Monitoring done within the regional WeBER project indicates worrying trends in proactive informing of the citizens by the governments of the Western Balkans, particularly in aspects related to annual reporting, budget, public consultation, with a clear lack of citizen-friendliness in presentation of information and absence of open data practices.
Researchers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have completed monitoring of the way public authorities are presenting information about their work to the public through their websites.
The monitoring was done on a sample of institutions in each of the countries of the region. The information published by the authorities of the region have been assessed against four key criteria: completeness, being up to date, accessibility and citizen friendliness, along with the aspect covering open data practices. Researchers examined the availability of the following data: general and contact information, policy documents and legal acts, studies and analysis, as well as reports, budgetary information, organisational structure, cooperation with CSOs and public consultation process.
Regionally, the authorities overall fare better in more basic aspects of transparency in terms of completeness and published information being up to date, while still lacking significant results in more advanced methods of accessibility and citizen friendliness in presenting information. While 38% of the overall available points for completeness and up to date informing of the public were won regionally, only 17% of available points were won for accessibility and citizen friendliness.
Almost all countries scored well for the practices of publishing information on the scope of work of the institutions. In almost each country, the authorities are quite good at publishing complete and up to date information on policy documents and legal acts. Furthermore, almost all of the countries are commended for publishing contact information of the authorities, in both complete and easily accessible manner.
Looking at regional trends in proactive informing of the public, it is evident that all the administrations of the region have problems in publishing of their own analytical materials (policy papers, studies). Lack of annual reporting which is almost omnipresent in the region, is complemented by the equal omission of publishing budgetary information. Particularly worrisome is the lack of available information on the ways in which the governments in the region cooperate with civil society and other external stakeholders, including public consultation processes.
The monitoring has shown that public authorities of the region proactively neglect open data policy, as none of the countries scored any points in this area. This proves that open data is among the most challenging methods of informing the public in the region. However, insufficient demand could also be partially responsible for the lack of greater success in this area.
Serbia’s strengths in this regard lie mainly in the complete and up to date publishing of information, with an important omission of annual reports, as well as lack of informing on aspects of cooperation with civil society and other external stakeholders. Information booklets can be considered as a good practice, that earned Serbia maximum points in certain elements where other countries scored poorly.
The key weakness of BiH in terms of proactive informing of citizens relates to the lack of annual reporting, as well as missing budget information. The practice of Information Booklets is also contributing to the overall better results of BiH compared to other countries, ranking as a runner-up to Serbia.
The only points earned by Macedonia relate to the publishing of contact information and partial completeness of policy documents and legal acts. Although the new Government has taken important steps toward remedying the past practices, the workload is huge and it will take time to fill the gaps in transparency and accountability.
One of the factors hampering Albania’s score in proactive informing of the public is the merging of internal restructuring that the ministries have undergone after the 2017 parliamentary elections. However, lack of annual reporting represents one of the key issues, along with the omission to publish policy papers, studies and analysis on their fields of competences.
Kosovo’s institutions are particularly negligent when it comes to publishing budgetary information as well as annual reports. Citizen friendliness is absent in almost all of the aspects covered by the indicator, while low scores are also given for the way the information regarding public consultations and cooperation with external stakeholders is presented.
Besides certain key information not being published, Montenegro also earned only two out of possible 16 points for accessibility and citizen-friendly way of presenting information, lagging behind all of the WB countries in this regard, save Macedonia. Another worrying trend is a sharp contrast between ministries and subordinate institutions in the scope of information about their work that is published.