainings (though the latter were organized between October and November 2017, which is outside of the timeframe of this report).
3. Organize civil society trainings No Yes
4. Improve collection of citizen and business initiatives No No While the commitment consists of activities for collecting and processing initiatives from citizens and businesses, it does not contain mechanisms that oblige government institutions to consider initiatives, and it does not specify how the proposed initiatives would be considered.
5. Standards for civic participation No Yes In order to enhance citizen participation in policy-making, these two commitments propose creating a legal requirement for civic participation via public consultations and hearings during the drafting period for public policy documents and laws, as well as mandating ‘concept papers,’ which would be used to communicate to and involve the public.
10. Public hearings on drafting of laws No No
6. Develop information booklets Yes No This commitment is still in the drafting stage to amend the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance with a mandate to create uniform information booklets across government agencies that provide open-access data for the purpose of administrative transparency.
7. Amend free access to information law No No This commitment aims to amend the access to information law to increase the responsiveness of public administration bodies toward public requests for information by imposing fines for violations, strengthening the role of the Commissioner, and improving proactive transparency.
8. Development of an Open Data Portal No No These two commitments propose the development of an Open Data Portal for the public storage and accessibility of government datasets, with the support of UNDP. Additionally, they seek to modify the legal Guidelines and Criteria for Evaluation so as to streamline and coordinate the websites of state agencies, with special focus on data openness and transparency.
9. Draft bylaws for evaluation of websites No No
11. Develop monitoring and evaluation instructions for government CSO funding No No To address low trust in civil society, this commitment proposes to develop a uniform methodology for monitoring and evaluating civil society programs funded by the government, which has been combined with the commitment to amend legal regulations to mandate a reporting mechanism on results of these civil society programs. These commitments will increase transparency by detailing how the public budget is being spent.
12. Amend regulations on funding civil society programs No No
13. Law on electronic documents and ID No No Parliament adopted a new law on electronic identification and documents that will simplify access to digital public services in October 2017, although the drafting of bylaws has not yet begun. The commitment has unclear relevance to OGP values.
14. Public register of administrative procedures for doing business No No This commitment seeks to create a unified online public register of administrative procedures necessary for legal business activities. The commitment also provides for trainings for civil servants to populate the register.

* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

IRM Report - Serbia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)


I. Introduction 
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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

Serbia began its formal participation in 2012, when Jasna Matić, a state secretary in the former Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society declared her country’s intention to participate in the initiative.[Note1: Open Government Partnership, Serbia, Serbia’s Letter of Intent to Join OGP: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/serbia.] With the reorganization of Serbia’s public administration, the OGP initiative in Serbia is currently coordinated by the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government (MPALSG).

In order to participate in OGP, governments must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third-party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public official’s asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

Serbia developed its national action plan from February 2016 to June 2016. The official implementation period for the action plan was from November 2016 to June 2018. This report covers the action plan development process and first year of implementation, from November 2016 to September 2017. Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation, September 2017, will be assessed in the end-of-term report. At the time of writing, September 2017, the government has yet to publish its self-assessment but it did release a six-month implementation report in June 2017.

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with the European Policy Centre (CEP), which carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of Serbia’s second action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher interviewed both local and central level civil society organizations (CSOs) and government representatives located in Belgrade. The IRM researcher also organized a stakeholder meeting on 19 September 2017 to engage civil society and government representatives in dialogue about the current action plan implementation progress.[Note2: See (in Serbian): http://cep.org.rs/odrzan-konsultativni-sastanak-otvorena-uprava-dostignuca-i-izazovi/.] However, the workshop predominantly gathered civil society. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).


II. Context 
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Serbia’s progress towards open government has varied in different areas. While there have been achievements in public participation and provision of open data, government’s public accountability has not been sufficiently prioritized in OGP action plans. In the context of declining press freedoms, problems of corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of public administration, Serbia’s second action plan[Note3: The first action plan was never implemented. See more about the OGP history in Serbia, http://ogp.rs/pou-srbija/#istorijat ] falls short of addressing systemic issues for changing the culture of government decision making. The scope of the current action plan is largely limited to technical and legal measures which do not adequately respond to the need for stronger enforcement of accountability rules. 

2.1 Background

Since early 2000’s Serbia has made significant progress in creating the legislative framework for freedom of information and government transparency. Serbia became an EU candidate country in 2012. The EU accession process has been a major driver of reforms, placing particular emphasis on democracy, rule of law and the fight against corruption.

Serbia’s 2004 Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance is currently considered one of the strongest Freedom of Information (FoI) laws globally. According to the Global Right to Information Rating, Serbia has the second highest rated legal framework.[Note4: Global Right to Information Rating, Country Data, http://www.rti-rating.org/country-data] The law extends the right to access information to all natural persons, regardless of citizenship and applies to all branches of government as well as state-owned enterprises, public authorities, and private bodies receiving significant public funding.[Note5: Law of Free Access to Information of Public Importance, http://www.poverenik.rs/en/pravni-okvir-pi/laws-pi/881-zakon-o-slobodnom-pristupu-informacijama-od-javnog-znacaja-preciscen-tekst-sl-glasnik-rs-12004-5407-10409-i-3610.html] However, an extensive number of institutions do not adequately respond to citizens’ requests for information. Since its creation in 2004, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection has received 27,697 complaints; around 78 percent of these complaints were cases of ‘administrative silence’.[Note6: Data was taken from the Commissioner’s open data portal, which can be accessed here, http://data.poverenik.rs/] Institutions which fail to provide information to the citizens based on the current legal framework are not properly sanctioned.[Note7: Stanojla Mandić, Deputy Commissioner for Information of Public Importance of the Republic of Serbia, interview with IRM researcher,  15 September 2017. ] The current action plan includes a commitment on amending the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance to ensure institutions are held accountable when they do not provide citizens with the requested information and to include open data.

