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Bulgaria shows progress on open governance commitments

Boyan Yurukov|

A month ago the Bulgarian cabinet voted in a 33 point action plan for achieving open governance. The main goals of this plan are financial transparency, public registry improvement, public consultation and corporate social responsibility. One of the most important measures is publishing daily budget spending reports with a breakdown of payment reason and target. This measure was executed right away by the finance ministry. All ministries should follow suit as of August.

Here is an example of how those data can be used to understand public spending:

Other measures to tighten fiscal discipline are opening data on discrepancies in financial audits of companies and improving regulation and transparency in NGO funding.

Although Bulgaria boasts a well-written freedom of information act, there’s still room for improvement. That’s why the cabinet will amend it to improve transparency. There’s not much details given in the plan, but preliminary talks point to the inclusion of open data as a requirement in new information systems and processes.

An electronic health care system that links all health centers is being developed as well. It will have built-in capability to access statistics about hospitals, doctors and audits. It may also be possible to track spreading of diseases while still protecting the privacy of patents. The first step is there – an open registry with near real-time birth data has been active since January 2012. This will allow citizens and businesses to extrapolate data for their own use, with graphs such as this one:

Another registry mentioned in the plan includes geographic, quantitative and qualitative data on natural resources, companies allowed to exploit them and audits of their activity.

A big part of the plan is corporate social responsibility and dialogue. Although technically the government can’t regulate this process, the action plan includes measures for stimulating businesses to be more open and transparent, for improving dialogue related to legislation and regulation both at local and national level and finally – for developing best practices for social responsibility that are better suited for Bulgaria.

For the past month the cabinet has been working on a detailed documentation assigning responsibilities and goals to each of these 33 measures. Such details will help the public track and demand progress regardless of changes in government. Nevertheless, there’s still a big gap in the plan – namely, how to ensure sustainability of open governance in Bulgaria. The experience of other countries shows that if public servants don’t understand the benefits of open data and are not free to suggest and publish resources, we will end up with a limited number of fragmented datasets with diminishing quality. Rooting the concept of openness not only in information systems, but also in administration reform and day-to-day operations is the only way to ensure a lasting effect.

Still, it’s safe to say that Bulgaria is taking important steps toward a truly open government – one that will surely be irreversible. Progressive journalists and active citizens will ensure that this plan will not be a one-time deal, but the beginning of a lasting process.

For more information on opengov in Bulgaria: – the Bulgarian language blog of OKFN – resources that me and other opendata activists maintain. Within two weeks they will publish 300,000 scraped court decisions with full text and metadata. – opendata mailing list in Bulgarian

Open Government Partnership