The project aims at creating a set of efficient monitoring tools for measuring local elected officials’ mandate performance in – between elections, during electoral periods and six months after elections – with the direct scope of empowering civil society to accurately scrutinize the local governance act and hold elected representatives accountable for their work.
Policy Area: Civil Society
Assessment of FOIA compliance (2002/2005)
In November 2005 a financing contract was signed for a new project funded by the European Union through Phare program. The project started to be implemented at the end of 2005 and during 2006 we have conducted an evaluation of the respect of transparency laws by public authorities. According to the law each public institution is required to publish an annual report (activity and financial) but the rate of compliance with these procedures reached a feeble 4% of all public bodies (as presented by a quantitative evaluation conducted by the Romanian Government). Following an in-depth research, the project aims to identify best-practice models and to train representatives of the public bodies in how to collect data and to put them together in an annual report which will provide relevant and accurate information to the public.
This project is a follow-up of the advocacy campaign run by SAR in 2000 for the adoption of FOIA. A first assessment of its implementation was carried in 2002 and indicating unsatisfactory compliance with legal provision. For the current project we use the same methodology and sample as in 2002 allowing comparisons.
Partnership between the citizens and the municipal administration – a guarantee for transparency and accountability
The project aimed at increasing the capacity of the structures of the civil society in four municipalities in the fight against corruption. The capacity building refers to the capabilities of the civil society organizations to implement models and methods for monitoring and control over the public services provided by the municipal administrations . The project main activities included: 1. development of a local civil society partnership network; 2. survey of best practices in Bulgaria with regard to services of general interest provided by the local authorities 3. development of a web site for the partnership network in order to facilitate the communication between the target groups as well as to ease the monitoring process; 4. analyses of the existing deficiencies in the provision of services of general interest in the selected four municipalities and development of action plans for improvement; 5. realization of round tables with representatives from the civil society sector and the administration in order to discuss and improve the action plans; 6. monitoring over the implementation of the provided recommendations in the action plans; 6. analysis of the results of the project and dissemination of the good practices achieved.
Corruption in Bulgarian SMEs and measures to fight it
The project was realized in the course of Coalition 2000 and USAID Open Government Initiative Project: “Civil Society Against Corruption”” – Small Grants Program. It aimed to identify the structure of corrupt practices related to SMEs in the country and to provide assessment of the inflicted losses in the business sector i.e. еstimate the costs of corruption in the SME sector. The project activities include surveys and publication of a book: “”Do-it-yourself”” Manual of Tools Designed to Build Ethical and Transparent Corporate Culture For SMEs.”
The Coalition for Clean Government
The initiative continued the work of the successful Coalition for a Clean Parliament. The members of the CCP decided to continue the monitoring of the public arena creating a Coalition for a Clean Government bringing up new issues and new approaches:
- Declarations of wealth and interests – In the spring of 2005, SAR together with other members of the coalition argued for the improvement of the declarations of wealth and interest especially for high-level civil servants and dignitaries. SAR participated in several discussions and got involved in a working group created for drafting of new forms for the declarations of wealth and interest that would enable the public scrutiny of the wealth and interests of politicians and public servants. The effects of the new legislation were visible. Journalists used these instruments as means to monitor, identify and signaled existing irregularities in the 2005-2006 declarations. Furthermore the Prosecutors Office has also started investigations on these issues. All these indicate a better fit of this format and transformed it into an effective instrument. However six members of Parliament have initiated a new law attempting to replace again the established format with a vague and less detailed one. Unfortunately the law received tacit approval in the Senat in mid February 2006 but due to the critical stance taken by SAR representatives in the media, the Social-Democratic Party expressed their opposition to the project and the initiators (members of SDP) have spoken about the withdrawal of their proposal.
- Increase transparency in public acquisitions – the coalition has addressed the issues of transparentization of public contracts. In October 2005 sixteen organizations made a public appeal for the legal endorsement of the principle that any contract of public acquisition, public-private partnership, concession, privatization etc should become automatically public from the moment of its signature, excluding thus any confidentiality clauses. The Government was opened to NGOs proposal and formed a working group, inviting SAR and other NGOs to participate. The working group has already drafted changes of the legislation that not only complies with the European acquis, but set even higher standards and it might become a model of transparency in public acquisitions. The project is now on the table of the Government to decide on the most appropriate procedure for approval.
- Support anti-corruption policies – the efficiency of the anti-corruption fight was one of the most critical issues for the European integration of Romania. In December 2004, the Brussels European Council decided the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Romania but included specific safeguard clauses that would allow the postponement of the date of accession with a year. anti-corruption fight was one of the red-flagged areas and significant improvement of its efficiency is needed in a very short time. Although significant steps had been taken in the right direction, the reforms were still on the edge as they were facing the (open or hidden) opposition from people in decision positions feeling threatened by recent developments. Therefore a close public scrutiny of the whole process was needed to early signal and to prevent any potential derailment from the right track as it had been seen in the rejection of the law approving the OUG 134/2005.