Access to government-held information has been critical for the work of media and investigative journalists in the country, uncovering stories of corruption and organized crime.[Note8: See, for example, https://www.occrp.org/component/tags/tag/119-serbia?lang=en ] However, in recent years media freedom has become a concern, given recorded cases of threats, intimidation and violence against journalists as well as media financing issues.[Note9: Shannon O’Toole, “A Cry for Help from Serbia’s Independent Media”, Freedom House,  https://freedomhouse.org/blog/cry-help-serbia-s-independent-media#.WdZo312d4lw.twitter.  ] Serbia has fallen in the latest Freedom of the Press 2017 Index. [Note10: Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2017, Serbia Profile, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/serbia ] As the 2017 World Press Freedom Index states, Serbian media “works under harsh financial and editorial pressure, and those that are most critical of the government are attacked publicly”.[Note11: ibid.] Recent personal attacks on investigative journalists have even prompted the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection to release a statement confirming that every citizen is free to request information of public importance without explaining his or her motives.[Note12: Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, “Pravo na pristup informacijama u posedu vlasti - pravo svakog gradjanina,”  http://www.poverenik.org.rs/sr/saopstenja-i-aktuelnosti/2651-pravo-na-pristup-informacijama-u-posedu-vlasti-pravo-svakog-gradjanina.html (in Serbian)]

Serbia has an active civil society comprised of professional CSOs, as well as grassroots movements and citizen initiatives that are increasingly important.[Note13: This process was aided by international projects such as a USAID 27-month program lasting from 2012 until 2015. See more, http://www.iscvt.org/program/serbia-civil-society-forward/ ] While civil society remains underfunded, the EU accession process has provided a boost for enhancing civil society involvement in policymaking and ensuring continual dialogue with government. The recent Serbia 2016 Report by the European Commission[Note14: European Commission, “Serbia 2016 Report SWD(2016) 361”, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_serbia.pdf ]  states that, while progress was achieved in terms of creating an enabling environment for civil society, more action needs to be taken to “ensure systematic inclusion of civil society in policy dialogue and help develop its full potential”.[Note15: Ibid, 8.]

Implementation of OGP commitments is taking place in parallel to the process of  EU negotiations.[Note16: Dragana Brajović and Dražen Maravić, interview with IRM researchers, 11 September 2017.] So far 10 out of 35 negotiation chapters have been opened.[Note17: For more information, see https://europa.rs/images/publikacije/07-35_Steps_Toward_EU.pdf. ] The currently opened chapters are complementary to Serbia’s OGP progress as they regulate relevant areas such as public procurement (chapter 5) and democracy, rule of law and anti-corruption (chapters 23 and 24).[Note18: For a more detailed timeline, please see https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/countries/detailed-country-information/serbia_en. ] The prospect of EU membership has created incentives that have garnered more political will for open government topics such as budget transparency, among others.[Note19: Ibid, 10-11.] In budget transparency Serbia lags significantly behind its EU neighbors in the Balkans such as Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia.[Note20: European Commission ] According to the Open Budget Survey, the government of Serbia only makes four of eight key budget documents publicly available online  and does not provide many opportunities for public engagement with the budget process.

Corruption remains a problem in Serbia, with the country scoring 42 out of 100 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.[Note21: Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016#table] While anti-corruption legislation has been strengthened, implementation of legal norms in practice remains a challenge. Serbian government ministers and other high government representatives in the past have been accused of corruption, plagiarized doctoral theses and misused public funds, among other things, thus undermining public confidence.[Note22: For example, see KRIK, Investigations, http://www.krik.rs/en ] Consequences for these actions have been further impeded by the questionable state of judicial independence. As the Serbia 2016 Report explains, comments by politicians regarding ongoing controversies and investigations call into question the extent to which the judiciary is independent enough to resolve such cases.[Note23: European Commission, “Serbia 2016 Report SWD(2016) 361”, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_serbia.pdf,  55.]

Following the 2017 presidential elections and the subsequent reorganization of public administration bodies, the former Serbian European Integration Office was replaced by the new Ministry of European Integration, signifying the importance of this process in Serbia. In this context, the positive effects of the attention given to the EU accession process could potentially trickle down to OGP efforts.

Frequent elections have impeded the OGP process in Serbia, slowing down progress in commitment implementation. In the previous progress report, the IRM researcher’s interviews suggested that, following elections, ministries require roughly six months to return to pre-election levels of activity.[Note24: See Serbia 2014-2015 Progress Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/serbia-2014-2016-progress-report-final-english ] This issue appeared both in the End-of-Term Report 2014-2016 and in the interviews conducted for this report. While civil society complained that there was less proactive transparency and communication between government institutions and CSOs,[Note25: Stakeholder workshop organized by the IRM, Belgrade, 19 September 2017.] private sector representatives indicated that they felt as if everything stopped working during the period around elections.[Note26: Interviews with the Foreign Investors Council, Belgrade, 14 September 2017.] Moreover, government representatives frequently indicated their frustration with how elections affect their work, slowing down progress on commitments and impeding inter-institutional cooperation.

