Policy of Proactive Transparency in BiH Adopted

The Council of Ministers of BiH, at its session held 3 December 2018, adopted the Policy and Standards of Proactive Transparency in Institutions of Council of Ministers of BiH, in line with one of conclusions from the Information Paper of the Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office on Activities in the area of improving proactive transparency.

“Proactive publication of information of public importance directly contributes to achieving the concept of good governance in BiH, brings back public confidence in the work of government institutions, and enables the citizens to be better informed in order to exercise their participation in the work of public administration”, stated for the news agency Fena Mr Dragan Ćuzulan, Public Administration Reform Coordinator.

Mr Ćuzulan emphasised that transparency of administration is important for multiple reasons; it justifies existence of the administrative apparatus, strengthens public trust towards legitimately elected government representatives, saves resources and encourages establishment of the society of knowledge and competences.

He added that four institutions of the Council of Ministers of BiH: Agency for Statistics of BiH, Agency for Development of Higher Education and Quality Assurance in BiH, Directorate for European Integrations, Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office, which have participated in developing the Proactive Transparency Policy in Public Administration in BiH, together with representatives of civil society and with support of the German GIZ within the Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions in BiH. Already in September 2015, these institutions have started with implementation of the identified standards of proactive transparency. Overview of the achievement of the Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions in 2015 in the area of proactive transparency can be seen here. Since then, the German GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Government provided technical assistance to institutions in the form of trainings, workshops, drafting documents and publications, sharing experiences among institutions and in the form of organising thematic conferences for general public.

The Public Administration Reform Coordinator reminded of the last year’s BiH status report by the EU/OECD SIGMA, which stated that, among other things, at no level of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were provisions in place that promoted proactive transparency, like, for example, an extensive list of information that needed to be published on web sites of the public institutions.

“Adoption of policies and standards of proactive transparency strengthens democratic processes in BiH, and enables citizens to be better informed on the work of public administration”, said the Public Administration Reform Coordinator. Mr Ćuluzan emphasised that the importance of the proactive transparency policy, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers of BiH, also stems from the fact that it was developed in cooperation with civil society, and is one of the first policies that have been co-created by applying principles of Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Having adopted the information on activities in the area of proactive transparency, the Council of Ministers of BiH charged all institutions at national level to regularly update the documents and information published on their respective official web sites and to provide to the Public Reform Coordinator’s Office data regarding implementation of the Policy and standards of proactive transparency within six months.

Proactive access to information of public importance is also in the focus of the new Strategic Framework for Public Administration Reform for the period 2018-2022, as well as part of the Open Government Partnership, an initiative which Bosnia and Herzegovina joined in 2014. Also, the Anti-Corruption Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015-2019) states that “the authorities should upon their own initiative and on the basis of the amended normative framework, publish as much information as possible proactively, i.e. even when nobody requests such information, and they should do so in the form of searchable databases, whenever possible. It is equally important to ensure that such information is updated and that the authorities are responsible for their accuracy and completeness”.

Source: Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office, www.parco.gov.ba

Press clipping: “Oslobođenje” interview with Helen Darbishire on proactive transparency and open government in BiH

The interview below is taken from the “Oslobođenje” daily. The interview was conducted by Adem Džaferović on 12 August 2018

Helen Darbishire: If government is silent, corruption grows

You have been involved as a trainer on proactive transparency in a training workshop for civil servants that has been taking place over the last few days in Sarajevo. Can you tell us more about that?

– Basically, we are training civil servants through the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions with a view to increasing the number of institutions practicing proactive disclosure. We work with public bodies that already employ good practices and have experience in proactive disclosure, which will share their experience and knowledge acquired during this training workshop with other civil servants, so that other public bodies could improve their proactive transparency too.

Citizens’ right

Why are we doing this? There are multiple reasons. Proactive disclosure by government and transparency facilitate citizen participation, improve government and institutional accountability and enhance public trust in public administration. These are some of the benefits, but also, there are the commitments taken on in the area of ​​proactive transparency, as well as the international commitments under the Open Government Partnership initiative. The right of access to information is a democratic right of all BiH citizens.

How do you rate the proactive transparency standards that have been developed in BiH by state institutions in partnership with civil society?

