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Transparency

The principle of transparency is applied to ensure that those affected by administrative decisions have comprehensive information about the results and implications of policies and about the process of decision-making. The public availability of information about government policies, programmes and activities enables citizens and local communities to gain a clear understanding of government actions, make informed choices, and participate in local decision-making processes. It also enables elected officials, those in government and those in opposition, to take informed decisions and to exercise effective scrutiny and hold the executive to account for their actions. In addition, access to information is essential for journalists and civil society representatives to effectively perform their watchdog functions and hold the government accountable.

Local government should make data available to the public in an accessible format and do so in a timely manner. This enables citizens and stakeholders to participate in decision-making processes from an informed perspective, and to monitor and evaluate government implementation of policies and decisions in order to hold public officials accountable for their actions. Transparency is achieved through a range of mechanisms, building on the right of citizens to access information. These include the disclosure of the financial assets and interests of senior public officials and elected office-holders, and the publication of information in accessible, intersearchable open-data formats.

According to the definition of the Open Knowledge Foundation, “open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike.” Therefore, the concept of open data goes beyond the availability of public information and focuses on its use, out of which additional economic, social and political benefits are generated. To make it happen, the data published should be complete, permanent, non-exclusive, non-discriminatory, and non-proprietary, as well as provided by primary sources, in a timely manner and in machine-readable formats (more information here and here).

Limited access to public information negatively affects public trust towards public institutions, increases potential corruption risks, and restricts opportunities for various stakeholders to monitor government performance. It also inhibits citizens and stakeholders’ efforts to participate in policymaking and to design evidence-based policy recommendations for positive changes. The practice shows that access to information legislation and proper enforcement measures are an essential part of the enabling environment for citizens’ access to information.

Public procurement is considered to be one of the key areas susceptible to corruption. It accounts for around 12 percent of global gross domestic product, and in most high-income economies the purchase of goods and services accounts for one-third of total public spending. In short, public procurement is a significant area for potential corruption, collusion and other illegal practices. To avoid public procurement-related corruption risks, electronic means and platforms operating through open data solutions are increasingly available and used by government authorities to reform state procurement tendering procedures. Combined with open contracting (where bids and contracts are made public), the increase in fully accessible, well-publicised procurement processes opens tendering to more bidders and reduces the scope for anti-competitive practices and bribery.

Another important component of transparency principles is the openness of the financing of political parties and election campaigns, as it is important for the electorate to know the sources of financing, and how the money is spent, in order to make informed decisions and to understand which financial, political or other interests are supporting particular candidates or parties. The transparency of political donations is a preventive measure against the use of money emanating from illicit and criminal sources in politics and elections.

Finally, to ensure that state resources are used in an economical, efficient and effective way, the independence and institutional capacity of the body responsible for external audit should be secured. Members of the wider public should have the possibility to familiarise themselves with reports and major recommendations issued by the auditor. External audit is important to identify major challenges in the public sector, improve transparency and performance of public institutions, and design evidence-based policies.

General Domestic Context

In the Republic of Moldova, citizens are guaranteed both access to public information (Law No. 982 of 11 May 200 on access to public information) and the possibility to participate in the decision-making process (Law No. 239 of 13 November 2008 on transparency in the decision making process). According to the 2020 Freedom House Report, there are no major regulatory drawbacks related to transparency and access to information. A 2020 State Chancellery Report on ensuring transparency in the decision-making process by the central public administration authorities concluded that about 94% of the draft decisions and laws were made available for public consultation with the interested stakeholders, prior to their adoption. However, civil society organisations show that challenges remain in this regard. As per the CSO Meter Moldova Report, the deficiencies related to transparency, participation in decision-making processes and co-operation with the state remained mostly unchanged in 2020. The transparency of the decision-making processes at the local level is lower than at the central level.

With regard to Open Data, the Republic of Moldova embarked on a national open data initiative in 2011. Currently, the platform data.gov.md is a key pillar for the Technological Modernization of Government agenda, which aims to facilitate citizens' access to data from ministries and central public administration institutions. Today, more than 1,100 datasets are on the portal and several apps are based on this data. In August 2021, for the first time in the Republic of Moldova, a Deputy Prime Minister for Digitization was included in the composition of the Government. The position is responsible, among others, for public sector innovation and modernisation of public services and administrative processes.

Public procurement in the Republic of Moldova is mainly governed by Law No.131 of 3 July 2015 on public procurement. The government has further approved a set of secondary legislation intended to facilitate the implementation of this law. Since March 2018, economic operators can use the MTender (mtender.gov.md) e-procurement system, to sign contracts online, both public and commercial ones. Public bodies funded from the state budget may use MTender to sign any public contract and register it with the Treasury of the Republic of Moldova.

The Court of Accounts (CoA) is assigned as the responsible institution for the external audit of the management of public funds under the Law No. 260 of 7 December 2017. Since then, the CoA focused its external public audit actions on mandatory financial audit missions. This type of audit is performed with the aim of providing an opinion on the reliability and credibility of financial information. According to the CoA 2020 Report, the implementation of recommendations by the audited public institutions denotes an increase of the quality of financial management within many of these entities.

The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) is responsible for the supervision and control of political financing (both for political parties and election candidates). However, according to the civil society’s reports on monitoring political parties and electoral campaign financing, the current impact of the CEC’s activity in this area is very low. This is mostly due to the fact that the central electoral authority does not have effective tools, resources and mechanisms to fully check the correctness of the information included in the reports on political parties’ financing. As a result, the national observers noted a low level of transparency and comprehensiveness of the reports on political financing submitted by the political parties and election candidates.

 

Over the past two decades, Georgia has made significant progress in terms of good governance and transparency reforms. Various international studies show that the country has effectively tackled petty corruption and is currently continuing to implement the necessary reforms to prevent and eliminate high-level corruption that will ensure the consolidation and strengthening of democratic systems. The engagement of local municipalities, their demonstrated efforts, active participation and the sharing of experience between local civil servants and decision-makers is crucial in this process.

The introduction of good governance standards at the local level is one of the important components of Georgia's Decentralization Strategy (2020-2025). The third strategic goal of the document is to establish a credible, accountable, transparent and result-oriented local self-government, which includes the following important objectives:

1. Implementation of effective and innovative management systems and quality service delivery at the local level;

2. Introduction of a high standard of transparency and accountability;

3. Promotion of high quality participation in the decision-making and implementation process by the local self-government;

4. Establishment of a local development planning and coordination system.

Strengthening local self-government is also included as one of the objectives of the country's Public Administration Reform, which is in line with the priorities of the Association Agenda between Georgian and the European Union.

In recent years, local municipalities have become more active in various local and international initiatives on good governance. For example, several municipalities have joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and undertaken various activities under OGP National Action Plans. In addition, the Tbilisi CIty Hall has been developing and implementing its own OGP Action Plans since 2016 as part of the OGP local programme. In 2020, Ozurgeti, Khoni and Akhaltsikhe municipalities also joined the OGP local programme, and committed to develop their first OGP Action Plans. Furthermore, since 2015, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy of Georgia has identified anti-corruption priorities and measures for municipalities. For example, the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2020 and its Action Plan, among other commitments, aim to strengthen the principles of integrity, openness, accountability and transparency in municipalities. To this end, the Action Plan sets out the development of strategies and activities to increase transparency and integrity in municipalities. This echoes the recommendation of the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Network, which has been issued to improve the principles of good governance in the country.

 

The revolutionary political changes in 2018 led to the announcement of the new government about its readiness to fight against corruption and keep citizens at the centre of decision-making. This was a positive sign for the priorities of open government in Armenia, in particular for the fight against corruption and the improvement of transparency and accountability.

Though since late 1990s Armenia had a few regulations to ensure transparency in decision-making (such as access to information in environmental and urban planning matters), and since 2003 it had an effective Law on Freedom of Information, the country has advanced its legal systems and practices of transparent governance significantly since joining the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative on 17 October 2011. The progress of implementation of the OGP commitments under four action plans is rather noticeable particularly in sectors such as local self-governance, public procurement, law-making activities, the state funding of non-state actors, beneficial ownership, mining, healthcare, education, etc.

A considerable volume of open data exists in Armenia regarding the draft legal acts, budgets, procurement, elections, companies, asset and income declarations, etc.  which are invaluable sources of research and journalistic investigations. Nevertheless, as the need for information grows rapidly, the Government of Armenia often fails in meeting the demands of its citizens, non-governmental actors, journalists, and it was noticeable that the level of government transparency significantly suffered during COVID-19 pandemic.

All state agencies, regional administrations and large communities have their own official websites, where they publish information about their activities and have feedback options. The Law on Local Self-Government establishes a duty for communities to have an official website with publicly available information on documentation, procedures, location and timelines of meetings, public hearings and discussions with community residents.  The obligatory documentation also includes the results of public hearings and discussions on decisions of the community council and community head as well as on other documents prescribed by law, procedures on participation of local community residents in the self-government process, procedures of formation and operation of consultative bodies adjunct to the head of the community, other procedures and relevant information. Yet, municipalities do not always meet this legal obligation due to different reasons, be it related to their financial, human capacities or other reasons.

Generally speaking, observations show that in spite of some democratic developments following the “Velvet revolution” of 2018 and multiple systems put in place, the transparency of governance has not improved.

From the outset, Kosovo* is faced with the challenge to fight corruption and increase public transparency. Unfortunately, these two challenges have negatively affected the building of well-functioning institutions and the creation of political stability. Transparency in the public sector is very important for building citizens' trust in governing institutions and increasing public accountability.

Nevertheless, in the last years, Kosovo* has shown development and improvements in increasing transparency. These developments are found in the legal framework, as Kosovo* is enacting new laws and amending their current laws in order to comply with European legislation and international standards. In this way, in 2019, Kosovo* enacted the new law on Access to Public Documents that regulates the right to access to public information and open data.

It is worth mentioning that Kosovo* has made progress in open data and e-government to achieve transparency. Hence, every public institution and agency and every municipality has their own website where they publish information about their organisation, functions and activity. It is becoming easier to access information and data through those websites and platforms. An example on improvement on openness and transparency is the Assembly of Kosovo*. Based on a policy paper that is prepared by Open Data Kosovo that analyses the level of transparency, openness, and accountability of the legislative power shows that the Assembly of Kosovo* is becoming more open and transparent for the citizens. In 2016 Kosovo*’s Assembly scored 60% in the indicators of openness. This percentage dropped in 2017 to 49% which it was not evaluated as satisfactory. Kosovo*’s ranking was more satisfying in 2018 as it scored overall 73%. And the Kosovo* Assembly received an overall score of 80,5% in the openness for the year 2019. Regarding accessibility the Kosovo* Assembly scored 68% on the principle of accessibility which is 13% higher than the previous year. The Assembly of Kosovo* scored a total of 88% on the principle of Transparency.

In 2019, minor positive developments in local democratic governance in Albania were overshadowed by single-party control of nearly all municipalities following the main opposition party’s boycott of the June local elections. This unprecedented situation raised serious concerns over good governance due to the absence of opposition voices in the current four-year mandate.

In its fourth year of implementation, the territorial and administrative reform (TAR) process is showing the need for consolidation. The report titled “Functioning of municipalities in the framework of TAR,” carried out by the Albanian Supreme State Audit Institution (ALSAI) in 2018, found serious concerns in relation to local finances, fiscal autonomy, alignment of other laws with Law no. 139/2015 on “Local self-governance”, and legal ambiguities that may be misused to breach local government autonomy.

The European Commission’s 2019 Progress Report on Albania echoes similar challenges and also points to concerns over the civil service at the local level. National transfers still constitute 73 percent of the budgets of LGUs, which remain largely ineffective at collecting revenues and delivering quality public services.

Recent studies show that the average level of transparency with regard to access to information by local governments in Albania is 57% and approximately half of the 61 municipalities have adopted a transparency programme.

The country's political stalemate saw an opening in January 2020, when the ruling majority and the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition reached an agreement to take forward the electoral reform, to implement the recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), ensuring transparent financing of political parties and electoral campaigns.

A robust law on access to information is not well implemented. Public procurement processes and public finances are frequently opaque, though parliamentary procedures are more open and accessible.

Access to information

Access to information is the legal right for citizens to request and receive information from public authorities.  It is often enacted by Freedom of Information legislation. As an integral part of the right of freedom of expression, access to information is a human right and everyone should have the right to access information from public bodies and public agencies in accordance with the principle of maximum disclosure subject to only a narrow, clearly defined, set of exceptions proportionate to the interest that justifies them (e.g. grounds of security or data privacy). More information here and here.

International standards

Access to information supports accountability, oversight of government, and monitoring of corruption. It is also critical to informed citizen participation in decision-making, and is therefore fundamental for the effective functioning of democracies. Free access to information empowers civil society to monitor and scrutinise the actions of local authorities, it serves to prevent abuse of power by public officials, and provides data for informed public debate.

