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ACTION SEE: Executive power in Bosnia and Herzegovina not open to citizens enough

Alisa Karović

Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfill slightly more than 43% of the indicators in the areas of transparency, accessibility, integrity and awareness. This is shown by the analysis of the openness and accountability of the executive power, conducted by the regional network “ActionSEE”, within the project ”Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in South East Europe”, financially supported from EU, and the project “Using New Media to Promote Government Transparency” implemented with financial support of NED – National Endowment for Democracy. The research was conducted in the period from October to December 2016 in BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.

The regional index of openness (RIO) measures a degree up to which institutions of Western Balkan countries are open to their citizens and society.

The research has pointed to several key obstacles for development of openness in the region: non-transparent state budgets and public procurement procedures, limited access to information, insufficient application of the mechanism of public consultations and involvement of citizens in the decision-making processes, lack of mechanisms for conflict of interest’s prevention. As a regional problem, there is also a disrespect for the principle that the data, which should be public and accessible, should be published in open data formats.

Web platforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as e-consultations, which should enable the participation of citizens and representatives of civil society in the process of adopting legal regulations, are not fully functional. The Public Procurement web portal only provides a selective and partial information (information about bidders, contracting parties, and public procurement notices). Contracts with most successful bidders are not publicly available. The official websites of institutions in BiH are outdated, limited in content and not systematic, which limits the ability to search for specific data, such as public money spending, budgets, work programs, work reports etc.
Openness of the Core executive of BiH (Council of Ministers of BiH, Federal Government and Government of Republika Srpska) amounts to 60% of fulfilled indicators.

Budget transparency fulfills nearly 58% of the set indicators. Possibilities of searching the budgets are limited, which makes it difficult to compare, analyze, or use data for further processing. Citizens do not have the opportunity to analyze budgets through narrative and graphical explanations, which should be available through documents such as “Citizens’ Budget” or similar forms which present budget documents in a manner which is simple and easy to understand.

According to the RIO results, the Core executive of BiH (Council of Ministers of BiH, Federal Government and Government of Republika Srpska) have a solid transparency of public procurement procedures, with 71% of satisfied indicators. The Council of Ministers of BiH fulfills 80% of the methodological criteria for public procurement transparency, the Government of Republika Srpska 85%, while the Federal Government has the worst result, with just 48% of indicators fulfilled. Official websites contain Public Procurement Plans for purchase of goods and services, for the current and past two years. However, data related to public procurement procedures are often not up to date, while contracts and data on most successful bidders are most often lacking.

All state and entity ministries in Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfill 35% of the analyzed criteria in the areas of transparency, accessibility, awareness and integrity, which further demonstrates the low level of openness of the executive power in BiH.
Overall transparency rating of ministries in BiH is a modest 38% of marked indicators.

In terms of transparency of public procurement procedures, the ministries fulfill only 9% of the analyzed criteria. About 44% of ministries in BiH have not announced their public procurement plans for the previous year. The monitoring showed that only 61% of ministries published calls and decisions on public procurement. Only 11% of ministries has provided certain information about their budgets (for the last three years) on the official website, while websites for over 80% of ministries has no available budget for any of the previous three years. The analysis showed that more than half of ministries do not disclose even the most basic information about their employees, while data on the amount of salaries of employees has not been published on any of the ministries’ websites.

Executive agencies also have a modest score of 35% of fulfilled openness indicators.

Transparency amounts to 31% of indicators fulfilled. Almost 90% of executive agencies in BiH do not publish their budgets on their official websites, and half of them do not publish procurement plans. Only 27% of the executive agencies (analysis covered 45 agencies) is publishing their annual work program on the official website, and 33% publish their work reports.

The analysis points to the conclusion that the policy of openness of all governments in the region should be clearly defined, adopted and treated the same way as other important policies, instead of relying on ad-hoc decisions, or individual willingness of the authorities, for its implementation. Each country has its own specific conditions under which it develops the openness policies. However, the research reveals that there is a significant space for a collective/regional action to improve the conditions and practices in this area.

PROPOSALS FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF A  CURRENT STATE – Openness of institutions of executive power in the region and Bosnia and Herzegovina