– First, I must point out that I had the privilege to be one of the experts involved in the drafting of the BiH Freedom of Access to Information Law between 1999 and 2001. Historically, it was one of the first such laws in the world; however, in the last 18 years a lot of new laws have been enacted, so that now there are 125 countries that have a freedom of information law in place. Back then when it was drafted, the BiH Freedom of Access to Information Law was good, but it does not regulate proactive disclosure. Therefore, it is important to have this initiative between civil society and specific state-level institutions, which is supported by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Government. This initiative for proactive transparency is excellent. It tried, based on an analysis, to incorporate international standards in this area and I think it can help BiH to achieve international standards. I think it is very important that institutions adopt and implement the proactive transparency standards, but it is also important to incorporate proactive disclosure provisions in relevant legislation. This can be done through the Open Government Partnership, so there are no doubts whether disclosure should be practiced or not.

Why is it important that the authorities proactively disclose information of public importance?

– This is a very important question. There are various benefits citizens can enjoy from proactive disclosure. If citizens want to participate in public dialogue and public hearings, they need to have information first. The best way for citizens to obtain such information is through proactive disclosure by government, because we know that all citizens will not file an access to information request. Also, it is very important that public institutions understand that proactive transparency is not something that should be done because the EU or OGP say so, but that times have changed and today we all have easy and instant access to information. We have mobile phones, and we want to know how public works are carried out, if the water we use is safe and a lot of other things. Citizens expect to know at any moment what government is doing. Therefore, this is important in order to increase confidence in government and to enable citizen participation in public discussions. To strengthen the integrity of the civil service and the fight against corruption. Proactive disclosure can be very important to journalists. Journalists do not have time to file access to information requests in all situations. This kind of transparency is a means to fight against false news.

In BiH for a long time now there has been a debate about amendments to the Freedom of Access to Information Law, and the authorities act only upon requests. What does European practice say?

– European trend is for proactive disclosure to be a legal obligation. In February I was part of an EU mission in BiH and our task was to prepare recommendations for the BiH Ministry of Justice on how they can improve the Law. The recommendations we prepared included two important things. One is to incorporate the proactive transparency standard, and the other is to substantially improve the complaints procedure in this area. What we’ve noticed is that the countries that have a strong control over access to information also have better implementation of the law. In the countries of your region there are similar mechanisms. In Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and Serbia there are commissioners for information or bodies dedicated to ensuring implementation of this basic human right.

Although BiH has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2014, preparation of the first action plan is behind schedule. As somebody who sits on the Initiative’s Steering Board, how do you look at it?

– As part of the Initiative we monitor countries that are behind schedule in the implementation of the measures. I have to say that this is a particular concern that we have. However, the Open Government Partnership is a club that is based on voluntary accession, but also a club of democracies. For BiH it is important to be part of this club. In 2014 I was also in BiH and then I wanted to motivate civil society and government institutions to be part of the Initiative. I hope that BiH will develop its action plan soon because this could be your last chance to do it. It is important to hold a consultation with the public. Montenegro was also behindhand in drafting its action plan, but it has recently restarted its efforts in this area.

Signal to investors

It is not uncommon that some countries are behind schedule with the plan, but also OGP suspended some countries due to the delay, so this kind of consequence is not just an empty threat, but there are actual consequences. However, I am optimistic that BiH will develop its action plan in the next few months. Although there is no formal relationship between the EU and OGP, I think the participation in the Open Government Partnership is an important signal because increased transparency and civic engagement is important for the EU.

What are the opportunities and benefits that the Partnership offers to countries such as BiH?

– What it offers is the sharing of experiences between Member States on how best to do proactive disclosure. It facilitates the sharing of practices among governments around the world. BiH can learn what it needs to learn, and transfer this knowledge to others. The Partnership reminds us that we live in the Information Age, the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, and is a forum for government and civil society, with whose help the country will reap such benefits as citizen participation in decision-making, increased government accountability and higher public confidence in the government. Perhaps the most important advantage of transparency is that it increases economic opportunities for foreign investment in BiH.

Text: Oslobođenje, Adem Džaferović, https://www.oslobodjenje.ba/dosjei/intervjui/helen-darbishire-ako-vlast-suti-onda-raste-korupcija-384618
Photo: GIZ, Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions

Second Session of the OGP Advisory Council: Preparation of the OGP Action Plan in BiH

The second session of the Advisory Council for the implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative was held in Sarajevo on 30 August 2018. The session considered the proposed measures for the first Framework Action Plan to be prepared by Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

The Framework Action Plan will be made up of the plans by the BiH Council of Ministers, the Federation of BiH Government, the Republika Srpska Government and the Brčko District of BiH Government.

Some of the proposed measures include increasing the transparency of the BiH Council of Ministers institutions, open public procurement data, budgeting for citizens and development of a web platform for online preparation of integrity plans in BiH institutions.