The proactive publication of the maximum amount of information in the most accessible formats serves to reduce the need for citizens and stakeholders to file individual requests for the release of information. As well as providing the maximum amount of information electronically, local authorities should prioritise the designation of Freedom of Information officers in their municipalities. Such officers should prepare and publish detailed recommendations for both citizens and local authorities, and provide clear guidance on the appeals process in the event that a request for information is not granted. It is also important to analyse information requests from citizens and stakeholder groups, in particular trends and duplication, so that the authorities can subsequently release such information on a proactive basis.

Access to information is a fundamental component of a number of the conventions and standards against corruption listed elsewhere in this handbook. It also underpins a number of key UN human rights documents. The following specifically relate to Access to Information:

  • Resolution 59 of the UN General Assembly adopted in 1946, states that “freedom of information is a fundamental human right”, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
Domestic context

Access to information is an important mechanism to address transparency and accountability. Recent studies show that the average level of transparency with regard to access to information by local governments in Albania is 57% and approximately half of the 61 municipalities have adopted a transparency programme.

The Constitution and legislation of Armenia provide a wide range of mechanisms for access to information. These mechanisms are widely used by media and civil society organisations as well as active citizens. Though the legislation sets forth the possibility for proactive access to information as well as reactive – based on inquiries, the former format does not get implemented properly.

The report of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression shows that in 2018 there have been 98 cases of violations of the right to receive and disseminate information in Armenia, and in 2019 the number of cases grew to 108.

According to research conducted as of July 2019 by Transparency International Slovakia with engagement of TIAC on access to Information in European capital cities, Yerevan holds the last place among 26 European capitals. The study was based on 14 indicators, including access to information, decision-making process of municipalities, management of financial resources, transparency of procurement, availability of information on the content and process of Community Council meetings and format, as well as rules of ethics for elected representatives. The survey was conducted based on a study of the data of the official websites of the municipalities, as well as inquiries sent to the municipalities.

Access to information is a fundamental human right recognised and guaranteed by state institutions and civil society organisations in Georgia. The right to access public information is enshrined both in Article 18 of the Constitution of Georgia[i] and in Chapter III of the General Administrative Code of Georgia. Access to information is one of the most important transparency tools that currently exist in Georgia; however, according to a public services satisfaction survey, only 2% of citizens had requested information from a public institution in 2017.

While transparency and access to information are crucial towards promoting civic engagement and can contribute to the principles of good governance, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan of Georgia 2018-2019 covered commitments ensuring unhindered citizen access to public information at local level.

Proactive disclosure of public information is one of the most significant commitments taken by Georgia within the framework of the OGP. The commitments taken by municipalities under OGP action plans, supporting the development of electronic mechanisms and ensuring publication of information in easy-to-use formats ensure raised transparency and accountability of local authorities. It is noteworthy that according to the National Assessment of Georgian of Municipalities in 2019, the overall results of evaluation of Georgian municipalities were quite low. On the scale of 0% to 100%, the average score of all municipalities was only 28% (25% for city halls / municipal administrations and 31% for municipal councils).

In this regard, for the purpose of increasing openness and citizen access to public information at local level, the Tbilisi OGP Action Plan 2018-2020 included an improvement of municipal electronic resources by creating an Open Data Portal of Tbilisi City Hall. Particularly, the Commitment 5 of the Tbilisi OGP Action Plan 2018-2020 aims at updating the format of the Tbilisi City Hall webpage, ensuring easier access to public data for citizens. In order to increase citizen involvement in decision-making processes at local level, the new version of the Tbilisi City Hall webpage offers a proactive publication portal and the electronic tool for subscribing to public information. [ii]


Constitution of Georgia, Article 18, published on 24 August 1995.

The portal was prepared following the concept developed by IDFI in order to allow the publication of public sector data in an open and accessible format, 2014. 

 

Access to public information increases transparency and accountably, it lifts citizen’s participation in the decision-making processes and affects the building of trust between institutions and citizens. In Kosovo*, access to information is a constitutional right guaranteed by the Constitution of Kosovo*, which establishes that every person is entitled to the right to access public information and that documents held by public institutions and authorities are public. To implement this constitutional right, Kosovo* has in force the Law on Access to Public Documents, which regulates this right in detail. This law came into force in 2019 and includes changes in comparison with the old law, such as the introduction of the principles of proactivity and disclosure of data and the establishment of the Agency for Information and Privacy. The law provides two ways of accessing public documents: through proactivity, where institutions are forced to proactively publish data, and through direct request. However, this right is not always respected in practice. Citizens, civil society and media encounter difficulties in securing public information, data and documents. The problem lays in the lack of publication of public documents and in the refusal to allow access to these documents when they submit such a request. Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has published a report on access to public information in the Western Balkans with the aim to promote transparency and accountability of public institutions to their citizens. During the reporting period, January 2017 to June 2019, BIRN submitted 854 official requests for access to public documents to public institutions. Out of this number of requests sent, 337 of them were sent to different institutions in Kosovo* like the municipalities, the Ministry, Telecom of Kosovo, the Prosecutorial Council, the Judicial Council, the Office of the President, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Public Procurement Review Body. Of these requests, 188 were approved, 27 received partial responses while 122 were rejected.

According to the Freedom in the World Global Report for 2021, the Republic of Moldova scores 61/100 with 26/40 political rights and 35/60 score in civil liberties, which places the Republic of Moldova in a ‘partly free’ status country.

Also, according to the widely-respected Public Opinion Barometer (POB), a medium level of access to information prevails as of June 2021: 66.4 % of respondents said that people have access to information to a very large extent or to a large extent, while 30.8% said that people have little or no access to information.

The right to information is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova in Article 34. The Law on Access to Information has been granting access to public data since 2000. However, there are numerous challenges still associated with requesting access to public information, including obstruction by government officials, refusals or delays in replying to requests for access to information, and purposefully incomplete or vague responses to requests for information.

On the major challenges in the implementation of the Republic of Moldova’s right to information system is the absence of an institution responsible for monitoring the implementation of the guarantees of access to information and aggregating statistical data on the number of public information requests submitted, accepted, or refused by state administration bodies. In the case of a refusal to share information, the applicant usually does not know what to do and is not informed of the grounds for refusal and the right to appeal.

A Freedom House report from 2020 states that “all principles of transparency and access to public information have been neglected while promoting major draft decisions, with a strong impact on corruption prevention and on society as a whole. In certain cases, under the cloak of ’personal data protection’, access to information of public interest was systematically restricted (depersonalisation of court decisions)”.

The Republic of Moldova’s regulatory framework has great potential to address corruption, ensuring transparency, accountability, and open government overall. However, much needs to be done until the relevant law is implemented in practice. Efforts are being put in place by the Parliament to improve access to information: “Now, public authorities understand better than ever how important it is to guarantee access to information, particularly because being opened to society means having the advantages of credibility, efficiency and responsibility”.

Between 2019 and 2020 the Republic of Moldova implemented its 4th National Action Plan on Open Government, based on the principles of access to information, open data, and transparency. By 2020, 45% of the actions included in the Action Plan have been implemented, 49% were in process of implementation and 6% were not implemented. However, IRM Transitional Results Report states that overall, the commitment to “Access to information and use of open data” did not significantly change the Republic of Moldova’s open data and access to information practices compared to the previous action plan cycle.

Access to information in Ukraine is considered to be highly developed. Advanced legislation on access to information allowed journalists and activists to reveal multiple corruption cases. Nevertheless, there are still challenges in the enforcement of the right to access information, most of them relating to public servants’ lack of knowledge of legal requirements and how to put them into practice. It has been reported in analysis of the implementation of access to information that responses are often of poor quality, incomplete or provided with delay. In addition, the fees of administrative proceedings are unreasonably high, thereby discouraging citizens to initiate administrative proceedings.

To overcome these challenges, leading NGOs in Ukraine initiated the Fund of the Right for Information Protection and over 150 lawyers joined the Network of Defenders of the Right to Access Information. The Network provides free expert legal assistance and relevant judicial support with the aim to guarantee legal protection of the right of access to information.

Legislation

Article 15 of the Law No. 139/2015 “On Local Self-Government” and Law No. 119/2014 “On the Right to Information” (FOIA) stipulate that local self-government bodies are obligated to make all their acts and information accessible to citizens. They should be published on their official website and displayed places for public announcements within the municipality. Each municipality shall adopt a transparency programme and appoint a co-ordinator for the right to information ensuring access for all to information.

Further, Article 18 of the Law No. 119/2014 “On the Right to Information” establishes administrative offenses for those who fail to comply with the provisions of this Law and imposes pecuniary sanctions according to the degree of violation. The Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data has the right to supervise and monitor the implementation of the Law, to conduct administrative investigations and to propose disciplinary measures against offenders.

Furthermore, Law No. 44/2015 “On the Code of Administrative Procedures” regulates the procedure for access to public administration, right for administrative requests, petitions, etc., that may be addressed to public administration authorities. The principle of one-stop-shop provided in this Code is a good legal basis regarding access to information.

The Constitution of Armenia gives citizens the right to freedom of information. Article 42 of the Constitution states: "Everyone shall have the right to freely express his or her opinion. This right shall include freedom to hold one’s own opinion, as well as to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas through any media, without the interference of state or local self-government bodies and regardless of state frontiers”.

The Law on Freedom of Information defines the duties of the information holder as well as the procedure, form and conditions for obtaining information. The procedure for registration, classification and maintenance of information developed by or delivered to the state and local self-governing bodies, state institutions, and state-funded organisations, including information requests sent to state bodies in electronic form has been adopted by the Government in 2015. The information should be provided to the applicant within a 5-day period. If additional work is required to provide the information mentioned in the written request, it shall be provided to the applicant within 30 days after receiving the application. In this case the applicant shall be notified in writing form within 5 days after receiving the request from the applicant.

The Law on Mass Media gives basic rights to journalists who work for mass media organisations to operate without unwarranted restrictions. It reaffirms the constitutional right to seek, receive and disseminate information. The law prohibits censorship, the interference in “the legitimate professional activities of a journalist “, and the disclosure of sources without a court order for the purpose of disclosing information pertaining to serious crimes. Amendments to the Law On State Registration of Legal Entities, Separate Subdivisions of Legal Entities, Institutions and Private Entrepreneurs from 06 March 2020, provided the possibility for Mass Media to receive the information from the unified state register of companies without paying state fee.

Legislation also states some limitations to freedom of information. Thus, the information may not be provided, if it:

  • contains state, official, banking, trade secret;
  • violates the privacy of a person's personal and family life, including the confidentiality of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraphic and other messages;
  • contains the data of the preliminary examination not subject to publication;
  • discloses data requiring restriction of access due to professional activity (medical, notarial, lawyer secret);
  • infringes copyright or related rights.

At the same time, the provision of information may not be denied if it refers to emergencies threatening the safety and health of citizens, as well as natural  disasters and their consequences, presents the general state of the economy of the Republic of Armenia, as well as the real situation in the field of nature protection, environment, healthcare, education, agriculture, trade, culture, as well as if the denial of provision of information will have a negative impact on the implementation of state programs of socio-economic, scientific-technical, psychological-cultural development of the Republic of Armenia. According to the report of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, there were 98 cases of violations of the right to receive and disseminate information in 2018, and 108 cases in 2019.

The law also envisages the disclosure of information by the government: all state agencies, regional administrations and large communities have their own official websites, where they publish information about their activities and have feedback options. At the same time, state agencies and particularly municipalities do not publish sufficient information as defined by the law, which was especially visible in the situation of emergency in 2020. According to the research of the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia (FOICA), proactive disclosure rules were not properly followed by the government, specifically in the initial period of state of emergency. Further, the government launched a Facebook page and a web site to update the public on pandemic issues, but in some cases these resources were not synchronised.

Article 18 of the Constitution of Georgia states that every citizen of Georgia has a right to access official documents stored in public institutions, if it does not contain secret, personal or commercial information. Chapter III of the General Administrative Code of Georgia outlines procedures for requesting information from a public agency (both central and municipal). According to the Code, public information has to be disclosed immediately or no later than 10 calendar days, in cases where it requires additional efforts. If the Freedom of Information (FOI) request is denied, individuals have a right to appeal the decision internally and afterwards to the court within 30 days of receiving the decision.

Since 2013, central and municipal public agencies have introduced regulations for proactive disclosure of public information, outlining the list of necessary information that has to be disclosed (on the webpage of the agency) and periodically renewed.