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The 2016-2018 action plan primarily focuses on civic participation and access to information, and includes several commitments that are of a legalistic nature.. 

It is commendable that the current action plan envisages amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, since both the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and civil society organizations have been advocating for amending this law for years in order to increase compliance by public bodies.

Reforms happening under chapters 23 and 24 of EU accession negotiations, focusing on policies in the judiciary and fundamental rights (chapter 23) and justice, freedom and security (chapter 24), have not trickled down to commitments in the OGP action plan. PreEUgovor, a major civil society coalition of seven organizations monitoring accession negotiations under these chapters[Note27: PreEUgovor, http://www.preugovor.org/prEUgovor/1121/About-us.shtml], do not participate in the development of the action plan either as a coalition or as individual organizations. Members of the coalition state different reasons. Belgrade Center for Security Policy perceives the OGP process in Serbia as being simulated, while the essential transparency is gradually decreasing.[Note28: Bojan Elek, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, email response to IRM Researcher, 7 December 2017. ] Centre for Investigative Journalism of Serbia lacks capacities to engage beyond potentially providing media coverage on the OGP topics.[Note29: Branko Čečen, Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia, email response to IRM Researcher, 7 December 2017.] Transparency Serbia did not consider joining the working group and they consider that the government has not provided them with sufficient reasons to believe they would include measures in the OGP process that would lead to true progress in the area.[Note30: Nemanja Nenadić, Transparency Serbia, email response to IRM Researcher, 7 December 2017] While the Anti-Corruption Agency of Serbia (ACAS) and the Public Procurement Office are part of the discussions on OGP commitments, other independent institutions, that have an oversight role  to play when it comes to the fight against corruption and promotion of government transparency, such as the Supreme Audit Institution, the Ombudsman’s Office and the Office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, are not represented in the OGP working group.

The current action plan has not taken over some of the commitments relevant for the fight against corruption that were included in the previous NAP 2014-2015 but were not fully completed. These include commitments in diverse thematic areas, such as budgeting, public procurement and financing of political parties. Although in budget transparency Serbia lags significantly behind its EU neighbors,[Note31: European Commission ] the current action plan does not include a commitment in this important area, despite a proposal from civil society during the development of the plan.

Additionally, given that press freedom indicators for Serbia have been signaling a decrease in media freedom,[Note32: Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2017, Serbia Profile, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/serbia ] this potentially limits objective reporting on government activities. Therefore, there is need for more commitments that promote public accountability of government and engage citizens, civil society and the government in constructive dialogue. This would require establishing and improving mechanisms for communication as well as helping civil servants utilize them effectively. The scope of the current action plan falls short of furthering engagement and improving public trust.


III. Leadership and Multistakeholder Process 
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The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government, with support of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, established a working group gathering government and civil society representatives early in 2016. This group led the consultation process which, unlike the previous action plan, included advance notice of meetings and awareness-raising activities. Hence, the depth and breadth of consultations were more extensive, especially taking into consideration that both central- and local-level events were organized. However, regular multi-stakeholder consultations stopped following the adoption of the working plan due to the 2017 presidential elections. The self-assessment of the government has not yet been made available.

3.1 Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in Serbia. Table 3.1 summarizes this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

1. Structure

Yes

No

Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (individual)?

 

 

Shared

Single

Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?

 

 

Yes

No

Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?

 

X

2. Legal Mandate

Yes

No

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?

 

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?

 

3. Continuity and Instability

Yes

No

Was there a change in the organization(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?

 

X

Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?

 

 

Serbia is a parliamentary democracy with three branches of government divided into an executive, legislature, and judiciary. Additionally, Serbia’s Constitution recognizes three separate levels of governance: central, provincial, and local. The OGP process is legally mandated[Note33: Zaključak Vlade Republike Srbije 05 br. 021-10793/2016 o usvajanju Akcioni plan za sprovođenje inicijative Partnerstva za otvorenu upravu u Republici Srbiji za 2016. i 2017. godinu http://www.srbija.gov.rs/vesti/dokumenti_pregled.php?id=279281.] and led by the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government (MPALSG). Each action plan is developed by the MPALSG as the coordinator of the Working Group in collaboration with other ministries, government bodies, and civil society organizations. Once the Working Group produces a draft, it goes to an inter-ministerial consultation process through which every public administration authority concerned with the draft issues a formal written opinion. In this process, the strongest and most binding opinions are those of the Ministry of Finance and the Legislative Secretariat. Therefore, these two institutions have the most decisive influence on the final version of the strategic document. The version of the action plan which emerges from this consultative process is then adopted by the Government through an act titled Government Conclusion.[Note34: For example, the Government Conclusion for the current action plan can be accessed here (in Serbian): http://www.pravno-informacioni-sistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/reg/viewAct/d0cfa421-8773-4a35-8369-294e5e28abaf. ] (See Table 3.1 on the leadership and mandate of OGP in Serbia.) During the previous action plan reporting cycle, the researcher noted that MPALSG has little authority over other ministries, which negatively affected its OGP coordination process as other ministries were in charge of executing particular commitments. Following the 2017 presidential elections, the head of MPALSG was named prime minister, which may increase the visibility of OGP efforts. However, the 2017 elections also slowed down the implementation of the 2016-2018 action plan and reduced the number of consultative meetings with government and civil society. This is not a new phenomenon, as the same situation occurred during the finalization of the previous action plan cycle and the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Overall, the amount of budget and staff dedicated directly to OGP is limited. A lack of human resources is a particularly burdensome issue emphasized both by government and civil society, as the whole OGP process is coordinated by one individual in MPALSG. Coordination of OGP and implementation of most of the action plan commitments were already planned by other strategic documents or projects in order to ensure these activities could be properly funded.

