Students of a course on investigative journalism published their own local newspaper in a suburb of Bratislava known for its intransparent public administration. AFP supported the students in writing articles and publishing the newspaper. The project was stopped because too much AFP capacity/specialized staff was needed.
The aim of the project is to increase the ethical and moral level of the activities of local and regional public administration in Eastern Slovakia, its professional ethical and moral qualities and abilities. It is expected to increase consciousness of public opinion in the region regarding ethical and moral aspects of public administration.
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).
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: http://www.ceetrust.org/grants-database/in-country-grants/slovakia.html). 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).
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.
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 projects aims at contributing to good governance and accountable implementation of the EU-Funds by the two following objectives: (1) To enhance independent public control over the EU-Funds governance on national and regional levels (2) To promote good-practice examples of implementation of EU-Funds on regional and local levels.
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 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.
Based on the experiences of SMEs with corruption, Integra SK developed an anti-corruption toolkit to help SMEs to cope with corruption.
OAD was an active member of the advocacy initiative for an act on free access to information. OAD participated in drafting fundamental principles of the act, its wording, and helped to push the draft bill through at negotiations with representatives of state and self-governing authorities, the government and the Parliament.
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.
OAD has carried out a number of monitoring projects concerning the application of the FOIA in practice. The aim of the monitoring has been to identify problems and shortcomings related to the application of the FOIA, highlight them and encourage the affected authorities to resolve or eliminate them.
Efforts have been concentrated on changing or removing certain established practices which were incorrect in terms of the Act, or which were disadvantageous, discriminatory or discouraging for a citizen – information seeker.
Where the law had been breached, OAD sought a remedy through legal means (e.g. appeals) as well as trough filing actions against decisions on non-disclosure of information that contravened the law. Based on OAD’s actions, the courts have delivered several judgments which have changed the practices of the respective authorities in connection with the application of the Act.
OAD, in cooperation with other NGO activists, monitored the implementation the FOIA at the local self-government offices in selected Slovak towns and villages from June to September 2001. This monitoring was focused on both the active information policy and the information provided on request.
The goals of the project were reviewing and drafting legislation, as well as improving the implementation of the law by public administration, in particular regulations with a considerable effect on the right to information, forms another group of activities of OAD, e.g. Amendments to FOIA, Code of Administrative Procedure, Act on Disclosure of Environmental Information, Act on Protection of Classified Information.
The project was designed as a competition: individuals and organizations could nominate a public institution/government body as positive or negative example for providing information based on the Freedom of Access to Information Act (FOIA); at the end of each year the “winner”” was given an award (http://www.infocin.sk/).”
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.