 

In Kosovo*, the right to access to information is regulated with the Law on Access to Public Documents, which guarantees the right to access public documents to every person. This right covers all public documents that are produced, received, maintained or controlled by public institutions. Public documents are defined as “any act, fact or information, stored in electronic form or on sound, in print, in visual or audio-visual recordings produced or maintained by a public institution”. Access to public documents is done through proactive publication of public documents by public institutions, which should be done electronically on the official website of each public institution. That said, the law also regulates that publications can be done in printed form, through broadcast or in any other form which enables access to the largest possible number of the public. This law requires each public institution create an official e-mail address, especially for public communication, and to nominate one person to manage and control access to public documents.

Article 10 of this law stipulates that everyone has the right to access public documents upon request. The public institution, within 7 days, should issue a decision to grant access to the document requested. If it does not issue a decision, then its silence is considered a negative response. If they issue a decision refusing a request, this restraint of the right of access to the public document should be exercised in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Before refusing someone’s request, the public institution should do a “Damage and Public Interest Test” to determine if the damage caused to the protected interest outweighs the public interest in accessing that public document.

If the public institution refuses the request to access a public document, the applicant has the right to use legal remedies. This law regulates that the applicant can file a complaint within the Information and Privacy Agency. Procedures before the Agency and the way it manages complaints are regulated by Article 20 of the Law on Access to Public Documents. If the Agency issues a decision that refuses the request, the applicant can file a lawsuit at the Court. Finally, the applicant can file a complaint to the Ombudsperson.

The Law on Access to Information (adopted in 2000) only restricts public access to state secrets, confidential business information submitted to public institutions under conditions of confidentiality, and personal data, the disclosure of which may be considered interference in one’s private life.

Subjects of the present law are information providers and information seekers. Information providers that are holders of official information required under the present law to provide such information to applicants are:

  1. local and central public authorities;
  2. local and central public institutions – organisations founded by the state, represented by public authorities that are financed by the state budget, who are responsible for administrative activities, those in social-cultural domains or other non-commercial activities;
  3. natural and legal persons who, based on the law or the contract with the public authority or public institution, are empowered to manage public services and collect, select, possess, store, dispose of official information.

 

In addition to the Law on Access to Information, here are some other important legislative acts:

 

Article 21 of the Law on Integrity stipulates that “Ensuring access to information of public interest should be made more efficient through fostering active participation of citizens in decision-making processes, through guaranteeing access to information of public interest regarding the activity of public institutions.”

The Ombudsperson in the Republic of Moldova has the authority to oversee the implementation of the law; however, this office lacks the capacity and resources to exercise control. Article 5 of the Law on Access to Information stipulates that the direct subjects of this law are both the central and the local public administration authorities.

Citizens’ access to public information is not fully ensured, because the law does not fully clarify the obligations of the public administration to proactively make it available, and the implementation of the law is not monitored.

The Law on Libraries was adopted on 20 July 2017, after over a year of deliberation and consultation. This new legislation enshrines public libraries’ role as providers of free and inclusive public access to information and locally relevant community services. Article 17 describes the roles and responsibilities of the local public administration authorities under this law.

The Constitution of Ukraine protects citizens’ right to access information (Article 34, paragraphs 2 and 3). The Laws No. 2939 “On Access to Public Information”, No. 2657 “On Information”, and No. 183 “About state secret” regulate access to information. In line with the Law “On Access to Public Information”, no information held by public authorities can be restricted, unless an assessment reveals that the information is confidential, or secret, or for internal use only. Restriction of access to information must be based on the so-called “three-part test” (tryskladovi test) of public information, as stipulated in Article 6, paragraph 2. The Law provides for the obligation to create structural units or appoint freedom of information officers by public authorities. The Law assigns some monitoring functions to the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman’s Office). International organisations recommend however to set up or designate an independent authority to supervise and enforce regulations on the access to public information.

The violation of the right to request and obtain information from public authorities can be punished by a fine of up to 80 non-taxable minimum income (UAH 1,360), as stated in Article 212.3 of the Administrative Code. The unlawful refusal to provide access to public information for journalists in their work can be punished by a fine, or 3 years’ imprisonment (Article 171 of the Criminal Code). On the other hand, the punishment for revealing a state secret can reach up to 5 years’ imprisonment.

Guidelines

To increase access to information at local level, especially for the poorest communities, local authorities shall adopt and keep updated the Transparency Programme, which shall be created in accordance with the standard format approved by the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data. By means of the Transparency Programme, local authorities should take into consideration the highest interest of the community, especially to ensure maximum access to public information and to make publicly available as much information as possible in order to reduce the need for individual requests for information.

In addition, local authorities shall create, keep and make public a register, which keeps track of the requests for information and includes the information made available in response. The register should be created in accordance with Article 8 of the Law No. 119/2014 “On the Right to Information” and as set forth in the Transparency Programme and following the standard format of the register issued by the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data.

In October 2014, the Digital Rights non-governmental organisation published policy guidelines on personal data protection. The guidelines provide practical information on national and international practices and policies in the protection of personal data, making references to national and international instruments. In addition, the publication includes a set of European models and practical recommendations for the Armenian context.

In 2017 The Personal Data Protection Agency of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia has developed guideline on the protection of children's personal data. The purpose of the guideline is to provide a unified interpretation of personal data protection legislation, to raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of children, parents and data developers, and to raise the level of protection of children's personal data. The guideline outlines the principles of personal data protection for children, the rights of children in the field of personal data protection, the responsibilities of data developers, educational institutions, the Internet, the specifics of personal data processing, and the responsibility for violating children's right to personal data protection.

Currently, there are no unified official guidelines on access to information in Georgia. Although websites of individual public agencies provide brief instructions on how to request public information, they mainly duplicate the requirements of the law. Nevertheless, such guidelines have been produced by civil society and they provide citizens with information on the nature of public information, request procedures, legal means of protecting the right and practical recommendations on access to information. Some of the recommendations of the guidelines include:

  • Adopting internal regulations for the management of public information;
  • Installation of electronic management systems;
  • Establishment of electronic systems enabling electronic request of public information;
  • Analysis of information request trends, and;
  • Increasing the role of Freedom of Information Officers in public institutions.

 

Currently, there is not a general and unified guideline on access to information. However, based on the Law on Access to Public Documents, the Ministry of Local Government has issued Administrative Guidance on the Transparency in Municipalities. This administrative guidance aims to increase the transparency in municipalities and of municipal bodies by informing and publishing their normative acts and documents that are in the interest of the citizens. It also aims to strengthen citizen participation in decision-making. Besides publishing public acts and documents, meetings of the Municipal Assembly and Committee are required to be open to the public and media and prior to the adoption of acts municipal assemblies must hold public consultations and meetings with the citizens.

A practical guide for access to information for public interest was developed by Lawyers for Human Rights and United Nation Democracy Fund in 2020. It provides step by step guidance in the process of submitting a request of information, taking into account relevant legislative innovations, such as the repeal of the Law on Petitions and the Law on Administrative Litigation and the entry into force of the Administrative Code.

A guide for journalists on legal access to government information was developed by Access Info Europe and the Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe. It provides a very detailed step by step guidance on access to information, data security, and how to submit a request for information among others.

Another guide for public servants and journalists was developed in 2015 by the Moldovan Independent Journalism Centre and Civil Rights Defenders. It provides a clear illustration of how the Law on Access to Information should be implemented, with specific tips for public servants and journalists.

Local authorities have an important role to play in the implementation of the “right to know” at local level. Hotlines, a user-friendly website for the community, a spokesperson, surveys, information campaigns, and information boards are just a few examples. Local authorities should consider the following advice when developing a website to support access to information: 

  • Publish local council decisions on the local authority website;
  • Digitalise local open data as much as possible, making it available on the website (following the open data principles);
  • Ensure that any content published on the website is applicable or relevant to community members;
  • Provide citizens with the opportunity to make a request or contact someone for more information;
  • Keep information up to date;
  • Provide links/references to information available elsewhere, on other governmental or non-governmental websites (e.g. links to national platforms on e-services, national legislation, opportunities for studies, etc.);
  • Include a comments section for feedback and provide ”feedback on feedback”.
To ensure the right of access to public information, local public authorities, as “information administrators” (Article 3 of Law No. 2939), must designate special units or freedom of information officers, who will provide information upon request. They must simplify procedures for submitting requests and obtaining information, as well as providing public access to the meetings of local authorities.
 
The Ombudsman’s Office, in collaboration with leading NGOs in the field of access to information, published two guideline documents for local authorities in 2017.  The first manual explains how to efficiently organise the work of information administrators and how to deal with practical challenges while providing access to public information. The second manual provides more specific guidelines as to how to create a space in public buildings with the necessary conditions to provide access to public information.
Good practices

The municipality of Korçë stands out for its good implementation of the legal regulations on access to information. According to a 2017 report by the Centre for Public Information Issues (INFOÇIP by its Albanian acronym), Korçë is the most transparent municipality in Albania based on five indicators:

  • Having an official website;
  • Register of questions and answers;
  • Co-ordinator for the right to information;
  • Publication of the decisions of the municipal council;
  • Drafting and publishing the transparency programme.

In addition, according to an online monitoring process of the Albanian municipal websites carried out by the 2017 Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, the municipality of Korçë is ranked first among all municipalities in 2017, with a level of online transparency of 69%. The most transparent categories in the municipality of Korçë are financial transparency, implementation of the right to information and publication of municipal council meetings and decisions.

A good example of publicly known open data is the state interactive budget, which visually presents budget categories. Local self-government institutions have also copied this tool for presenting budgets. For example, the Yerevan municipality already publishes interactive budgets, and state institutions (for example the President’s office) have copied the model. Another example is the website of the Central Electoral Commission (elections.am), an open data electronic system to search information on voters and their register. 

Another example is the website of the State Committee of the Real Property Cadastre (www.e-cadastre.am), an open data electronic system to search information on real state and land registries from 1 January 2012 onwards. The site is designed to provide e-services by the Committee, including online submission of applications and related documents for state registration of real property rights and restrictions. Therefore, this constitutes another example of how open data and electronic tools increases transparency and increases citizens’ access to public services.

There are a number of public institutions that score consistently well in the rating of access to public information. For 10 years, the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the Office of the Public Defender and the State Inspector Service have been leading the rating with a 100% access to public information. According to a 2020 report, out of 285 public institutions, 19 agencies received a 100% score in the rating. As for performance of local self-government bodies, only Municipal Councils of 7 municipalities (Poti, Khobi, Kareli, Chiatura, Khashuri, Telavi and Zugdidi) have received the highest scores (100%) for the number of requests, completeness of the response and time compliance. Meanwhile, none of the City Halls were included in the top ten of the rating of City Halls and Municipal Councils, meaning that none of the municipal halls in 2020 fully responded to all the requests from IDFI. Also, as the annual report argues, the rate of access to information of the Tbilisi municipal Council has slightly improved compared to 2019 and amounted to 91.67%, while in the case of the Tbilisi City Hall it has decreased by 7.1% and equalled to 70.45%.

In 2017, the National Assessment of Georgian Municipalities (LSG Index) was established by local civil society organisations to assess the transparency and accountability of all municipalities throughout the country. Based on the 2019 results of the LSG Index, the average performance of the municipalities on a 100% scale was 28%, which was seven percentage points higher than the same indicator in 2017 (21%). Batumi Municipality scored the highest percentage in 2019 with 61%, 11 percentage points higher than Rustavi Municipality (50%) in 2017, which had the highest score. Together with Batumi, the top five municipalities in the transparency ratings are Rustavi (57%), Lagodekhi (56%), Zugdidi (55%) and Tetritskaro (52%) municipalities.

Among several thematic areas, the LSG Index assesses the extent to which municipal bodies proactively publish public information on their websites. According to the 2019 evaluation, the overall score in this regard was 25%, which was six percentage points higher than the same indicator in 2017. Like the previous (2017) evaluation, municipalities scored the lowest in the lack of published information about administrative expenses and the legal entities of public and private law owned or managed by municipalities.

 

The Municipality of Pristina has developed a portal that gives the citizens access to its activity. Part of this portal is access to public information. This portal informs its citizens on their rights of access to public information through publishing the Law on Access to Public Information. It’s a form prepared by the Municipality on the request to access to public information and it has the names and emails of contact persons for access to public documents. The municipality publishes annual reports on the requests for access to public documents. Based on these reports, in 2020 there were 30 requests to public documents and Municipality gave access to all of the requests.

The tools most frequently used by local public authorities to ensure transparency and access to public data are information panels and web portals. In the past years there has been an increase in the use of social networks, which allow local authorities to place timely and relevant information about their activity online.

In an IDIS (Institutul pentru Dezvoltare și Inițiative Sociale) “Viitorul” report on Transparency of the Local Public Administration Authorities (2019), all 32 monitored local authorities have webpages, through which access to information is provided. According to the report, a good practice is the use of several search engines for documents developed, examined and adopted by local authorities, including decisions, as it is the case of the Local Councils of Soroca, Ceadâr-Lunga and Strășeni.