3.2 Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2 Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

How did institutions participate?

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

Legislative

Judiciary (including quasi-judicial agencies)

Other (including constitutional independent or autonomous bodies)

Subnational Governments

Consult: These institutions observed or were invited to observe the action plan but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan.

8

1

0

1

0

Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan.

5

1

0

1

0

Implement:  These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the commitments.

5

1

0

1

0

 

In Serbia, participation in OGP was limited to a small number of ministries and offices which already cooperate with civil society in some manner.

Nonetheless, the participation of some of these bodies in OGP, for example the participation of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society (CSO), has been extensive. The Office for Cooperation with Civil Society was established by the Government of the Republic of Serbia as a government service – an institution that performs professional or technical tasks for the entire Government, ministries or government organizations. It is therefore directly accountable to the Government, which also appoints its director. According to the regulation establishing the OCCS, it performs expert tasks for the Government, pertaining to ensuring the consistency of actions of public authorities and promoting the cooperation of public authorities with associations and other civil society organizations.

During the first roundtable with CSO representatives in February 2016, representatives of different government institutions served as moderators helping to define civil society proposals for commitments for the next action plan. While the MPALSG defined the action plan themes, government representatives from other bodies and civil society drafted the first commitments. Government institutions included in this process were then defined as responsible institutions in the official action plan, along with the names of individuals leading the implementation process.

Presidential elections in the first year of implementation eventually led to reshuffling within these institutions, leading to inconsistencies between the action plan and current implementing institutions. For example, the Directorate for e-Government, which was previously a body within MPALSG, now has more autonomy as the Office for IT and e-Government.[Note35: For example, see (in Serbian) Nevenka Rangelov, “Ukinuta direkcija za e-upravu — šta su implikacije?”, https://startit.rs/ukinuta-direkcija-za-e-upravu-sta-nam-to-govori/]

3.3 Civil Society Engagement

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation, and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of Serbia during the 2016-2018 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed:  6 of 7

Before

1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advance Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation

Yes

No

Advance notice of consultation

No

Yes

 

 

3. Awareness Raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness-raising activities

Yes

No

4a. Online consultations:     

Yes

No

 

 

4b. In-person consultations:

Yes

No

 

5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided

Yes

No

 

During

6. Regular Multi-stakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?

Yes

No

6b. Did it meet regularly?          

Yes

No

 

 

X

After

7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual self-assessment report published?        

Yes

No

7b. Report available in English and administrative language?

Yes

No

 

 

7c. Two-week public comment period on report?

Yes

No

7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?

Yes

No

 

 

                 

A small number of civil society organizations were first included in the OGP process through the OGP working group established in January 2016.[Note36: The timeline for this process can be accessed here (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/akcioni-plan-2016-2017/ ] The government established this group in a transparent manner via an open call for CSOs, which was published online and included a set of criteria.[Note37: “Public Invitation,” Republic of Serbia, [Serbian] http://bit.ly/2fRuXnb] Only CSOs registered at least three years prior to the publication of the call, dealing with OGP-relevant issues (e.g. fiscal transparency, open data, anticorruption, etc.), and which had implemented at least two relevant projects or published a relevant study in the previous three years were eligible to apply. The group gathered representatives of 24 institutions, 18 government institutions, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, and five civil society organizations. The first meeting of the group was held on 8 February 2016 and it gathered 18 government representatives, one representative of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, one UNDP representative, and six CSO representatives. The minutes of this meeting, as well as all subsequent meetings, are available in Serbian online.[Note38: See, https://ogp.rs/vesti/ ]

Following this process, the government included a wider range of civil society actors through a roundtable for CSO representatives on 19 February 2016. 47 representatives of civil society were present at this roundtable and they formulated 22 commitment proposals for the following action plan, while an additional six proposals were sent online via email to the MPALSG following the roundtable.[Note39: The IRM researcher was present at this roundtable as an observer.] Overall, the working group held five meetings from February until August 2016, and each gathered both government and civil society representatives, although the size of the meetings fluctuated. Two additional consultative meetings were held at the local level in Niš and Novi Sad, two large regional cities. These meetings did not result in additional commitments and their nature was more focused on awareness-raising related to the OGP process in Serbia. Overall, the core of the consultation process was primarily focused on expert organizations already familiar with the OGP process, while informal citizens’ initiatives did not shape the action plan. This aspect requires more attention, as informal stakeholders do not necessarily “speak” the policy language, yet can be more familiar with local-level problems.

