09 October 2012

Gergana Jouleva, Executive Director of AIP *

 

OGP Bulgaria Operational Plan
Gergana Jouleva

In June 2012, the Bulgarian government adopted the Operational Plan for the Implementation of the Action Plan from April 11, 2012. The Action Plan of Bulgaria was presented at the OGP Annual Meeting in April 2012 in Brazil.

 

The two priority areas determined in the Action Plan of the Bulgarian Government are

Effective management of the public resources

and

Improving corporate responsibility and accountability.”

 

It is not clear how the latter priority was selected.

It triggers questions like are the state and the budget funded bodies transparent and accountable enough that corporate responsibility and accountability is a pressing problem that should be addressed, especially under the current economic circumstances.

The grounds for this priority do not become clear from the statements uploaded in the special Public Consultation Portal either. [1]

 

Such vagueness and unclearness could have been avoided if the Action Plan had been more widely discussed by all interested parties who would like to be involved.

 

The Operational Plan for Implementation of the Commitments undertaken within the Open Government Partnership adopted in June 2012 foresees the following results:

Will the expected results lead to more open, accountable and transparent government with enhance possibilities for public participation?

This is a question which can hardly be answered on the base of the measures provided by the Operational Plan.

It foresees again strategies for electronic government and electronic services. Don’t they make citizens completely transparent for the government?

The OGP initiative for more accountable, transparent and open government.

What are the measures that will make the government more transparent to the citizens?

Where are the measures for more transparent public procurements?

Wasn’t the better approach to evaluate the achievements on the first place and then formulate the problems with regard to the proactive transparency and the state of the public registers?

 

The last 33rd measure in the Operational Plan foresees an Access to Public Information Act Amendment Bill in order to establish unified parameters and standards for the publication of up-to-date information by the administrations.

These parameters and standards are currently present in the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act. The problem is the implementation of the obligations which has been improving very slowly during the 12 years of the APIA implementation. The level of implementation is still low even after the 2008 APIA amendments which introduced explicit obligations for proactive online publication by the executive bodies. [2]     

 

AIP has been monitoring the implementation of the obligations for proactive publication for years. In 2012, on the base of an assessment of the level of implementation of the proactive publication obligations, AIP launched the first Active Transparency Rating in Bulgaria of 487 executive bodies.[3]    

 

This Rating in reality reflects the overall level of transparency and the executive bodies capacity as a whole, and not only the implementation of a provision from the access to information law.

The level of transparency is rated from assessment of clear and comprehensible information about the powers and the functions of the institutions to assessment of budget and financial accountability.

Moreover, how can we talk about public participation if only 109 out of 474 executive bodies have published online drafts of normative acts. This is only 30 %.

The other issue is of course the sufficiency of the time given to the interested parties to take part in the public consultation on these drafts. Modern approach requires consultation and collection of opinions and statements at a stage much earlier and more time for reaction.

 

The priority with regard to the financial transparency has been formulated long ago. Obviously, the measures set forth by the Operational Plan should be widely discussed and be specified. The data from AIP surveys regarding budget and financial accountability show that 23% out of 474 executive bodies have published their budgets on the web sites and only 15.61 % have published the financial reports for 2011. Even if we take into account that part of these are second level budget spending units, 257 out of all 474 are municipalities. Their budget is subject to public discussion by law. [4]     

 

The Operational Plan provides for measures related to the budget and financial accountability, for example: Measure 3: Publication of „Citizens Budget” and Measure 4: „Publication of the financial and technical reports of second level budget spending units.”

 

Part of the measures in the Operational Plan suppose legislative amendments, other – introduction of oversight mechanism within the institutions, third suppose both. The most important is the understanding about the sequence and the systematic dependency of the undertaken measures.

 

Regarding access to information – the first thing to evaluate is the administrative capacity and the internal information systems of the executive bodies. On the base of this assessment, the necessity for APIA amendments and amendments to other related legislation with regard to the ptoactive publication of information should be considered.

 

Access to Information Programme has been recommending for years in its annual reports for the development of unified requirements for the technical parameters of the Internet sites in order for some consistency to be achieved of the content and the up-to-date information of the executive power bodies.

 

The start was initiated with the publication of the Operational Plan and the opening of the possibility for sending recommendations and opinions in the section Open Government Partnership of the government Public Consultation Portal. A Facebook web site was also launched. [5]

 

To achieve the goals of the OGP initiative on a national level, the Operational Plan should be discussed widely and with the involvement of all interested and responsible for the implementation of the measures parties.

 

The specification of the measures and the consideration of the proposals would open the process and would facilitate its monitoring.

 

The plan should include mechanism for reporting and monitoring and wider participation of civil organization.

 

Access to Information should be the pillar of the open, accountable and responsible government and should be set as the base of all other measures.

 

The formulation and adoption of policies after a wide and long enough discussion, participation and mechanisms of monitoring and control would “harden the core” and would “keep the vitality” not only of the Global OGP initiative, but also of the implementation of the National Action Plan of Bulgaria. Thus the measures provided by the Operational Plan will become “measures of success.”

 

*Gergana Jouleva's analysis on the measures provided by the Government Operational Plan was published in AIP FOI Monthly Newsletter, August 2012 (in Bulgarian).



[1] http://www.strategy.bg/Articles/List.aspx?lang=bg-BG

[2] http://www.aip-bg.org/en/surveys/2012/204468/

[3] http://www.aip-bg.org/surveys/Рейтинг/202921/

[4]  The number of municipalities in Bulgaria is 264. Seven out of these do not have web sites as of February 2012.

[5] http://www.strategy.bg/Articles/List.aspx?lang=bg-BG