According to the Promo-LEX Report on monitoring the transparency of the activity of level-two local public authorities and ATU Găgăuzia (2021), the webpage has remained the most widely used source of communication for both LPAs and stakeholders - at 95.58%, followed by social networks - 78.37%, e-mail - 58.66%; information panel - 58.36% and newspapers - 45.58%. As compared to the first semester of 2019, Promo-LEX found an increased use of social media by both parties and a lower use of e-mail, information panel and newspapers.

The website “Access to the truth” (dostup.pravda.com.ua) is a platform for the submission of electronic requests to holders of information, in accordance with the Law “On Access to Public Information”. To obtain information, the applicant must:

  1. Go to the website “Access to the truth”;
  2. Choose from a list the holder of information from whom you need the information;
  3. Submit a request within a given form on the website; and
  4. Check your electronic or postal mailbox.

A request for information constitutes a person’s request to the information manager asking to provide public information or documents that contain the information and are in his/her possession (for example, information on the use of budget funds or a copy of the decision of the city council session). In Ukraine, individuals (be it citizens of Ukraine, foreigners or stateless persons), public associations and legal entities have the right to access public information.

The Platform of access to public information ‘Ombudsman Plus’ monitored the implementation of the legislation on access to information in different regions of Ukraine, and identified Vinnytsia and Odessa regional state administrations, Ternopil Oblast Council and Kherson City Council as best practice cases. These local public authorities have achieved the implementation of the right to access to public information by following these steps:

  1. Implemented the necessary regulations on access to public information in the local and regional legislation;
  2. Provided timely and complete information upon request;
  3. Provided access to information online, including information on financial resources;
  4. Had the proper conditions and created a space in their buildings to provide access to public information in situ (e.g. facilitating the access to meetings of local authorities).

 

Open Data

Open data is the publication of data and information in a format that may be freely used, modified and shared. The OECD states that open data is “a set of policies that promote transparency, accountability and value creation by making government data available to all”. By making data generated through the activities of public bodies available, government becomes more transparent and accountable to citizens. It also supports business growth and the development of services centred on citizens, and provides important data for research and innovation by public bodies, the private sector, and civic stakeholders.

International standards

The promotion of open data through one-stop portals can further increase the scope for interoperability of datasets in terms of search and analysis. The results can improve the efficiency and reach of service delivery and reduce corruption. Awareness-raising among stakeholder groups, the media, businesses, and the wider public can result in effective co-operation among different stakeholders and improvements in solutions on transportation, recreation facilities, parking zones, health services, and much more.

It is important to adopt consistent open data standards for all open data to ensure maximum interoperability and searchability of data. Local authorities should also ensure that qualified staff manage the municipality's open data publication, and train relevant employees in open data standards.

Open data is a relatively new phenomenon without officially endorsed standards. However, a number of useful guidelines exist:

Domestic context

As regards the state of open government data, Albania is ranked 37th in the 2015 Global Open Data Index.  With regard to the legal framework, laws, published acts and updated legislation are available online through the Albanian Official Publishing Centre. Nevertheless, 59% of surveyed civil society organisations do not fully agree that draft laws, policies and laws are available to the public, and 54% of them do not fully agree that draft laws, policies and laws are published in a timely manner.

Lack of awareness and understanding of open data persists both in government institutions and public officials and among citizens.  That said, there are initiatives in place to address this situation, such as the promotion of Open Government Partnership (OGP) values among local authorities, which was one of the partially achieved commitments of the OGP Second Open Government National Action Plan for Albania 2014 -2016.

Currently in Armenia, the accumulated and released open data of many state institutions makes up quite a large volume. There are a number of databases which have considerable potential to help anti-corruption and civic journalistic investigations such as single-source procurement and asset and income declarations. Journalists and researchers can use open data to carry out independent investigations and research.

In Georgia, open data is generated by both public institutions and civil society organisations. Nevertheless, production of open data is still fragmented, with limited institutions and data available in a machine-readable format. The Government of Georgia has taken some steps towards ensuring the availability of open data, for example, the establishment of an open data portal. The portal contains the information of various public institutions in an open data format, including on procurement, public spending, and policy. The portal is administered by a subordinate agency of the Ministry of Justice, the Legal Entity under Public Law (LEPL) Digital Governance Agency (previously, Data Exchange Agency). However, since public institutions are not obligated to place databases owned by them on the portal, only 173 datasets have been published over the past four years.

Open data has started to enable civil society and citizens to use the information for analytical purposes and to create innovative tools for broader public use; however, both the availability and awareness of open data is low, which limits its utilisation.

Over the past two years, municipalities have taken several steps to improve open data collection and publication practices. In particular, Akhaltsikhe and Kutaisi municipalities elaborated and adopted Open Data Strategies for 2019-2020,[i] while other six municipalities (Gori, Lagodekhi, Ozurgeti, Senaki, Telavi and Zugdidi) plan to improve open data management practices by analysing the existing challenges, elaborating data management internal procedures and increasing qualification of public servants responsible for data processing and publication.[ii]


[i] This commitment was undertaken under the OGP Action Plan of Georgia 2018-2019.

[ii] This commitment was undertaken under the National Anti-Corruption Strategy of Georgia and Action Plan for 2019-2020.

 

Open data in Kosovo* is generated in all public institutions which are allowing citizens to oversee the activities of the public bodies and institutions. However, publication of open data is more pronounced among central government institutions, in comparison to local government. Kosovo* is ranked 58 (out of 94) in the Global Open Data Index. Kosovo* is ranked 68th in the 2017 Open Data Inventory, which is an improvement in comparison to 2016’s measurement that ranked it as 82nd. To facilitate openness and transparency of the work of the public institutions in Kosovo*, in 2014 was founded Open Data Kosovo as a non-profit organisation that promotes transparency and accessibility for the citizens of Kosovo*. Open Data Kosovo leads in the opening of governmental data in Kosovo* since its founding. Most of the data published by the Kosovo* government as open data so far have occurred under the leadership and expertise of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, including procurement, air quality, water surface quality, election monitoring, asset declaration, and other types of data.

All the laws, international agreements, by-laws of the Government and ministries, decisions of the Constitutional Court and judicial institutions, decrees of the President, and acts of municipalities are published on the Official Gazette of the Republic of Kosovo (gzk.rks-gov.net) and are open for access to everyone.

The Republic of Moldova embarked on a national open data initiative in 2011 as part of its Governance e‑Transformation Agenda. The initiative has drawn support from the highest levels of government, with two prime-ministerial directives and new legal provisions solidifying the country’s commitment to opening up government data by default. Led by the e-Government Centre, the initiative has spurred the release of 782 datasets from 39 institutions across the government.

Today, there are more than 1,000 datasets on the portal and several apps based on this data. One critical factor contributing to the success of the initiative was the political support from the Prime Minister and the State Chancellery. Other crucial elements have been the solid legal framework and the development of the open data portal (date.gov.md).

The Republic of Moldova participated in two editions of the Open Data Barometer (2015/2016), having one of the highest rates among Eastern Partnership countries.

Since 2020, the Republic of Moldova is included in the annual Open Data Maturity assessment. This is a research project on the state of maturity of open data in EU Member States, EFTA countries, and Eastern European Partnership countries, including the Republic of Moldova. According to the 2020 Open Data Maturity Study, the Republic of Moldova scored 58% on the maturity level.

On 9 April 2015, a major step was made towards open data in Ukraine with the adoption of the Law No. 319 “On amendments to some laws of Ukraine on access to public information in the form of open data”, which introduced significant changes in other relevant legal acts. These changes obliged public authorities and local governments to publish and update public information in the form of open data on a regular basis. Open data must be provided free of charge on the webpages of the authorities and on the single state open data website (data.gov.ua).[i] The State Agency for E-Governance implements open data provisions and provides support to local public authorities.

Open data provisions in Ukraine have enabled significant progress in the public control of the state and local budgets,[ii] public procurement[iii] and beneficial ownership disclosure.[iv]

[i] Based on the Law on access to public information, on 21 October 2015 the Government of Ukraine issued the Act No. 835 “About Information that must be published as open data” (available at: http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/uk/cardnpd?docid=248573101). This Act entrusted the State Agency for E-Governance to ensure the functioning of the single state website for open data: http://data.gov.ua
[ii] The Law No. 183 “On Open use of Public Funds” imposed the online publishing of the information about state and local budgets transactions.
[iii] The electronic system ProZorro became known worldwide as an example of public e-procurement system.
[iv] Ukraine is the first country in Europe that legislatively obliged all companies to indicate their beneficial owners. In May 2017, Ukraine signed the Memorandum on Global Partnership on the Information Disclosure on Beneficial Ownership, and in August 2017 opened the access to this information in the form of open data.

Legislation

On 18 February 2015, the Council of Ministers approved the decision No. 147 “On the Approval of the Document on the Open Data Policy and the Establishment of the Open Data Portal”. The OGP Third Open Government National Action Plan for Albania 2016 – 2018 foresees four major actions and 17 commitments to promote transparency and open data. Increasing the access to information and the modernisation of the public service are the two main actions that should be addressed by local authorities. A platform for transparency and innovation named OpenAlb has been established to ensure the successful implementation of the OGP commitments in the country.

There is no legislation that sets forth a requirement for posting open data, though the requirements in different sectors to publish specific data might imply open format publishing. This may refer to budgets, elections results, etc., naturally posted in excel based formats, but also to criminal case statistics, asset and income declarations, etc. that might be accessible in pdf or similar formats.

According to the Law on the Budgetary System, the budget formulation and approval process should be open. The Law states that after presenting the draft law on the state budget to the National Assembly, the Government should publish the budget within three days, with the exception of issues containing state secrets.

The Law requires local self-government bodies to publish draft community budgets in the local press within three days of submitting the draft to the community council. The Law on Local Self-Government requires all communities to have a website and to publish the budget and its reports on the website.

According to the Law on Prosecution Service the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Armenia should annually publish a report on the investigation of crimes on the website of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Armenia. The report should contain information on the results of the investigation of crimes committed during the previous year, its statistics, comparative analysis and conclusions. As for the information on the results of the investigation of corruption crimes, its statistical data, comparative analysis and conclusions are presented separately.

Currently, there is no national or local legislation regarding the production and use of open data in Georgia. The new draft law on Freedom of Information, which is planned to be initiated in the Parliament of Georgia, is expected to introduce the definition of open data, based on which public institutions will be obligated to publish open data owned by them in open and machine-readable formats. The absence of common standards, however, does not mean that local authorities need a legal framework to start producing information in an open data format. Developing information in the form of open data is encouraged for greater transparency of local public institutions and does not rely on regulations.

 

Legal regulation of open data is included in the Law on Access to Public Documents. Article 1.4 defines open data as “the data produced, received, maintained or controlled by public institutions, which can be freely used, modified and distributed by any person, provided that they remain open and attributable to the source”. Article 8 states that open data should be published based on the initiative of public institutions themselves without a request submitted by the interested parties. The law requires open data to be published in a central open data portal, which is developed and managed by the ministry responsible for public administration. Open data should be public in such a way that it allows all interested parties to use it freely. The law requires that open data should be published in open format, which allows interested parties to read and modify them without technological obstacles.

The Republic of Moldova succeeded in developing a solid legal and policy framework to pave the foundations for its open data initiative. Open data principles were embedded in the Governance e‑Transformation Agenda (Strategic Programme for Governance Technological Modernisation (e‑Transformation), approved in September 2011.

The passing of the Law on Public Sector Information (PSI), in line with European Union directives, aimed to boost the open data agenda in government. To enforce this law, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications developed methodological norms for implementation.[i] These set out the terms and conditions for accessing and reusing PSI and developed an open data license for the Republic of Moldova’s public data.

In addition, the Republic of Moldova approved a national open data policy which aims to achieve open data in government by default. The policy brings clarity to the data publishing process, provides for machine-readable formats to be used for the publication of data, and defines standards on data collection, archival, and publishing. Every ministry and government agency are to embed an open data action plan in their sectoral governance e-transformation action plan, which is to support and expand the implementation of open data initiative in government.

[i] Government Decision No. 886 of 8 November 2013 on the Regulation of enforcing the Law No. 305 on public sector information reuse.

 

Open data is covered within the legislation about freedom of information, entrenched in Articles 15 (prohibition of censorship) and 34 (right to access to information) of the Constitution of Ukraine, along with laws on information and on access to public information.

According to Law No. 2939 “On Access to Public Information”, national and local authorities are obliged to publish accurate, exact and complete information, as stated in Article 14, and are required to disclose different categories of information as listed in Article 15, including: accessible information about the structure, mission, functions, budget of the organisation, laws that regulate their work, decision-making process, list of the mechanisms through which citizens can advocate their interests, reports about the sessions and the institutional work, action plans, etc.