The session agreed that consultations with the public concerned and the proposed measures for each administrative level should be implemented by the end of September 2018 at the latest.

A multilateral initiative, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global effort by multiple member states to improve the work of governments worldwide. As a member of the OGP global initiative, BiH is committed to respecting the principles of transparency, combatting corruption, empowering citizens and harnessing new technologies to make institutions in BiH more efficient and responsive to citizens.

Support to the work of the Advisory Council is provided by GIZ at the behest of the German Federal Government under the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions.

Source: Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office, www.parco.gov.ba

Press clipping: “Will BiH get a more open government?”

Measures under the first Action Plan will include the improvement of proactive transparency of government institutions and cooperation with civil society, says the coordinator.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a deadline until the end of August to prepare its first Action Plan for the implementation of the OGP Initiative and send it to the OGP Steering Board. Members of the OGP Advisory Council in BiH are currently working with relevant institutions to prepare measures that will be translated into an action plan.

By way of reminder, BiH officially joined the global multilateral initiative Open Government Partnership (OGP) as far back as 24 September 2014, but it wasn’t until almost four years later, namely in May 2018, that it established its OGP Advisory Council. As we have reported earlier, initial steps should have been made much earlier, but they could not be implemented because the RS Government did not delegate their representatives to the Advisory Council. This body wasn’t formed until May 2018.

Members of this body are tasked with coordinating and preparing action plans which will form an integral part of the single BiH Action Plan.

– In late July, members of the Advisory Council delegated from the BiH level (representatives of the Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office and the BiH Ministry of Justice), with technical support provided under the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions in BiH, which is implemented by GIZ at the behest of the German Federal Government, held a workshop on the preparation of measures for developing the OGP action plan for the BiH level. The workshop was attended by representatives of four institutions: BiH Ministry of Finance and Treasury, BiH Agency for Prevention of Corruption and Coordination of the Fight against Corruption, BiH Agency for Statistics and BiH Public Procurement Agency, as well as representatives of four civil society organisations that are represented in the OGP Advisory Council: Transparency International BiH, UG “Zašto ne?”, Foundation “Centre for Public Interest Advocacy” and Centre for Investigative Reporting, said Dragan Ćuzulan, chair of the Advisory Council and national PAR Coordinator.

He also added that the workshop was an opportunity for the representatives of the institutions to present their activities relevant for open government and consult on them with representatives of civil society.

– It was concluded that the measures in the first Action Plan would relate to the promotion of proactive transparency of institutions, piloting open data, improving cooperation with civil society, and strengthening the integrity of civil servants. Based on these general areas, the institutions took upon themselves to propose measures to be considered in the further process of developing the action plan, said Ćuzulan.

Professional consultancy

GIZ told us that the Programme provides technical expertise to public administration reform because this is one of the cornerstones of the European integration process and one of the pillars of good public governance.

– In the recent period, the Programme has provided professional consultancy services in the development and implementation of public consultations on this new Strategic Framework for Public Administration Reform, said GIZ.

 

Source: Oslobođenje, Adem Džaferović, https://www.oslobodjenje.ba/vijesti/bih/hoce-li-bih-dobiti-otvoreniju-vlast-385125

Photo: Open Government Partnership

Workshop on Preparation of the OGP Action Plan Held

Workshop on preparation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan for the level of BiH was organised in Sarajevo on 27 July 2018 with support of the Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions in BiH. Following the conclusion of the Advisory Council for Open Government Partnership from the session held 20 June 2018 on Jahorina the representatives of all four administrative levels are responsible for preparation of action plans and coordination with other relevant institutions. Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Public Administration Reform Coordinator's Office (PARCO) have held preparatory meetings, identified relevant institutions, sent invititations to representatives of institutions and civil society as well as prepared the materials for workshop.

The workshop was attended by the representatives of four institutions: Ministry of Finance and Treasury of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Agency for Prevention of Corruption and Coordination of Fight Against Corruption of BiH, Agency for Statistics of BiH, and Agency for Public Procurement of BiH. Furthermore, the representatives of four civil society organisations that are represented in the OGP Advisory Council took active part in this workshop: Transparency International BiH (TI BiH), Citizens’ Association “Zašto ne?” (“Why Not?”), Foundation “Centre for Advocacy of Citizens’ Interests” (CPI), and the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIN). The workshop was opened with remarks of Doc. Dr. Dragan Ćuzulan, Public Administration Reform Coordinator and the Chairman of the OGP Advisory Council and Nedžad Salman, Assistant Minister of Justice BiH. During the workshop representative of GIZ Elvis Mujanović, Advisor in the Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions in BiH, also briefly addressed the participants.