Civil society was given significant space for influence in the drafting of the action plan. However, only 5 out of 22 commitments proposed by the CSO [Note40: See visualizations of the action plan 2016-2018 (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/video/. ] were accepted during the finalization of the current national action plan (in the final stage of inter-ministerial consultations), and some of the key CSO inputs were not included. Namely, a commitment proposing opening Serbia’s budget in an open data format was rejected by the Ministry of Finance[Note41: See more (in Serbian), http://www.istinomer.rs/clanak/1790/Ministarstvo-finansija-Gradjani-ne-bi-razumeli-budzet-u-Excelu ] following a series of meetings with both civil society and government representatives which tried to negotiate on this commitment.[Note42: Dragana Brajović, MPALSG, interview with IRM researcher, 24 August 2017.] Hence, while CSOs indicated their satisfaction in cooperating with government institutions during the consultations for this action plan, there were issues with some institutions remaining closed to constructive cooperation. The report on the consultation process and received comments was published online in September 2016.[Note43: The report can be accessed (in Serbian) here, http://www.mduls.gov.rs/latinica/partnerstvo-za-otvorenu-upravu.php or https://ogp.rs/vesti/izvestaj-o-sprovedenim-javnim-konsultacijama/ ]

Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[Note44: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative”.

Level of public influence
During development of action plan
During implementation of action plan
Empower

The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.

 

 

Collaborate

There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.

 

 

Involve

The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.

 

 

Consult

The public could give inputs.

Inform

The government provided the public with information on the action plan.

 

 

No Consultation

No consultation

 

 

3.4 Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarizes that information.

The MPALSG established a working group gathering both government and civil society representatives for the purposes of co-creating the action plan in January 2016. However, given that the scope of work of the group was limited to one action plan cycle, the MPALSG indicated the need for re-establishing the working group to widen its scope of work to include continued implementation of the current action plan and beginning the drafting process of the new one. The process of establishing the new working group was expected to begin in late 2017.[Note45: Dragana Brajović, MPALSG, stakeholder workshop organized by IRM researcher, 19 September 2017, Belgrade.] Given this context, before then, no formal working group meetings have been organized during the implementation process.

Nonetheless, six months into the implementation of the action plan, MPALSG organized one open meeting for civil society organizations in June 2017, outside of the scope of work of the working group. The minutes or a report of this meeting have not been published,[Note46: The public call for this event can be accessed here (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/vesti/poziv-za-ucesce-na-sastanku-u-okviru-pracenja-procesa-sprovodenja-ap-pou/#more-590 ] although an interviewed CSO representative confirmed that the meeting provided an opportunity to give feedback on the AP implementation.[Note47: Danijela Božović, CRTA, interview with IRM researcher,  16 August 2017.] Conversely, a good practice from the action plan development phase was that the minutes of the working group meetings, as indicated in the previous section, were made available online and included the names of government and CSO representatives present at the meetings.[Note48: The minutes of the working group meetings are available here in Serbian, https://ogp.rs/vesti/ ]

Overall, most of the cooperation occurred during the drafting process, while consultation during implementation was limited and slowed down by elections. With the establishment of the new working group, the IRM researcher expects that the good practices during the action plan drafting process will be continued during implementation as well.

3.5 Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self-assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self-assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

The MPALSG released a six-month self-assessment report in June 2017. There was no public comment period announced. Instead, one open meeting, gathering CSO and government representatives, was held on 27 June 2017 (mentioned also in section 3.4 above).[Note49: ibid.] The quality of the report varied by commitment, as some institutions in charge of specific commitments were more detailed in their reporting than others.

Given that Serbia’s action plan was adopted in November 2016, rather than June of that year, the MPALSG was late in publishing a draft self-assessment report on the first year of implementation.[Note50: Dragana Brajović, MPALSG, stakeholder workshop organized by IRM researcher, 19 September 2017, Belgrade.] This draft self-assessment report was published on 17 October 2017, and was open to comments for two weeks.[Note51: See (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/vesti/javni-poziv-za-davanje-komentara-na-privremeni-godisnji-izvestaj/ ] Although the draft self-assessment report is more extensive than the six-month self-assessment report, there is little difference in analysis and progress for each commitment, which signals a slow implementation process. The final version of the Report was published on 17 November 2017.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Recommendation
Addressed?
Integrated into Next Action Plan?

1

Improve ownership of the OGP action plan by appointing a relevant authority with increased enforcement powers for the overall coordination of the OGP action plan. It should be an independent role, following the model of the state secretary for public revenue.

 

 

2

To ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in the development and implementation of the action plan, the government should coordinate with Parliament to initiate a legal mandate for open government and a permanent dialogue mechanism for public consultation.

 

 

3

Support ongoing efforts to connect the release of datasets with specific reform efforts in critical policy areas.

 

 

4

Commitments should be written in such a way that they clearly elaborate which policy targets they intend to achieve and how these activities will lead to reforms in the policy area.

 

 

5

The scope of the action plan should include other policy areas that would benefit from more openness and open government solutions such as healthcare, the pensions system, and undeclared workers.