In line with the principle of transparency and publicity of the budget process (Article 7 of the Budget Code), on 11 February 2015, the Parliament adopted the Law No. 183-VIII “On Open Use of Public Funds”. According to the Law, local authorities must use the e-data website to publish information about the use of public funds.

Both the Ombudsman’s Office and civil society control the implementation of these regulations. If public authorities do not disclose the information required by law, they will initiate an appeal to the higher authority or court. Those persons whose rights and legal interests to access public information were violated receive a compensation for material and moral damages (Article 24.2 of the Law No. 2939 “On Access to Public Information”).

Furthermore, the Decree No. 835 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of 21 October 2015 introduced regulations on data sets to be published in the form of open data. Through periodic monitoring of the publication and update of data sets on the official websites of state bodies and on the Unified State Web Portal of Open Data (data.gov.ua) and with the involvement of civil society organisations. Regulations have substantially reduced the workload relating to requests for public information and made the work of specialists more efficient.

Guidelines

In order to increase openness and transparency at local level, local authorities in Albania should engage substantially in developing open data tools in accordance with the Technical Standards for Publication of Open Data, which will improve public access to information and lead to greater levels of citizen participation. Co-ordination between local authorities and civil society organisations, businesses, think tanks and other actors is important to raise awareness and understanding of open data as a transparency mechanism for strengthening local governance.

In October 2014, the Digital Rights NGO, with the support of The Open Society Foundations, published policy guidelines on personal data protection. The guidelines provide practical information on national and international practices and policies in the protection of personal data, making references to national and international instruments. In addition, the publication includes a set of European models and practical recommendations for the Armenian context.

In 2017 The Personal Data Protection Agency of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia has developed guideline on the protection of children's personal data. The purpose of the guideline is to provide a unified interpretation of personal data protection legislation, to raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of children, parents and data developers, and to raise the level of protection of children's personal data. The guideline outlines the principles of personal data protection for children, the rights of children in the field of personal data protection, the responsibilities of data developers, educational institutions, the Internet, the specifics of personal data processing, and the responsibility for violating children's right to personal data protection.

There are no guidelines on open data that are produced by Georgian public institutions. Nevertheless, civil society organisations are working actively to increase availability of open data. In 2016, research on Access to Open Data in Georgia[i] examined the availability and quality of open data in Georgia. It particular, it is recommended for local public institutions to:

  • Shape and manage databases and registries in a way that will enable their publication on the open data portal;
  • Ensure open data publication of databases related to education, social affairs, zoning, recreation, transportation, etc.;
  • Increase the availability of open data through the national open data portal; and,
  • Develop an internal manual and training module about the production and publication of open data.

A 2018 analysis of the access to and use of open data demonstrated that scarcity of available open public data is mostly attributed to the lack of a relevant legal framework, and the absence of common standards and effective enforcement mechanisms.


[i] Access to Open Data in Georgia, 15 January 2016, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

 

Based on the Law on Access to Public Documents, the Government of Kosovo* has adopted the Regulation on the Government Public Communication Service. The purpose of this regulation is to set out the functioning of a coherent and co-ordinated system for government public communication. According to this regulation, the Public Communication Office within the Office of the Prime Minister and in each Ministry receives and conducts initial handling of requests for access to open data.

A methodology for publishing open government data has been approved through the Government Decision No. 701 of 25 August 2014. It sets clear guidelines for the publication of open data and is mandatory for all central public administration authorities. It sets clear requirements for the open data portal, the nature of the data to be released via the portal, who is to have access to publishing the data, and the rights and responsibilities of the persons involved in releasing the data. The methodology also specifies the format and frequency of the data publishing.

The guidelines were developed by the e‑Government Centre of the Republic of Moldova back in 2014, based on the G8 Open Data Charter principles.

Since March 2017, the Open Data Roadmap for Ukraine[i] provides an extensive list of practical recommendations that public authorities can follow in order to comply with international standards on open data. All these recommendations are based on six major principles: data should be open by default; timely and comprehensive; accessible and usable; comparable and interoperable; for improved governance and citizen engagement; and for inclusive development and innovation.

Within the project ‘Transparent cities’, the NGO Transparency International Ukraine provides guidelines for the 100 largest cities in Ukraine, based on individual assessments for each city.[ii] The guidelines for open data suggest publishing on the official website announcements, schedules, agenda and protocols of the official meetings of the city council and the mayor; maintaining an archive of said information corresponding to the past two years; publishing the contact details of public authorities’ deputies and their assistants; and publishing legislation and decision-making projects on the website 20 days ahead of the meeting.

[i] The Roadmap was developed by the State Agency for E-Governance within the USAID- and UK aid-funded ‘Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services’ project, implemented in partnership with the Eurasia Foundation and the East Europe Foundation.
[ii] The project is implemented by TI Ukraine, TI Slovakia and the Institute of Political Education of Ukraine, with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund.

Good practices

Conceived in 2013 as an online one-stop shop, e-Albania is the governmental portal where citizens can obtain detailed information on public services and official documents electronically. The portal is administrated by the National Agency for Information Society and aims to improve service delivery, reduce service delivery time, avoid bureaucracies and reduce corruption of public institutions, including local self-government bodies. All of the 500 e-services offered on the portal are dedicated to a wide range of users, from unemployed citizens, business, property owners, businesses, students, elderly, Albanians living abroad, civic employees, etc. These services are classified by categories and institutions. According to the information available on the portal, the certificate services, which are administrated by local self-government bodies, are the most used electronic services on the e-Albania portal.

A good example of publicly known open data is the state interactive budget, which visually presents budget categories. Local self-government institutions have also copied this tool for presenting budgets. For example, the Yerevan municipality and the Compass NGO in Gyumri already publish interactive budgets, and state institutions (for example the President’s office) have copied the model. Another example is the website of the Central Electoral Commission (elections.am), an open data electronic system to search information on voters and their register.

Another example is the website of the State Committee of the Real Property Cadastre (www.e-cadastre.am), an open data electronic system to search information on real state and land registries from 1 January 2012 onwards. The site is designed to provide e-services by the Committee, including online submission of applications and related documents for state registration of real property rights and restrictions. Therefore, this constitutes another example of how open data and electronic tools increases transparency and increases citizens’ access to public services.

Development and launching of the open data portal can be regarded as a national best practice, since it provides available open data in a unified space and encourages both central and local public institutions to contribute to the portal. Due to the limited number of datasets published on the portal, its impact is still limited. Some of the information available on municipal web portals is available in open data formats (mostly in Excel); however, it is vital to ensure that all information that is proactively published by the municipality is available in an open data form. In addition, it would be useful to conduct an initial assessment of what information can be made available for open data publication.

Another best practice comes from the civil society. In particular, in 2018 the Georgia’s Open Data Lab was set up as a Tbilisi-based organisation. Users can find data, basic visualisation tools, and resources to analyse data, design data visualisations, conduct research, and develop web and mobile applications on the platform. In particular, the website contains processed datasets accumulated from more than 180 central and local public institutions. As of July 2021, the platform consists of about 1,390 datasets, which are available in open and machine-readable formats (mainly in Excel and CSV). Datasets cover public policy issues such as: public administration and administrative expenses, local government, economy, finance, healthcare, crime statistics, social issues, education, environment, transport and society. Besides exploring data, users are able to:

  • Analyse and process data of their interest;
  • Make simple visualisations;
  • Download datasets in open formats;
  • Share data on social networks and websites;
  • Create new apps.

The platform is actively used by journalists, researchers, activists, students and open data specialists.

 

Open Data Kosovo is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2014 that promotes openness and transparency of the work of the public institution through technology. Open Data Kosovo promotes the idea that governance data should be freely available for everyone to use and republished as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.  Open Data Kosovo offers a number of highly efficient and innovative projects and each of these projects offers digital solutions. Open Data Kosovo aims to convey the importance of information technology in increasing transparency and solving various problems within society.

More than 1000 open data sets are available on the national open data portal, www.date.gov.md, with several valuable applications being available to the public sector, local governments, and citizens. The Chișinău municipality launched an online application based on open data in order to allow the monitoring in real time of the special vehicles across the capital. This allows application users to track where and what kind of equipment is involved, and for what kind of work. Each truck/vehicle (there are 109 altogether) is fitted with a GPS monitoring system that transmits relevant information to the central server (gps.navisat.md).

The project ‘Local initiatives on ethical governance and transparency’,[i] implemented in Netechyntsi village, provides an example of how small communities can implement open data provisions of the legislation and develop a website for their village council. In addition to the website, two open-access laptops free of use are available in the public library, thereby giving people the opportunity to control and influence the work of executive committee by monitoring the project decisions and other access to information.

In February 2020, Transparency International Ukraine released the results of the study on municipal transparency involving the 100 largest cities of Ukraine in 2019. For the first time, two municipalities shared the first spot: Drohobych and Pokrov. The top five also included Ternopil (76.0), Mariupol (74.6) and Vinnytsia (74.2).[ii]

The publication Examples of good practices of municipal transparency developed by Transparency International Ukraine contains ideas and instruments to increase the degree of openness in Ukrainian cities. The purpose of featuring such examples is to help local authorities adapt successful experiences of other municipalities to their own structures. The collection contains 86 transparency indicators, each of which contains examples of best practices and a link to the site of the relevant city council.

[i] The project was supported by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, as part of the thematic programme ‘Strengthening institutional frameworks for local governance’, within the framework of the Council of Europe / European Union Partnership for Good Governance (2015-2017) in the Eastern Partnership countries.
[ii] Transparency International Ukraine released the study of municipal transparency.

Public procurement

Public procurement refers to the process by which public authorities, including local authorities, purchase work, goods or services. It is an essential part of public service provision for local and regional authorities; efficient and cost-effective procurement is key to good governance.

International standards

As procurement involves a large proportion of public expenditure and the transfer of public resources to the private sector or non-profit organisations, it is particularly vulnerable to corruption. Public authorities should deploy new technologies to increase transparency over public procurement and encourage new economic actors to enter bidding processes in the confidence that free and fair competition is applied. By posting all tenders on a common online platform, the occurrence of unpublished tenders and direct awards will be minimised. Use of open contracting and open bidding solutions also allows greater scrutiny of the process, further reducing the scope for corrupt practices. Open contracting systems include a preventive effect, because officials will refrain from manipulating the contracting process if they know that comprehensive disclosure of the bidding and contracting processes will be revealed.

Local authorities should ensure that there is a comprehensive system in place to monitor compliance with public procurement legislation, and that there is a responsive mechanism for reviewing appeals and complaints, including prompt and comprehensive replies. Authorities should also monitor contract implementation, in particular time extensions and cost increases, to ensure that the benefits in terms of value for money and quality of delivery are not compromised during contract implementation.

The following international conventions and standards relate to public procurement:

 

Domestic context

Albania is doing moderately well in public procurement. Some progress was made in the past year, in particular by amending the law on concessions and public-private partnerships (PPPs) to remove the bonus for unsolicited proposal in line with the European Commission’s recommendations and the adoption of the new law on defence and security procurement. Further efforts are needed to improve compliance with procedures and prevent corruption in the procurement cycle.

In the framework of measures towards increased transparency and the fight against corruption, from 2009 all public procurement procedures in Albania are performed through an electronic platform. Application of the e-procurement system has been a big challenge and a great achievement at the same time, for Albanian public procurement system, comparing to the paper-based model.

Based on data analysis, and assessments done after several years of experience with the e-procurement platform, improvements have been done in 2016, further aiming to increase transparency in the procurement system.

Improving and using the e-procurement system, as a tool to increase transparency and fight corruption, helped a lot in improving the performance of the procurement system in Albania. The most important figures to illustrate the impact is the reduction of the number of unpublished tenders direct awards which decreased from 30% of the total number of procurement procedures (which represents the average during the period 2009-2017) to 2.5% in 2019.

Public procurement may be conducted both electronically and paper based. The procurement system is mainly regulated by the RA Law on Procurement adopted on 16 December 2016 (entered into effect on April 25, 2017), which also has a separate article defining which documents are required to ensure the record and storage of the information on the procurement procedure, validity of the data required from bidders and rules of e-procurement. Armenian legislation provides four methods of procurements: Electronic auction; Tender; Price quotation; Single-source procurement. Tender is the preferable procurement method, while other methods of procurement can be used only in cases stipulated by the Law.

Armenian electronic public procurement system ARMEPS (Armenian Electronic Procurement System) was established in 2012. It is aimed at minimizing the risks of conflicts of interests exercising better control over compliance with public procurement procedures, increasing effectiveness and efficiency of usage of e-procurement system, enhancing its transparency and strengthening competition in public procurement.

The State Procurement Agency of Georgia (SPA) is an independent legal entity of public law (LEPL) that provides oversight to ensure the legitimacy of government procurement procedures. The Chairperson of the Agency is appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister of Georgia, while the Government of Georgia approves the structure of the Agency and provides state oversight over its activities.[i] Public Procurement at the municipal level is conducted by relevant Mayors’ Offices using the unified electronic procurement system. The Mayors’ Offices are responsible to submit reports on the execution of annual procurement plans to the Municipal Councils.