After the presentations of the process of joining the OGP initiative by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the process of establishment and work of the OGP Advisory Council, the institutions’ representatives presented their activities of significance for open government and consulted about them during the workshop with the representatives of civil society.

After consultations and discussions, it has been concluded that the commitments in the first action plan for the level of BiH will refer to the areas of improvement of proactive transparency of public institutions, piloting of open data, improvement of cooperation mechanisms with civil society and strengthening of integrity of civil servants. Based on these general areas the institutions commited to drafting the proposals of commitments that will be further discussed and consulted in the process of drafting the action plan.

Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2018 in Georgia

In organisation of the Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions, which is implemented by GIZ on behalf of German Federal Government, representatives of public institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took part at the 5th Global Summit on Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Tbilisi, Georgia from 17 until 19 July 2018. Among the representatives of BiH were the members of the Advisory Council for OGP from the Ministry of Justice of BiH and Public Administration Reform Coordinator's Office (PARCO). Representatives of the Directorate for European Integration and the Agency for Statistics of BiH also attended the summit.

OGP Global Summit provided an opportunity for representatives of 96 national and local OGP participating governments, including heads of states and governments, ministers, public servants, members of parliaments, representatives of civil society, international funding parties, researchers, academia and journalists to promote their achievements and discuss the challenges in respecting the principles of open government.

OGP Global Summit 2018 was focussed on citizen engagement, fight against corruption and public service delivery with the aim to inspire OGP reformers to be more ambitious and to provide a push to OGP plans towards new challenges and improving the lives of citizens across the world.

Programme for Strengthening of Public Institutions within the thematic area of Communications, Civil Society and Transparency has been providing technical expertise to the efforts of the partner institutions in their opening towards citizens, establishing collaboration with civil society and increasing the transparency of their work.

Source: Public Administration Reform Coordinator's Office, www.parco.gov.ba

Memorandum of Understanding on Transfer of Technology and Know-How Signed

Promoting and supporting the development of a stable and professional public sector that can efficiently and professionally provide quality services to citizens, businesses and other administrative bodies, Civil Service Agency of BH (CSA), Public Procurement Agency of BH (PPA) and GIZ, which implements on behalf the German Federal Government the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions, signed on 21 June 2018 in Sarajevo the Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the transfer of technology and knowledge in the field of training and professional development of public sector employees. Memorandum has been signed by Neven Akšamija, Director of CSA, Đenan Salčin, Director of PPA and Mr Mathias Mühle, GIZ Project Leader.

On the practical level, Electronic Training Management System, previously developed with technical support of GIZ for the management of civil service trainings in the CSA, will be handed over and adapted for the trainings of public procurement officers organised by the PPA. Additionally, colleagues from CSA will share their experiences in use of the system and train their colleagues from PPA.

Donor Meeting in the PAR Sector Organised

A meeting of representatives of donors in the Public Administration Reform sector was held in Sarajevo on 20 June 2018. The meeting was organised by PARCO, with the support of the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions which is implemented by GIZ at the behest of the German Federal Government.

Stressing that the meeting will, inter alia, be focused on the new strategic framework for the continuation of public administration reform, PAR coordinator Dragan Ćuzulan recalled that the BD Government and the FBiH Government had adopted this document a few days before and that its adoption was also expected in the BiH Council of Ministers and the RS Government.

“I believe we are all aware that without a new strategic framework it will not be possible to continue the reform process and bring the public administration closer to citizens so that it could, in less time and for less money, offer citizens cheaper, better and more efficient public services. Also, it is clear that without a shared and firm commitment by all stakeholders in this process it will not be possible to meet all the targets that we have jointly set in this document – one of the few documents that is applicable to all four administrative levels in BiH,” said the coordinator .

He stressed that national institutions had to finally demonstrate a political and financial willingness and take the lead in the implementation of reforms, adding that “on this path we still need help from embassies”.

“Even though it has proved to be a good modality for financing projects, the Public Administration Reform Fund (PARF) threatens to collapse unless we make sure that another annex is signed or an altogether new one is adopted,” said the coordinator.

Ferid Otajagić, PAR deputy coordinator, thanked the donors that had supported the PAR process in the past and urged them to continue doing so.

“PARCO has the capacity and ability to resume the work on initiating, coordinating and managing the PAR process,” said Otajagić.

