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To deserve the trust of its citizens, the government must be more open

Zoran Ivancic |

The website www.budzeti.ba has been launched – Civil society organizations, journalists and citizens do not have appropriate access to public data – An ad hoc coalition of non-governmental organizations that advocates Open Government Partnership has been established

An Open Data event has been held within the EngageMind cycle in the Sarajevo Center for Cultural and Media Decontamination on January 17th 2013. It is centered around trying to get all the public data from the state, public institutions, organizations and companies to be made more available for use by civil society, journalists, individuals and entrepreneurs.

CPI Foundation presented it’s new project budzeti.ba, an interactive web page that shows in what way the budgets in Bosnia and Herzegovina are spent according to functional division.  It is developed together with Open Knowledge Foundation, supported by National Endowment fo Democracy. Bosnian citizens are offered a visual information which explains, in a simple way, how much money is spent for which purpose, as well as what are the jurisdictions and responsibilities of the governments on different levels for meeting their needs. These visualizations display the spending of the budgets of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Srpska, the Federation of B&H, the Brčko District and the 10 cantons.

The “Why not” organization presented a web platform, www.pravodaznam.ba (the right to know.ba) for helping citizens gain access to information. They also talked about their project, the TruthMeasurement, which analyzes the promises of politicians and parties in respect of their deeds and actions.

One World Platform for Southeast Europe presented the maps and tables of  “Her elections” at http://data.zenskaposla.ba/ that provides insight into the participation of women in the electoral process and political life throughout the country and within several recent elections, which allows insight into trends.

Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN) pointed out that they encounter great difficulties in obtaining data relevant to their work. In order to gain certain information from some levels of government, they had to wait as long as eighteen months. Three important projects of CIN within the Open Data activities are obtaining asset lists of politicians, data on money transfers from the budget to non-profit organizations and ID cards of political parties.

Transparency International BiH stated that, although the Law on Freedom of Access to Information has been around for 10 years, access to information is still as difficult as it was at the beginning, since the government has made this approach in practice as difficult as possible. One of the restrictions they use is a reference to the Privacy Act, which was not designed to protect public officials from public scrutiny in regards to their operations and their property.

During the discussion,  present CSO’s agreed that the availability of important information to the public is disappointing, which on the one hand results in a low level of responsibility of civil servants and elected officials for their work, and on the other hand, in total distrust of citizens in their government. In order to improve the stability of society and the integrity of the state, civil society must, in the interests of citizens, take more responsibility in this regard. The attendees have agreed to establish a coalition which will promote the participation  of Bosnia and Herzegovina to international multilateral Open Government Partnership initiative (www.opengovpartnership.gov) to the Bosnian authorities and citizens.