 

 

Of the five key recommendations, the MPALSG addressed all of them and integrated them to a certain extent in the current action plan. The first recommendation was addressed by organizing numerous official and informal consultative meetings with civil society representatives. These meetings ranged from formal working group meetings, to open meetings with CSOs in Belgrade and at local level, to individual meetings of CSOs with ministries in charge of individual commitments. However, private sector representatives were included in a more limited manner.[Note52: Representatives of the Foreign Investors Council noted that the private sector has little knowledge of the OGP initiative and related action plans interview with IRM researcher, 14 September 2017. ] Secondly, while the MPALSG expanded their communication activities and broadened the geographical reach of the action plan consultations, they still have issues with a lack of human resources. Specifically, the MPALSG representative complained that the lack of HR capacities prevents innovative and ambitious initiatives.[Note53: Dragana Brajović, MPALSG, interview with IRM researcher, 24 August 2017.] As far as the fourth recommendation is concerned, the MPALSG made sure to include both government and civil society representatives in the consultative processes while the action plan was still in development. Lastly, Local Self-Government Units (LSGUs) and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM) have been included in cooperation on the current action plan and its commitments. Both the MPALSG and two Belgrade-based CSOs, Civic Initiatives and the Centre for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA), are currently trying to raise awareness of OGP on the local level through a variety of formats, including meetings, presentations, and informative videos.[Note54: Danijela Božović, CRTA, interview with IRM researcher, 16 August 2017.] In particular, CRTA’s work on the local level could lead to local-level OGP action plans.[Note55: On 20 September, CRTA organized a presentation of a model local level action plan and manual for creating an action plan in Zrenjanin. See more (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/vesti/predstavljen-nacrt-lokalnog-akcionog-plana/#more-612. ] Civic Initiatives and MPALSG organized awareness raising events in Belgrade, Zaječar and Subotica, which targeted both local CSOs and local self-governments, and had a high turnout.[Note56: See the reports on organized events (in Serbian): https://www.gradjanske.org/u-subotici-predstavljen-akcioni-plan-za-otvorenu-upravu/; https://www.gradjanske.org/partnerstvo-za-otvorenu-upravu-u-zajecaru/; https://www.gradjanske.org/predstavljen-akcioni-plan-za-sporvodjenje-inicijative-partnerstvo-za-otvorenu-upravu/] The medium- and long-term effects of these civil society activities remain to be seen, however, in the short term, the number of informative OGP-related events has expanded the number of civil society and government representatives acquainted with OGP.


IV. Commitments 
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All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.[Note57: Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_Articles-Gov_Apr-21-2015.pdf]

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach time frames and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyzes the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

·       Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:

o   High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.

o   None: Commitment language contains no measurable activity, deliverables, or milestones.

·       Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:

o   Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?

o   Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?

o   Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?

o   Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?[Note58: IRM Procedures Manual. Available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRM-Procedures-Manual-v3_July-2016.docx]

·       Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:

o   Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;

o   Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and

o   Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

·       Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgement about its potential impact.

·       The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.

·       The commitment would have a "transformative" potential impact if completely implemented.[Note59: The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919 ]

·       The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of "substantial" or "complete" implementation.

Based on these criteria, Serbia’s action plan contained no starred commitments.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for Serbia and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note60: OGP Explorer: bit.ly/1KE2WIl]

General Overview of the Commitments

The action plan was divided into six areas of commitments, namely:

·       Public participation (commitments 1-5)

·       Access to information (commitments 6 and 7)

·       Open data (commitments 8 and 9)

·       Government integrity (commitment 10)

·       Fiscal transparency (commitments 11 and 12)

·       Public services (commitments 13 and 14)

Given that some of these areas overlap, as was seen during the consultation process, there are relevant connections between commitments related to public participation and government integrity, as well as between those related to access to information and open data. These connections have affected, and will continue to affect, how activities within these commitments are implemented.

Themes

Given the aforementioned overlap in goals and activities of commitments pertaining to different areas, the IRM researcher reorganized the commitment analysis in the following manner:

·       Public participation and government integrity (commitments 1-5 and 10, with commitments 2 and 3, as well as 5 and 10 analyzed together)

·       Access to information (commitments 6 and 7)

·       Open data (commitments 8 and 9, analyzed together)

·       Fiscal transparency (commitments 11 and 12, analyzed together)

·       Public services (commitments 13 and 14)

The IRM researchers believe that this reorganization will make the report more understandable and less repetitive, bearing in mind that the commitments which were analyzed together shared either the same goals or activities.


V. General Recommendations 
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Stakeholder priorities for the current action plan focused on commitments for improving access to information. Given the national context, a higher level of transparency is necessary to enable independent media and research-focused CSOs to monitor and report on government activities. The MPALSG and the OGP working group could improve quality of the next action plan by carrying forward high impact activities, focusing on accountability-related commitments and those with both short- and long-term impacts, reviving commitments when there is more political will to implement them, and further involving citizens in the OGP progress. 

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those civil society and government priorities identified while elaborating this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1 Stakeholder Priorities

While civil society representatives were interested in all open government areas covered by the current action plan, their interest and involvement was higher for those commitments which had more CSO input or required cooperation between government and civil society. The commitment regarding the application for Information Booklets in particular was identified as a high priority commitment, as it would allow CSOs access to more information in open data formats, as well as raise the quality of information published by specific public authority bodies.