[i]Law of Georgia on Public Procurement, Article 4, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 18 May 2005.

Public procurement has been for a long time one of the most criticised sectors by civil society and the media in Kosovo* due to various corrupt affairs through public tenders. However, after the creation of the e-procurement system, Kosovo* has taken a step forward in increasing transparency and accountability. Yet, the lack of control over the quality of works or material goods, services and everything else that the public authorities procure through public tenders remains a concern. Kosovo* has been trying to amend the Law on Public Procurement through amendments that are aimed at advancing transparency and accountability of public officials, contracting authorities and the contractors.

At local level, procurement is conducted by municipal procurement offices while, at the central level, procurement is conducted by the Central Procurement Authority. The competencies of this Authority are to develop joint procurements for Contracting Authorities, to perform procurement activities on their behalf, and to assist in carrying out procurement activities. The Public Procurement Regulatory Commission (PPRC) is an independent institution established by law and with the mission to develop, operate and oversee the public procurement system in Kosovo*. Its mission also includes the operation and oversight of the electronic public procurement system in Kosovo* (E‑Procurement).

Another authority with an important role in the public procurement system is the Procurement Review Body. This body is established by decision of the Assembly of Kosovo* in line with the Law on Public Procurement. The competencies of this body are the review of public procurement activities that are carried out by the Contracting Authorities after a party has filed a complaint.

According to a report of the European Committee of Regions, some of the main problems in the Republic of Moldova regarding public procurement, as reported by experts, are: lack of transparency (77%), nepotism (65%), and untrained personnel (54%).

Other public services affected by corruption in the procurement process are the medical and educational centres that fall under the authority of local administrations (given the process of decentralisation). Studies show that the most widespread practice is to organise and arrange public procurements through dubious schemes related to the execution of the contracts. Most frauds in the public procurement sector contain an element of corruption and conflict of interest. A conflict of interest occurs when the representatives of the contracting authorities involved in the procurement process use their status and position to award contracts to companies in which they have financial or managerial interest. For example, cases were identified with contracts being awarded to companies whose founders were relatives of the decision-making representatives.

Created in 2016, the ProZorro (prozorro.gov.ua) e-procurement system has significantly enhanced transparency in public procurement and contributes to fighting corruption at all levels of governance. Owing to the high level of transparency of the ProZorro platform, all users are able to detect procurement procedures that may entail a violation of law, as provided for in Article 9 of the Law No. 922-VIII “On Public Procurement” which concerns civic oversight. However, improvements to the public procurement system are still needed. In particular, mechanisms for citizens requests for investigation and information on actual payments per procurement agreement, in order to further increase transparency indecision-making.

Legislation

The current core legislation in the field of public procurement consists of Law no. 9643, “On Public Procurement”, as amended, and the Decision of Council of Ministers no. 914/2014 “On the approval of public procurement rules”, as amended. These legal instruments are based on Directive 2004/18/EC on the coordination of procurement procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts” (Public Sector Directive), Directive 2004/17/EC coordinating the procurement procedures entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sector”(Utilities Directive), which are already repealed by the new Directives of 2014, as well as in the Directive 2007/66/EC of the Parliament and European Council of 11 December 2007 amending Directives 89/665/EC and 92/13/EC as regards the increase of efficiency for public contract review procedures.

Also, the legislation in the field of public procurement contains two decisions of the Council of Ministers, which further regulate centralised procurement at governmental level, namely DCM no. 81/2018 “On the establishment, organisation and functioning of the Centralized Purchasing Agency” and DCM no. 82/2018 “On entrusting  Centralized Purchasing Agency with conducting public procurement procedures, on behalf and in the name of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministries and Subordinate Institutions, for some Goods and Services”.

In the field of public procurement, Albanian legislation includes the concessions and PPPs, which are ruled by Law 125/2013 “On concessions and public-private partnership”, as amended, based on Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts. This law is also supported by three bylaws, namely: DCM no. 280/2020 “On the approval of the regulation on the functioning manner of the selection committee of concession/PPP projects and criteria for evaluating contracting authorities’ requests for support with specialized expertise”, DCM no. 285/2020 “On the organisation and functioning of the Concession Treatment Agency (ATRAKO)”.

Legal provisions related to the Procurement Ombudsman represent an additional guarantee to citizens and private entities.  

Also, in the Cross-cutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Government 2015-2020, one specific objective is the expansion of the reform of Internal Audit and Control, External Audit and Public Procurement to include local government. This aims at raising the level of Local Government Units to a achieve effective monitoring of the progress of reforms in the field of public financial management.

Along with the Constitution of Armenia, the main legislative acts in the area of Legislation on public procurement in Armenia consists of the Law on Procurement (adopted on December 16, 2016), Civil Code of the Republic of Armenia and other legal acts. The Law of Armenia on Procurement determines the general legal, organisational and economic principles for conducting public procurement.

Armenian public procurement legislation also includes sub-legal acts, such as The Decision of the government of the Republic of Armenia of May 4, 2017 “On approval of the procurement organisation procedure and on repealing the Decision of the Government of the Republic Of Armenia of February 10, 2011” (major sub-legislative act on public procurement), Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia of April 6, 2017 N 386-N "On approval of the procedure for e-procurement and on repealing the decision N 1370-N of the Government of the Republic of Armenia of December 5, 2013", the Order of the Minister of Finance No. 219-A "On approval of the guideline for e-procurement and on repealing the order No. 7-A of the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia of January 10, 2014", etc.

Along with the Constitution of Georgia, the main legislative acts in the area of public procurement in Georgia are the Law on Public Procurement,[i] the Statute of the SPA approved by the Government of Georgia,[ii] as well as international treaties and agreements. Procurement procedures determined by the World Bank, United Nations, EBRD, Asian Development Bank, KfW Development Bank and European Investment Bank may be applied when conducting public procurement, if these organisations are involved in the legal relations related to implementation of the procurement. The Law of Georgia on Public Procurement determines the general legal, organisational and economic principles for conducting public procurement. The SPA ensures rational expenditure of funds designated for state procurement, promotes healthy competition, ensures a fair and non-discriminatory approach to participants and takes relevant steps for the publicity of procurement information, inter alia through running and maintaining the Unified Electronic System of State Procurement. According to the legislation, dispute over the procurement process is heard by an independent and impartial Dispute Resolution Council, the purpose of which is to resolve cases in a timely, efficient and fair manner. The Council is not a subsidiary of any state entity and/or official.[iii] At local level, the Mayors’ Offices adopt annual procurement plans, which are later approved by the SPA. Public procurement is conducted by the local financial-municipal departments via the online procurement system. The Mayors’ Offices are responsible to provide Municipal Councils with the report on the implementation of Procurement Plans on an annual basis.[iv]

[i] Law of Georgia on Public Procurement, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 18 May 2005.

[ii] Decree of the Government of Georgia on Approving the Statute and the Structure of the State Procurement Agency, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 29 October 2015.

[iii] Law of Georgia on Public Procurement. Article 23.1, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 18 May 2005.

[iv] Organic Law of Georgia Local Self-Government Code, Article 52, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 19 February 2014.

 

The Law on Public Procurement, which regulates this specific field, has been amended several times over a short period of time. It has been amended and supplemented by Law No. 04/L‑237, Law No. 05/L‑068 and Law No. 05/L‑092. Article 2 of the law clearly obliges all contracting authorities to carry out all procurement activities based on this law and the changes that have followed over the years. Chapter II of the law sets out the general principles on which Public Procurement should be carried out in Kosovo*, which are: economy and efficiency, equality in treatment and non-discrimination.

The Ministry of Finance has been working throughout the past years on designing and implementing public procurement policies that help ensure a functional, efficient and transparent legal framework for public procurement, including its harmonisation with EU Directives and international standards.

Public procurement in the Republic of Moldova is mainly governed by Law No.131 of 3 July 2015, which entered into force on 1 May 2016. The law is transposing the EU Directives 2004/18/CE, 89/665/CCE, and (partially) 2014/24/UE. The government has further approved a set of secondary legislation intended to facilitate the implementation of this law.

The Ministry of Finance has developed the 2016-2020 Strategy for the Development of the Public Procurement System and the Action Plan on its implementation, approved by the Government Decision No. 1332 of 14 December 2016, in order to implement the provisions of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement and the World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement, which  the Republic of Moldova had joined on 14 July 2016.

Amendments to Law No. 131 of 3 July 2015 were adopted by Parliament in September 2016 and as a result, the National Complaints Agency was to be then established by Parliament; this only happened a year later, in September 2017. Establishing this entity aimed to eliminate the conflict of competencies from the activity of the Public Procurement Agency, a specialised body subordinated to the Ministry of Finance, which ensures the implementation of the public procurement policy. In 2020 the number of complaints filed by economic operators increased by 25% (by 256 more complaints) compared to 2019. Overall, since the establishment of the National Complaints Agency (September 2017) and until 31 December 2020, 3234 appeals have been registered and examined, according to the Agency's Annual Performance Report from 2020.

On 30 November 2016, a memorandum was signed between the Ministry of Finance, the Public Procurement Agency, the Electronic Governance Centre, several business associations, and CSOs and IT companies. It aimed to pilot the new multi-platform hybrid eProcurement system for micro value procurements.

Order No. 30 of 10 February 2017 of the Minister of Finance On Piloting the Public Procurement System for Low Value Contracts entered into force, according to which the Ministry of Finance and all subordinate administrative authorities shall apply the e-procurement system in pilot regime for low value public procurement.

On 27 July 2018, the Law No. 131 on Public Procurement was amended and electronic tendering procedures have been introduced as a standard for all public sector entities in the Republic of Moldova.

In 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law “On Public Procurement”. Since then, this law has facilitated the creation of an e-procurement system, bringing e-democracy and e-governance to a new level. Open procedures and competitive selection now take place exclusively on the electronic platform ProZorro, which has boosted transparency and has significantly improved Ukraine’s position in the international E-Government Development Index scale. Similarly, the DoZorro portal (dozorro.org) creates a database of real assessments of purchasers, suppliers and individual tenders that allows to monitor public procurement effectively.

Ukraine continued on its path to reform by becoming a fully-fledged member of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement in 2016 and by adopting the Resolution No. 175 of the Cabinet of Ministers “On the Public Procurement Reform Strategy and Action Plan (Roadmap)”,  which addresses the development of the public procurement system from 2016 to 2022 in compliance with the provisions of the “EU – Ukraine Association Agreement”.

In September 2019, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a number of amendments to the Law “On Public Procurement” with the aim of complying the national legislation with the Directives 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on public procurement. On 19 April 2020, those amendments came into force. The amendments which have been introduced are generally deemed positive, as they aim to increase the level of control and transparency of the procurement procedure and eliminate a number of existing critical issues that were widely abused and taken advantage of. The law introduces a number of significant changes to public procurement procedures:

  • Below-threshold procurements are now regulated by the introduction of simplified procurements, which contracting authorities are to make using the electronic procurement system ("Prozorro");
  • As a general rule, if the value of a procurement item equals to or exceeds UAH 50,000 but is less than UAH 200,000 for goods/services or less than UAH 1,500,000 for works;
  • For natural monopolies, if the value of a procurement item equals to or exceeds UAH 50,000 but is less than UAH 1,000,000 for goods/services or less than UAH 5,000,000 for works.

The new law also introduced measures for identifying price dumping more easily, adopting non-price criteria for assessing proposals, enabling to organise more professional procurement due to the transition from “tender committees” to “authorised procurement officials”.

Moreover, according to Article 62 of the Law “On Prevention of Corruption”, legal entities participating in public procurement procedures in which the expected value equals or exceeds UAH 20 million must have established and authorised anti-corruption programmes (that is: a set of rules, standards and procedures for detecting, combating and preventing corruption within a legal entity’s list of activities).

Public procurement efficiency is also enhanced by the Law ”On Electronic Documents and Electronic Document Management”, “On Electronic Trust Services”, “On Access to Public Information”, “On the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine” and a number of by-laws enforcing transparency and efficiency in the public procurement system in Ukraine.

To respond to the challenges caused by COVID-19 and the need to ensure the procurement of goods and services, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law “On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of Ukraine Aimed at Preventing the Occurrence and Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)” which amends the Law “On Public Procurement” to ease the procurement process for goods, works or services necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.

Guidelines

Albania has a central electronic public procurement portal administered by Public Procurement Agency, where tender and contract notices, and other important information and guidance are published. Use of the portal is mandatory, including for low-value procurement. Standard tendering documents for each type of procedure and contract are published on the PPA website, and the procurement forecast register is prepared and posted online.

