Investigation & Watchdog Activities

The stated objective of the project was to contribute little by little to a more transparent government (long term approach). Crucial policy areas in need of change were identified by the project (e.g. EU Funds, party-financing, conflict of interest legislation, public procurement) and malpractice and misuse were disclosed. The gathered data was then entered into a publicly accessible database: data on public administration (government, elected positions, advisors, managements of institutions) and the flows of public resources to the private sector (results of public procurement, state subsidies, tax and customs etc).

Positive motivation (Open Politics)

As part of the project, politicians were encouraged to publish their assets on a website (access with own password, accuracy of information cannot be verified but the public can check). Politicians could constantly update the information. The campaign targeted individual politicians, not parties, because voters can vote for individual candidates on the party lists (personalized vote).

Accountable Government and Judiciary (Activities related to FOIA)

In state administration, the organization’s objectives are to enforce access to information and public participation in compliance with international agreements, to actively empower citizens facing attacks, and to strengthen accountability of public representatives. In judiciary, the project aims at strengthening public control over the quality of decision making, extend public access to decisions, start a qualified discussion on court rulings and on the issues of judicial ethics. These efforts will contribute to reduction of possibilities for interference with judicial independence. (source: Legal support for individuals when access to information is denied by government authorities (mainly on municipal level). Via Iuris works on court cases with systemic character (precedence).

Eurofunds Watchdog – Decreasing the risk of corruption through monitoring of projects financed from EU funds

The project was designed to monitor the use of EU funds by the Slovak Government: it consisted of an analysis of information published by Slovak ministries with regards to distribution of EU money e.g. requesting CVs of evaluators of proposals, evaluation sheets for projects; it was based on the Freedom of Information Act.

Legislative proposal concerning municipal property

Via Iuris advocated for and helped to draft legislation introducing efficient and transparent criteria (e.g. public announcement, transparent decision-making) concerning the sale of municipal property to individuals. Via Iuris started its project with a complaint filed with the European Commission which then asked the Slovak Government to adopt the necessary legislation. Pressured by the EC, the Ministry of Finance cooperated with Via Iuris in drafting the law. Before the adoption of the law, mayors could sell land to their relatives at a very low price.

The Price of the State

The overall goal of the project, The Price of the State, is to improve general public and especially young generation’s general knowledge of the basic mechanisms and proportions of public finance. We consider it as an important step in increasing the public awareness and pressure on the transparency and fiscal responsibility of the government. Since the knowledge of public finance issues is very poor not only among general public, but also among graduates from high schools and even universities, the voter lacks information necessary for rational decisions and effective civic engagement. The Price of the State concentrates detailed data on revenues and expenditures for public administration. With the help of our portal it’s possible to get a comprehensive overview of how much the state takes in and spends and how these quantities are changing over time. In order to visualize the dimensions of individual state expenditures we use indicators which convert individual items into per-capita or per-working person costs. We go over some of the numbers in more detail, briefly commenting on them under the heading Number of the Day. The Universe of Public Expenditures offers a graphical image of the dimensions of public finance. Those hunting bargains in the public sphere are invited to Buy Your Own State.

The State Waste

The main goal of this watchdog project was to strengthen citizen control of public administration by means of providing comprehensive, complete and easy-to-understand information on ineffective and non-transparent public spending at one place. This can be achieved via collecting and processing cases where the media document the ineffective spending of public funds by public officials followed by broad communication of these complete collection towards both media and general public. It sought to contribute to public awareness about the governance problems and to answer the question “How much of our money do they waste?” for common people. The project also expected to increase the public pressure on ministries, mayors and various regional and local public officials to act more transparently, honestly, responsibly and effectively. A complete and easily accessible internet database of all in print media reported cases of corrupt, nontransparent or ineffective public spending was created.

Monitoring the Application of the FOIA: The National Authorities Opened to People Project (on national level)

Monitoring groups consisted of citizens who, trained on possible claims related to the FOIA, were to collect certain data at particular national offices. Filing their applications for information – in person, by phone or in writing – they asked for various kinds of information. Communication manners, keeping deadlines and the content of the information required were evaluated later on. Based on the results, the monitored national authorities were ranked according to their implementation behaviour in respect to the access to information mode and the content of the information provided.
The project contributed to the enhancement of decision-making processes and the increase of their transparency and availability to public supervision, and laid basic grounds for the fight against bribery at the national authorities.

Is East-Central Europe Backsliding? EU Accession Is No “End of History”

In the textbooks on democratic transition, Central and Eastern Europe provides the model of success. Yet in Brussels concern over the politics of the new EU members has been mounting. The day after accession, when conditionality has faded, the influence of the EU vanished like a short-term anesthetic. Political parties needed to behave during accession in order to reach this highly popular objective, but once freed from these constraints, they returned to their usual ways. Now we see Central and Eastern Europe as it really is—a region that has come far but still has a way to go.