Mirsada Jahić, FBiH PAR coordinator, acknowledged the efforts made in coordinating this process and added that PARCO and the coordination structure have yet to face the toughest challenge, namely the preparation and adoption of the Action Plan.

“It is only by defining new measures in the action plan and implementing them that we will achieve the objective of making public administration more responsive to citizens and the business community and creating a better business environment,” said the coordinator, adding that the FBiH Government supported PARCO’s efforts and the functioning of PARF which focuses on project activities that help the administration implement reform measures.

In addition to PARCO representatives, PAR coordinators from BD BiH, RS and FBiH and representatives of national institutions, today’s meeting was attended by representatives of the EU Delegation, GIZ, the World Bank, the Embassy of Switzerland in BiH, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the British Embassy in BiH.

Source: Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office, www.parco.gov.ba

 

First Meeting of the Community of Practice for Long-Term and Sectoral Planning

As part of Public Administration Reform (PAR), the first meeting of the Community of Practice for Long-Term/Sectoral Planning (CoP) was held on 1 June 2018. CoP aims to serve as an experience sharing forum in the field of long-term/sectoral planning and implementation of the European Commission recommendations regarding the development of a long-term planning methodology and sector strategy. The meeting was attended by representative of the relevant institutions at all administrative levels that are engaged in long-term planning: BiH Ministry of Justice, BiH Directorate for Economic Planning, BiH Ministry of Finance and Treasury, FBiH Development Programming Institute, General Secretariat of the RS Government, Secretariat of the BD BiH Government and PARCO. The aim of the CoP meetings is to improve, harmonise and align policies. The first CoP meeting was held as part of the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions, which is implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Government. The meeting was organised in coordination with and in the presence of representatives of the EU Delegation in BiH.

Inaugural Session of the Advisory Council of the Open Government Partnership Initiative (OGP) in BiH

The inaugural session of the Advisory Council of the “Open Government Partnership” initiative was held on 29 and 30 May 2018 in Doboj. The session was attended by appointed government representatives of all administrative levels and four civil society organisations.

At the inaugural session Dragan Ćuzulan, the incumbent PAR coordinator, was unanimously elected Chair of the Advisory Council and Elvira Mujkić, project manager at Transparency International BiH, was unanimously elected Deputy Chair of the Advisory Council.

The session also adopted the Rules of Procedure of the Council specifying, inter alia, that the Chair and Deputy Chair will serve a two-year term of office with the possibility of re-election and tasking the council members with coordinating the preparation of the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the “Open Government Partnership” initiative with public administration authorities, in line with the constitutional and statutory responsibilities of the government levels that appointed them. Pursuant to the Rules of Procedure, the work of the Advisory Council is open to the public.

The second day included a workshop on the development of the OGP action plan. Work on the action plan involves close cooperation between public administration bodies at all levels of government in BiH and CSOs, with the aim of better defining priorities and activities. Improving dialogue and cooperation between government and civil society is considered a key step in the development and implementation of the Framework Action Plan for the implementation of the initiative. Head of the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions Mathias Mühle addressed the participants, stressing the importance of the OGP principles and citing the example of the OGP National Action Plan adopted in 2017 by the German Federal Government.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is supposed to develop a framework action plan to be made up of the action plans of the BiH Council of Ministers, entity governments and Brčko District Government, with a view to meeting the commitments under the Initiative.

A multilateral initiative, the Open Government Partnership is a global effort by multiple member states to improve the work of governments worldwide. OGP is aimed at securing concrete progress in promoting transparency in public administration, increasing civic engagement and empowering citizens and civil society, combatting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to improve the quality of services provided by public administration.

Support in the organisation of the inaugural session of the Advisory Council was provided by the Programme for Strengthening Public Institutions (SPI) in BiH, which is implemented by GIZ at the behest of the German Federal Government.

As part of the SPI’s thematic area “Communications”, since 2014 GIZ has been supporting partner institutions in BiH on behalf of the German Federal Government in implementing the principles of open government. The first workshop on the Open Government Partnership was held in March 2014 and it was attended by representatives of nine institutions and five CSOs. In 2015 GIZ provided technical support to undertaking and implementing an initiative for proactive transparency, involving cooperation between civil society and government. In December 2016, in cooperation with the BiH Ministry of Justice, PARCO and Transparency International, GIZ conducted a two-day training workshop on open government for about 40 civil servants from state-level institutions.

Source: Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office, www.parco.gov.ba