By the end of 2019, the concessions registry contained information on 224 PPPs, five of which had been signed in 2019. Although required by law, value-for-money analysis is still not systematically carried out before approval of all PPPs. The Ministry of Finance and Economy made initial attempts to establish regular monitoring and reporting on PPPs. The technical skills and capacity to design and assess concessions and PPPs require further development.

The PPA has recently strengthened its monitoring role, and applies a monitoring system to assess procurement performance, procurement compliance and, since 2019, contract implementation, with information available for 1,006 contracts. The monitoring system is based on a variety of performance indicators. There is still a need for: (i) further support for contracting authorities; (ii) a strengthening of the e-procurement system; (iii) monitoring of contract implementation; and (iv) analysis of market trends in public procurement.

In order to facilitate the process of online procurement in Armenia, the Ministry of Finance has developed several guides and manuals for E-Procurement, available at the Procurement Official Electronic Bulletin of the Ministry of Finance – https://gnumner.am/hy/. The developed guide on E-auction  for "Economic Operator", the guide on E-auction , the guidelines for e-Procurement of PIUs, Foundations and CJSCs Implementing World Bank-Funded Projects, as well as the Manual for E-Procurement Planning, Contract Management, Procurement Reporting Modules include step-by-step approach of the Unified Electronic System of State Procurement (armeps.am) directed at suppliers, procuring entities as well as any other interested party at the central and local levels.

In 2020 the Open Government Partnership (OGP) acknowledged the Transparent Public Procurement Rating (TPPR) as one of the main sources for monitoring good governance in public procurement. The TPPR methodology of evaluating the level of public procurement transparency includes indicators for evaluating the level of procurement transparency. According to the TPPR, the public procurement system in Armenia is evaluated with a score of 66.26%. Based on the evaluation, the central and local authorities can identify existing gaps and take relevant steps to tackle them.

In order to facilitate the process of online procurement in Georgia, the SPA has developed an E-Procurement User Manual. The manual includes the step-by-step approach of the Unified Electronic System of State Procurement directed at suppliers, procuring entities as well as any other interested party at the central and local levels. The Guide for Donor Funds on Electronic Procurement Procedure (DEP) published by the SPA provides a detailed walk-through in the process of donor procurement. Moreover, the Guideline to Ethics and Rules of Conduct of Public Employees have been developed by the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia in 2018 containing practical information on various areas of public policy, including public procurement, disciplinary sanctions, public oversight, and whistle-blower protection.

A number of guiding documents on public procurement have also been produced by CSOs in Georgia. The Guidelines on COVID-19 Related Public Procurement provide relevant stakeholders at the central and local levels with practical information on the steps to be taken in the process of conducting procurement aimed at responding to the challenges caused by the pandemic. Moreover, the methodology of evaluating the level of public procurement transparency, the Transparent Public Procurement Rating (TPPR), includes indicators for evaluating the level of procurement transparency. According to the TPPR, the public procurement system in Georgia is evaluated with a score of 86.14%. Based on the evaluation, the central and local authorities can identify existing gaps and take relevant steps to tackle them. The National Assessment of Georgian Municipalities (LSG Index) includes the aspect of proactive publication of the information on public procurement, thus providing municipalities with guidance on the relevant information to be published on their websites.

 

The Public Procurement Regulatory Commission through its website (e-prokurimi.rks-gov.net) assists contracting authorities and economic operators to operate in public procurement. Contracting authorities have a detailed manual, a video manual, and a contract management manual and performance evaluation which includes an explanatory video. Economic operators also have a manual, which explains in a detailed way the registration process, the preparation of bids, advanced search, etc.

In April 2017, a pilot of the MTender (mtender.gov.md) e-procurement system – a partnership between the Ministry of Finance and four commercial electronic platforms – was launched with support from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Since March 2018, economic operators registered in the Republic of Moldova are able to use MTender for signing online contracts, both public and commercial ones. Public bodies funded from the state budget may use MTender for signing any public contract and registering it with the Treasury of the Republic of Moldova.

On 27 July 2018, the Law on Public Procurement No. 131 was amended in order to introduce electronic tendering procedures as a standard for all public sector entities in the Republic of Moldova.

Starting from 15 October 2018, new types of electronic tendering procedures became available on MTender, to suit different types of contracts and serve different public and commercial buyers, including state-owned enterprises.

Therefore, according to legal provisions, local public authorities must carry out public procurement through the digital public procurement system MTender, with the exception of low-cost procurement for which the organisation of online tenders is only optional. According to IDIS Viitorul, to ensure greater transparency as to how public authorities purchase goods and services using public funds, it is necessary for low-cost procurement to be included in the digital public procurement system as well.

MTender uses all eGovernment solutions that have been developed by the e-Government Agency (egov.md) with the support of the World Bank: MCloud, MConnect, MPass, MSign, MPay, and eFactura.

The EU Delegation to the Republic of Moldova is currently supporting the Ministry of Finance on the further development of MTender for the years ahead.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine (MEDT), in line with the Law “On Public Procurement”, created a special Information Resource of the Authorised Body in the field of public procurement. Its aim is to disseminate information on the application of public procurement legislation, as well as on the effective implementation of the state procurement policy by the Authorised Body.

The ProZorro Infobox (infobox.prozorro.org), a knowledge centre on public procurement, provides information for customers and suppliers about all the innovations in the ProZorro system and get answers to all their questions. It also shares methodological materials, explanatory notes, online training courses and a forum for discussing public procurement issues among customers, suppliers, and representatives of the ProZorro team and the MEDT.

In 2019, the MEDT developed the “Guidelines on ethical conduct in public procurement” for public authorities, local self-governments and other organisations engaged in public procurement. These Guidelines are not a legally binding document, yet it provides important recommendations for public authorities and local self-government to ensure accountability and transparency. Specific sections of the Guidelines relate to openness and transparency during all stages of public procurement, non-discrimination and prevention of corruption.

Good practices

In 2015, the Public Procurement Agency together with the Public Procurement Commission and Supreme State Audit Institution (ALSAI) were the beneficiaries of the World Bank project "Improving compliance monitoring and enhancing transparency in public procurement in Albania", which started to be implemented in 2016.

The purpose of this project is to support the Government of Albania to improve and further strengthen the system of compliance monitoring with the public procurement law, improve the mechanisms of reviewing the complaints, capacity building of ALSAI regarding the audit of public procurement contracts in Albania, the creation of Electronic Archiving of Procurement Procedures.

PPA has continued to strengthen the capacities of the technical staff on its operational activities and has conducted online and informative sessions on the related legal framework.

Further, the development of E-governance was focused to make a difference on the central level and mainly in the government-business public service (Government to Business - G2B) and G2G (Government to Government). The establishment of the National Licensing Center, National Registration Center, the expansion of GovNET (G2G) infrastructure, the establishment of infrastructure for interaction, e-tax, e-procurement, e-customs, e-patents, e-fines services, Civil State National Register, as well as the issuance of biometric document, are some of the main developments that may be considered as good practice related to procurement.

The e-procurement system of the Republic of Armenia was launched on 1 January 2012, as a result of which the open procurement processes carried out by most of the public administration bodies of the Republic of Armenia are organised electronically through the website www.armeps.am. The e-procurement system ARMEPS has significantly enhanced transparency in public procurement and contributes to fighting corruption at all levels of governance. Due to high level of transparency of the ARMEPS platform, all users are able to detect procurement procedures that may entail a violation of law. However, improvements to the public procurement system are still needed in order to further increase transparency in decision-making.

Electronic innovations for more transparency and efficiency of public procurement were included as one of the main commitments of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan of Georgia 2018-2019. To this end, the SPA developed a webpage with a new visualisation of the database generated by the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) and created an API to access OCDS-based databases. However, the data published in open contracting standards is not renewed and covers the year 2019 only. A number of public procurement commitments are also included in municipal action plans. The Akhaltsikhe Transparency and Integrity Strategy aims at increasing the number of suppliers participating in public procurement at the local level. The strategy was adopted in line with the OGP Action Plan of Georgia. A similar action plan was adopted by Telavi Municipality, which aims at reducing the number of direct procurements and strengthening the mechanisms of monitoring the execution of contracts. The Senaki Municipality is committed to adopting a similar action plan.

 

Kosovo* has established the Public Procurement Regulatory Commission (PPRC) as an independent regulatory agency as per the Law on Public Procurement. The PPRC is responsible for the development, operation and overall oversight of the public procurement system in Kosovo* and other responsibilities stipulated by this law. The PPRC uses an e-procurement platform (e-prokurimi.rks-gov.net) to publish public contracts, which can be published by the contracting authorities themselves.

E-procurement allows all public institutions to conduct procurement activities online. Businesses can apply and receive information on public contracts. Such transparency makes the acceptance of bids and accompanying materials, required for the tender, safer and better protected from possible manipulations. During 2019 there were 12,461 public contracts registered on the platform, around 7,650 economic operators and 20,500 users.

Citizens have access to this portal and can monitor the activities of public institutions. This platform is playing a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic as it allows public institutions to continue their work and functioning.

MTender (mtender.gov.md) is a unique and innovative multi-platform electronic procurement service using open source, open data and open contracting data standards. It aims to support all key relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the principles of Open Government, based on the principles of transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement in the collaborative delivery of public services. It provides an open data scheme describing how to release documents and data at each stage of a contracting process as machine readable, flexible, complete and re-useable data.

The MTender system aims to ensure the electronic processing of the full procurement cycle, from the procurement planning stage to the last payment made when the public procurement contracts are finalised. It also aims to provide tools dedicated to the special ways of awarding public contracts, such as electronic auction, electronic catalogues, and framework agreements. MTender consists of a web portal, the Open Data central database unit, three main networking commercial electronic platforms interconnected with the portal and the central database, as well as several e-government services, in order to provide a seamless digital procurement service for public sector and commercial buyers in the Republic of Moldova.

MTender represents the 2.0 version of the State Registry of Public Procurement automated information system and is an information system compatible with Cloud computing, to be hosted on the MCloud. MTender is a state-of-the-art modern, cloud-based, integrated and interoperable e-government solution, using the latest technologies to deliver end-to-end digital public procurement, from planning public spending to payment for public contracts.

 

During the period March – June 2020, there has been almost 40 thousand purchases in Ukraine through the ProZorro e-procurement system, a majority of which related to medical equipment, pharmaceutical products, and emergency and security equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of purchases is growing rapidly. The degree of transparency in public procurement was substantially enhanced with the introduction of a business intelligence tool (covid.dozorro.org) which enables the search and monitoring of information concerning COVID-19 procurement conducted by national and local authorities.

External audit

External audit is the regular, independent scrutiny of accounts and financial information to ensure that public money is used appropriately and effectively. External audits are undertaken in accordance with relevant laws and rules to support those external to government to hold it to account. As well as audit of the financial statements of local budget institutions, external audit can look beyond finances to assessing the performance of government against its own objectives, or in providing programmes and services.

International standards
  • The International Public Sector Accounting Standards focus on the accounting, auditing, and financial reporting needs of central, regional, and local governments, related governmental agencies, and the constituencies they serve.
  • The International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions website contains a complete collection of professional standards and best practice guidelines for public sector auditors.
  • A number of the conventions and standards for combatting corruption include provisions and clauses relating to external audit.
Domestic context

The external audit coverage in Albania is limited. As a matter of example, in 2013, only an 8% of public entities (accounting for 40% of budget spending) were audited. The independent Supreme State Audit Institution publishes an annual report on the implementation of the budget. However, there is currently no certification or audit opinion on the individual financial statements of central or local budget institutions or on the consolidated fiscal statement.

In Armenia, the audit of state institutions is conducted by the Audit Chamber. The mission of the Audit Chamber is to perform high-quality external state audit, which aims to prevent violations from happening in the areas of public funds and property management, thus improving efficiency.

The State Audit Office of Georgia (SAO) is an institutionally independent public agency that provides oversight over the use of public funds and the efficiency of the work of public institutions. The functional and financial independence of the SAO are guaranteed under the law and it provides significant input in ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity of public institutions.

 

The Auditor General of Kosovo* is the highest institution of economic and financial control; the National Audit Office (NAO) is an independent institution that supports the Auditor General in performing his/her duties. Auditing activities play an important role in ensuring that the interest of taxpayers and other stakeholders are maintained while enhancing public accountability.  

The Auditor General reports to the Assembly of Kosovo* and is entitled to control all the financial and administrative processes, as well as other activities, programmes and projects managed by public institutions, including the process and proceeds from the sale of assets, privatisations and concessions. The reports compiled by the National Audit Office aim at promoting accountability and providing a solid basis to hold the managers of each budget organisation into account thus increasing public trust in how the public funds are spent.

The National Audit Office was established by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). As one of the most important institutions in Kosovo*, for more than 10 years the National Audit Office has been chaired by an international auditor, who performed the conferred mandate with the support of local personnel.