A considerable number of commitments in the current action plan focused on access to information. However, the question remains for CSOs how a higher level of transparency can be turned into a higher level of accountability. This is not a new open government dilemma,[Note251: Jonathan Fox, “From transparency to accountability?”,

https://www.opengovpartnership.org/stories/transparency-accountability ] but it is one that has plagued Serbia’s civil society for years. The work of investigative journalists and CSOs has uncovered a wide range of illegal or questionable government activities over time, but these have seldom been responded to with adequate consequences for government actors engaged in those activities.

5.2 IRM Recommendations

While following the development of the current action plan and its implementation in the previous year, the IRM researchers noted multiple areas for improvement. Namely:

        Ensure the continuity of high-impact commitments. In drafting a new action plan, the MPALSG and the OGP working group should consider carrying forward commitments or activities from the previous action plan which were not fully implemented but have a moderate or transformative potential impact. Additionally, even those commitments which were fully implemented and impactful could be further developed through new commitments and activities, hence potentially scaling up existing open government successes. These two steps are needed in order to ensure continuous progress in certain OGP areas. Experience with the first action plan indicates that commitments which are not carried forward or built upon in some way are easily ‘forgotten’ by both government and civil society representatives. For example, while commitment 8 envisaged the creation of the open data portal which now contains 45 open datasets, only eight government bodies have so far published on the portal.[Note252: Open Data Portal, Organizations, https://data.gov.rs/sr/organizations/] Hence, the next action plan should include a commitment or commitments related to expanding the open data initiative to encompass a wider range of institutions and datasets.

        Create database of OGP commitment proposals. Given that only 5 out of 22 commitments proposed by the CSO [Note253: See visualizations of the action plan 2016-2018 (in Serbian), https://ogp.rs/video/ ] were accepted during the finalization of the current national action plan, the MPALSG could create a database of all OGP commitment proposals. This database could serve as a starting point for each new action plan cycle, but it could also allow stakeholders to repeat commitment proposals in the following action plan cycles. For example, the open budget commitment, which was proposed and included in a few drafts of the current action plan, but rejected by the Ministry of Finance in the finalization process due to their lack of understanding of open data and current government positions, could potentially become a part of the next action plan

        Establish a regular and continuous multi-stakeholder forum. OGP activities suffer greatly from the high frequency of the electoral process. Elections and reorganization within public administration bodies can lead to commitments and activities being transferred to different individuals within one cycle, affecting the overall implementation level. Moreover, the MPALSG establishes a new working group for each OGP action plan cycle, which further undermines continuity of membership. The regular multi-stakeholder group coordinated by MPALSG could have a wider scope of work then one action plan, to ensure that the same CSO and government representatives are included in every phase of the OGP - from developing commitments, action plan implementation, reporting and monitoring, to the development of a new action plan. Occasionally, part of the working group membership could be opened for new members, in order to ensure that new partners can join the process. Moreover, the working group should bring its own rules of procedure, which should contain specific rules for handover of membership (in cases where one member is being replaced by a new member). These rules would entail the details regarding handover of documents, provision of information and basic guidance to the new member by the outgoing member (from within the public institutions or the CSOs). . Furthermore, the rules of procedure of the Working Group should include details   of the deliberation and decision-making processes within the group, so as to stimulate consideration and acceptance of CSO proposals to a greater extent.

        Improve commitment quality. The specificity and quality of commitments should be improved in order to enable proper understanding, monitoring, and evaluation by civil society and other stakeholders. Commitment texts need to contain all relevant information regarding the scope and characteristics of planned activities. Additionally, the experience of the current action plan demonstrates that commitments which were added in the later stages of the action plan development were the ones that lacked specificity and detail of intended results. This practice of adding new commitments after public consultations should be avoided. Instead, it is important to establish greater public engagement and make various forms of consultations mandatory at particular stages in the drafting process.

        Focus on commitments with clear citizen engagement tools. Serbia’s OGP commitments are primarily of a legal nature and, while creating the proper legislative framework is necessary for public administration reform and EU accession, there is a need for more tangible commitments that have an immediate impact on citizens. For the commitments to be more impactful, in the following action plan cycle, the MPALSG and stakeholders within the OGP working group need to prioritize issues which have both short-term and long-term effects on citizens and contribute to building a more constructive relationship between citizens and the government. A good example in the current action plan is commitment 4, which aims to establish an online portal for collecting initiatives from citizens and businesses for changing or proposing legislation. The government can also consider developing platforms for citizen inputs on legislative changes and creating specific procedures and methods for ensuring proper inter-institutional cooperation. These measures should encompass a timely response to submitted initiatives and provision of quality feedback to citizens.

        Focus on improving accountability. The next action plan should try to include commitments aiming to improve accountability mechanisms in Serbia and enable civil society and other stakeholders to take transparency one step further. The new action plan could include a commitment to enforce the new accountability provisions of the amended law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, ensuring proper sanctions for public bodies not complying with the law, with a strengthened role of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection in the sanctioning mechanisms. The new action plan could also include a commitment on developing mechanisms for citizens to rate the transparency and quality of information provided by individual public authority bodies.

