From: Shqipe Gjocaj
The Office of the Prime Minister should be the most open and transparent institution for the public. With executive power, this institution must be accountable by providing information that is easily accessible and usable for the public, for the media, civil society, businesses and other actors.
Moreover, the Prime Minister’s Office should also serve as an example for line ministries and other institutions, not only with open information, but also by providing suitable tools for citizen participation in decision-making processes. But the situation at the moment is different.
In periodic analysis for the open work of institutions, Open Data Kosovo (ODK) evaluates the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo with an overall score of 69%. The Prime Minister’s Office has shown similar results in previous years, with modest improvement over the years. While in 2018, the overall assessment for the Prime Minister’s Office was 53%, progress was achieved in 2019 with 63%. A similar overall result of 62% was achieved in 2020.
The analysis in question presents the results of the Regional Open Government Index and is based on the four principles of the Regional Open Government Index such as transparency, access, integrity and awareness. To come to the respective conclusions, ODK first evaluated how easy it was to access information on the official webpage of the Prime Minister’s Office.
It is understood there that the Office of the Prime Minister stands well in terms of institutional transparency. This means that the website usually has published (in two official languages) news from government meetings, including official documents, reports, strategies, annual work plans and recent decisions.
However, the Office of the Prime Minister has deficiencies in institutional transparency. There is no information on the website about the representative for access to public documents. There is no data about budget transparency, contracts and budget reports, nor about public expenditures, services and management.
The lack of institutional transparency is also evidenced in public procurement processes. Information about open procurement requests, procurement decisions and contracts and other information are missing. The black list of businesses, i.e. businesses that have been found guilty for bribery in procurement procedures and that should therefore be banned from bidding for future contracts, is not provided. Here, information is also missing in e-procurement or in the computerised platform of the Public Procurement Regulatory Commission.
The Office for Good Governance has created the Public Consultations platform where all the necessary documents for consultation are published online by the ministries for the relevant issues. The reports on the consultations are also published. But it is not known if there is any procedure that enables citizens or interested parties to oppose the decisions taken.
So, “Where to complain?” remains a question because the Office of the Prime Minister has not yet created a form of annexes on the website. Information on the chronology, relevant civil servants and institutions dealing directly with specific complaints/requests is essential if the government really cares about the citizen voice. Therefore, the establishment of an appropriate mechanism through which citizens can challenge the decisions that are made is necessary.
Thanks to the Agency for the Administration of Civil Servants that obliges MPs to declare their wealth through asset cards in accordance with the said code, the Prime Minister’s Office stands well in terms of managing conflict of interest and wealth declaration.
But what needs to be ensured next are proactive ethics reporting measures, including protocols for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour for many different groups from the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, to political staff and public servants.
It can do this by providing information about personnel, names, salaries, professional background and their position in the institution. Who are the people in the institution can also be considered as one of the basic steps for building trust between the government and citizens
In order for women and men, students, civil society and the media to be up-to-date with the details that occur in decision-making processes, the Prime Minister’s Office should publish government meetings on the website, either in audio or video, to enable better information and accountability from the government of the country.
Government accountability without transparent public procurement makes no sense. The government must publish plans, calls, decisions, contracts and appendices related to public procurement so that the expenditure of public money is accessible to the public. Trust in the government is further strengthened if the government creates and publishes the Citizens’ Budget.
In the digital age, information on the web reflects internal organisational work, principles, and accountability. Therefore, the least that the Prime Minister can do to be a credible and integrity institution is to complete, update and enrich the official website with information. This information that in a parliamentary democracy citizens are guaranteed that they can exercise the right to examine the decision-making process and demand accountability from the leadership
The Prime Minister’s Office has apparent potential to be more open with the general public. The Prime Minister of the country is active with updates on his profile in social networks with the latest news, organisational transparency is satisfactory, there is good infrastructure for freedom of information, there is Regulations on the Code of Conduct in the Civil Service that imposes on MPs to declare their wealth, etc.
By addressing the essential issues mentioned above, the Prime Minister’s Office can not only build a bridge of trust with citizens, civil society, media and other parties, but also be an example of open governance for other institutions in the country.