        Include open budgeting commitment. Given that Serbia is lagging behind its neighbors on budget transparency, the next action plan should include a commitment introducing open budgeting at the national and local levels. This commitment was proposed by civil society, but was rejected by the Ministry of Finance in the last stage of action plan development. Opening of budget information (financial plans and reports) by making them available in open data formats, free of charge for use by all, would represent a major step towards increased financial accountability of the government at all levels. It would also be well aligned with the wider open data efforts of the Serbian government, where the cooperation between the government and civil society has yielded tangible results.

        Improve visibility of the national OGP process. While the MPALSG and other relevant bodies have included civil society organizations in the drafting of the current action plan, there is still a low number of CSOs included in the working group (currently 5), which could be related to both the eligibility criteria and the (potentially limited) promotion of OGP. Moreover, the wider public is predominantly not aware of the action plan consultation process and Serbia’s involvement in the OGP initiative. At the stakeholder workshop that IRM organized as part of this assessment, a large part of participating CSOs did not know even know what OGP is and were not familiar with the AP. Therefore, a more targeted communication approach and awareness-raising on OGP activities could increase the involvement of citizens in the next action plan cycle. This could be done through greater cooperation with civil society organizations with a wide reach at the central and local level. MPALSG should organize seminars, workshops and other types of gatherings for CSOs both in Belgrade and on the local level more frequently, so that a wider range of organizations across Serbia can get familiarized with the NAP content, MPALSG activities, significance of OGP, etc. MPALSG could organize these events possibly within some of the Technical Assistance projects it benefits from.

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations

1

To ensure continuity of OGP activities in the context of frequent administration changes and high frequency of the electoral process, proper handover mechanisms are needed. IRM recommends to establish an OGP multi-stakeholder forum with an adequate mandate and scope of work covering all phases of the action plan cycle, including the implementation.

2

To increase financial transparency, the next action plan should include a commitment introducing open budgeting at national and local levels, specifically disclosing financial plans and expenditure reports in open data formats.

3

To ensure the continuity of high-impact commitments, the government should carry forward and scale up activities with demonstrated impact. For example, the current commitment on the open data portal should be expanded to encompass a wider range of institutions and datasets.

4

Focus on commitments with clear citizen engagement and public accountability tools. Expand citizen input mechanisms, such as the portal developed by the Public Policy Secretariat, which is currently limited to business representatives. Authorities need to ensure transparent and timely feedback to citizens’ proposals.

5

Develop a more targeted communication approach and awareness-raising activities to increase citizen involvement in formulation of OGP commitments. Additionally, the government needs to consider wider cooperation with CSOs at central and local level.


VI. Methodology and Sources 
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The IRM progress report is written by researchers based in each OGP-participating country. All IRM reports undergo a process of quality control to ensure that the highest standards of research and due diligence have been applied.

Analysis of progress on OGP action plans is a combination of interviews, desk research, and feedback from nongovernmental stakeholder meetings. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s own self-assessment report and any other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations.

Each IRM researcher carries out stakeholder meetings to ensure an accurate portrayal of events. Given budgetary and calendar constraints, the IRM cannot consult all interested or affected parties. Consequently, the IRM strives for methodological transparency and therefore, where possible, makes public the process of stakeholder engagement in research (detailed later in this section.) Some contexts require anonymity of interviewees and the IRM reviews the right to remove personal identifying information of these participants. Due to the necessary limitations of the method, the IRM strongly encourages commentary on public drafts of each report.

Each report undergoes a four-step review and quality-control process:

1.     Staff review: IRM staff reviews the report for grammar, readability, content, and adherence to IRM methodology.

2.     International Experts Panel (IEP) review: IEP reviews the content of the report for rigorous evidence to support findings, evaluates the extent to which the action plan applies OGP values, and provides technical recommendations for improving the implementation of commitments and realization of OGP values through the action plan as a whole. (See below for IEP membership.)

3.     Prepublication review: Government and select civil society organizations are invited to provide comments on content of the draft IRM report.

4.     Public comment period: The public is invited to provide comments on the content of the draft IRM report.

This review process, including the procedure for incorporating comments received, is outlined in greater detail in Section III of the Procedures Manual.[Note254:  IRM Procedures Manual, V.3 : https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/irm-procedures-manual]

Interviews and Focus Groups

Each IRM researcher is required to hold at least one public information-gathering event. Researchers should make a genuine effort to invite stakeholders outside of the “usual suspects” list of invitees already participating in existing processes. Supplementary means may be needed to gather the inputs of stakeholders in a more meaningful way (e.g., online surveys, written responses, follow-up interviews). Additionally, researchers perform specific interviews with responsible agencies when the commitments require more information than is provided in the self-assessment or is accessible online.

About the Independent Reporting Mechanism

The IRM is a key means by which government, civil society, and the private sector can track government development and implementation of OGP action plans on an annual basis. The design of research and quality control of such reports is carried out by the International Experts Panel, comprised of experts in transparency, participation, accountability, and social science research methods.

The current membership of the International Experts Panel is

·       César Cruz-Rubio

·       Hazel Feigenblatt

·       Mary Francoli

·       Brendan Halloran

·       Hille Hinsberg

·       Anuradha Joshi

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M’Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Ernesto Velasco

A small staff based in Washington, DC, shepherds reports through the IRM process in close coordination with the researchers. Questions and comments about this report can be directed to the staff at irm@opengovpartnership.org

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