During 2019, NAO continued to increase the audits portfolio, by including more publicly owned enterprises and budget organisations. In total, NAO completed 119 Regularity audits (Audit of the Annual Financial Report of the Kosovo* Budget of 2019, 95 budget organisations (27 central level institutions, 30 independent institutions and 38 local level institutions, 14 publicly owned enterprises and 9 audits of projects (funded by donors) and 13 Performance Audits.

Full membership in the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of public sector external audit in Kosovo*. This membership enabled the exchange of knowledge and experiences with Supreme Audit Institutions of 194 member states of this Organisation in order to develop institutional capacity to implement duties and responsibilities with high professional integrity.

The EU-Moldova Association Agreement includes commitments (Article 22) related to Public Administration Reform. Among the key areas for cooperation in the field of public finances are: budgetary policy, internal control, financial inspection, and external audit which regulates the budgetary and accounting systems, internal control, financial inspection and external audit, the fight against corruption and fraud.

In addition to this, Article 49 (e) of the same agreement puts in place external audit standards set internationally by the International Organisation of the Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).

In the course of sweeping decentralisation reforms, local budgets grow significantly, but the external audit of local public authorities remains underregulated. As a result, there is an increasing number of educational initiatives that empower citizens and teach local authorities to properly develop, implement and control public budgets.

Legislation

Article 13 of the Law No. 139/2015 “On Local Self-Government” stipulates that «local self-government units shall be subject to external audit by central government bodies with regard to the use of conditional and/or delegated funds provided by the State budget and/or funds of foreign aid, allocated to them according to the agreements signed by the central government». Moreover, as per Article 43 of the same Law, each local self-government unit is subject to external audit by the State Supreme Audit, and any audit report should be made available to the public. In exceptional circumstances, local executive bodies may be subject to audits conducted by specialised auditing companies.

The State Supreme Audit Institution (ALSAI) is the highest external audit institution in Albania. In accordance with its functions, rights and duties, apart from the audit role, the ALSAI can address criminal prosecution bodies when further tracking of audit findings is part of their competence and address the highest state bodies in case of noncompliance with its recommendations, as set forth in Article 15 of the Law No. 154/2014 “On the Organisation and Functioning of the State Supreme Audit Institution”.

According to the Armenian Constitution, the Audit Chamber is "an independent state body, which conducts audit, in the field of public finance and ownership, over the lawfulness and effectiveness of the use of the State Budget and community budget funds, loans and credits received, as well as state- and community-owned property. The Audit Chamber is entitled to conduct inspections of legal persons only in the cases prescribed by law”.

The Law on Audit Chamber states that the Audit Chamber is an independent state body conducting external state audit. The Audit Chamber aims to provide the public and the National Assembly with timely, professional and impartial information on public finances, public funds, state budgets, credits, loans, and the legality and efficiency of the use of state property.

The functional and financial independence of the SAO is guaranteed under Article 69 of the Constitution of Georgia. In addition, the work of the SAO is regulated by the Organic Law of Georgia on the State Audit Office, which sets the mandate, responsibility and organisational structure of the SAO. Apart from examining the spending of public funds vis-à-vis all public institutions (including municipal public institutions) and state-owned enterprises in Georgia, the mandate of the SAO also includes the monitoring of political party financing. The SAO is only entrusted with an oversight function and does not have a mandate to put forward any sanctions. Nevertheless, under Article 241 of the Law on the State Audit Office, it has an obligation to immediately report possible criminal activity discovered during the audit process.

 

The institution of the Auditor General was integrated into the Constitution of Kosovo* in 2008 and, shortly after, the Law on the Establishment of the Office of the Auditor General of Kosovo* and the Audit Office of Kosovo* was adopted.

In June 2016, the Assembly of Kosovo* promulgated the Law on the Auditor General and the National Audit Office, which substituted the old one. It marked the completion of legal framework on auditing and the full ownership of these local institutions.

The Court of Accounts (CoA) is a Supreme Public Audit Institution and acts in accordance with the provisions of the Law on the organisation and operation of the Court of Accounts No. 260 of 7 December 2017. It exercises control over the formation, administration and use of public financial resources and public patrimony management, by conducting external audit in the public sector and ensuring compliance with international standards on best practices in the field of external public audit by the country. The relevant law guarantees the independence of CoA.

The Public Administration Reform Strategy for 2016-2020 sets out the government’s vision, including the goals of “developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” (SDG target 16.6) and to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels” (SDG target 16.7). External and internal audits are foreseen in the PAR strategy.

Article 87 of the Law on Local Public Administration also provides that the method of financial management organisation and control in the public local administration authority is subject to internal and external audit.

 

The Chapter V of the Budget Code of Ukraine sets rules on the control and audit of public finances. In line with the Code’s Article 110 and Article 15 of the Law No. 576 “On Accounting Chamber”, the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine (ACU) provides financial audit of the money transferred between the state and local budgets. The ACU defines the equity, lawfulness and effectiveness of such transfers between administrators and recipients of public funds.

While the ACU acts on behalf of the Parliament, the State Audit Service of Ukraine,  the State Treasury of Ukraine and local finance authorities perform financial control on behalf of executive bodies (Articles 111-113 of the Budget Code). They control the compliance of local authorities with budget legislation even though the co-ordination of these institutions remains poorly regulated.

The violation of the budget legislation (all forms of violation are listed in Article 116 of the Budget Code) leads to administrative (Article 164-12 of the Administrative Code) or criminal (Articles 210-211 of the Criminal Code) liability.

Guidelines

In order to increase transparency on account standards and financial statements, public authorities should establish a sound internal budgetary control regime, produce publicly released annual reports and perform an external audit of those annual reports. Local authorities are advised to disclose and publish the external audit reports, and to adopt the Audit Reporting Guidelines published by ALSAI.

Armenia is a member of International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) since 1998. Armenian Audit Chamber is guided by INTOSAI’s International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI), such as the International standards of higher accounting authorities, including Rules of ethics (ISSAI 130), Quality control for higher audit institutions (ISSAI 140), Basic principles of public sector audit (ISSAI 100), Basic principles of financial audit (ISSAI 200), Principles of performance audit (ISSAI 300), Basic principles of compliance audit (ISSAI 400), etc. These standards are also available at the official website of the Audit Chamber.

The SAO regularly publishes best practice audit guidelines for public institutions, as well as for the conducting the audit itself. Generally, the guidelines produced by SAO do not have a legally binding nature, but there are some regulations that are enshrined in the Decree of the General Auditor – for example, the Code of Ethics of State Audit Office Auditors. In addition, SAO publishes guidelines on the development of budgets, which can be useful for local self-governments during the preparation of the municipal budget. Recommendations of the above-mentioned guideline cover results-based budgeting, how to link specific targets to the budget, formula-funding, and agency-level budgetary performance incentives. These tools and recommendations can be used to improve the structure and quality of municipal budgets, which will later have a positive effect during audits conducted by SAO.

 

Audit is a qualified examination of legal and financial compliance or performance, carried out to satisfy the requirements of management (internal audit), or an external audit entity, or any other independent auditor, to meet statutory obligations (external audit). In addition to the Law on the Auditor General and the National Audit Office, the Office of the Auditor General drafted the Audit Quality Management Guide and Performance Audit Guide.

The Court of Accounts is assigned as the responsible institution for the external audit of the management of public funds in Article 13 of the Law No. 260 of 7 December 2017 on the organisation and operation of the Court of Accounts. The CoA has successfully performed several audits in recent years.

According to the Court of Accounts Report on the administration and use of public financial resources as well as public patrimony during 2020, the Court recorded a lower degree of compliance of the local public authorities with the Court's audit recommendations. While the degree of compliance with audit recommendations at the level of central public authorities is about 60%, at the level of local public administration it is much lower (20%), and in some cases there is no compliance.

There are several guides developed by the Court of Accounts:

  • Guidance on the audit of state revenues;
  • Guide on key indicators for evaluation of the audit activity, including in the monitoring of the execution requirements and implementation of the Court of Auditors’ recommendations;
  • Guidance on the strategic planning process of performance audits;
  • Quality Framework Guidelines.

As part of an assessment of fiscal risks associated with local governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommends local authorities to roll out the internal audit function to all budget entities: ”international experience suggests that seeking to strengthen the internal control framework within budgetary institutions — where managers are given greater flexibility but in an environment of robust transparency and accountability — is the best solution to promoting good public financial management outcomes”.

According to the IMF, the key elements of a strong and modern internal control regime are:

  • Enhanced flexibility for managers in executing their budgets;
  • A shift away from control over inputs toward attainment of outcomes;
  • A clear legal requirement for senior managers in budgetary institutions to establish a sound internal control regime;
  • Strengthened reporting regime, requiring agencies to produce a publicly released annual report with Annual Financial Statements;
  • External audit of the annual reports of all agencies.
  • The OECD recommends Ukrainian authorities to extend the remit of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine to subnational governments in order to improve external audit and the governance of public investments across levels of government for regional development in Ukraine.
Good practices

Fier is one of the largest municipalities in Albania. In 2016, with the support of the USAID Planning and Local Governance Project, the municipality has undergone an external assessment on public expenditure and financial accountability based on the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) methodology, aiming to provide an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of municipal public financial management systems.

The weakness mentioned in the assessment of PEFA includes the challenges in the efficient use of resources and service delivery. This weakness is addressed by the external auditing reports prepared by the High State Control (HSC) which are prepared every two years. These reports of HSC have served as steps that help to remedy this weakness.

The Law on Audit Chamber, states that the Chamber shall, among others, also conduct audit of the community budgets, usage of loans and credits received by them, as well as legality and efficiency of the use of community property. The most recent such report was the one on the use of budgetary means, community property, as well as budgetary revenues collection by Gyumri Municipality. According to the amendments to the Law on Self-Government of Armenia from January 24, 2020, starting from 1 January 2022 all communities should have a website where they should publish the budget and budget implementation reports. The acting Law establishes a duty to have a website only for communities which have more than 3 000 residents. These mechanisms create opportunities for civil society and citizens to audit budget.

Since the SAO is the only external institution that monitors the work and spending of central and local public institutions, it makes significant effort to guarantee citizen participation, transparency and accountability. The best practice established by the SAO in the recent years is the launch of an online portal for citizens and institutions. The online platform provides interactive information about the reports of the SAO and provides citizens with the opportunity to utilize the data produced by the institution. In addition, the portal provides different modules for public participation, both in the process of oversight and during the planning of the budget. The impact of this tool is large in the area of cultivating public involvement in the budgetary process. It can serve as a good tool to compare incomes and expenditures of various municipalities of Georgia, providing citizens and municipal officials/employees with opportunities to reflect on the budget, financial standing and efficiency of the local self-government unit.

 

Based on the NAO Annual Report 2019 the Office completed Regularity Audits in 38 municipalities and provided 488 recommendations for the local level institutions. The declining trend of the number of recommendations over the last 3 years (600 in 2017 and 585 in the following year) is an indication that the municipal authorities are taking NAO recommendations more seriously and are making efforts to address them. The same report shows that over half of recommendations given in year 2018 are completely or partially implemented by the municipal authorities (217 recommendations or are complete and 78 partially implemented).

The EU Twinning Project on Developing an Effective Internal Control and Audit Environment in the Public Sector was closed in 2019. The project provided support to the Moldovan Ministry of Finance in the process of reforming public finance management, by strengthening the internal control and audit environment in line with best EU practices.

As a result of the project, amendments were made to the Law on Public Internal Financial Control; a range of secondary regulations, guidelines, and methodologies related to the sector were developed; 15 trainers/multipliers in the field of internal audit have been trained, and the level of expertise of internal auditors in the public sector, of managers and coordinators of internal managerial control increased.

These results were obtained by training employees, exchanging experience with EU Member States’ experts, implementing surveys and other assessments. The final results of the project and its benefits for Moldovan citizens will become more visible once the new normative framework is implemented and the new methodologies begin to be applied, thus facilitating both the development of internal managerial control systems and the increase of quality in internal audit activity.

The project should be seen as a library, a toolbox that experts have filled with instruments, methodologies, and recommendations, which may be used anytime and transposed into practice.

 

Open local budgets and the engagement of civil society during the audit process are useful practices to overcome some of the external audit’s limitations.

An innovative example of such approach is the initiative for a comprehensive external public audit of the Okhtyrka City Council. Local public authorities and the Civic Council of Okhtyrka (Sumy region) agreed upon the following principles of the external audit:

  • The Civic Council can initiate external audit of all public finance spheres and local authorities are obliged to consider the results;
  • The auditors are appointed by the Civic Council, taking into account their professional qualifications;
  • The results of the public audit must be published in the media.

Such initiative by local public authorities helps to draw on the skills and experience of citizens for the delivery of more effective public services.

Another example of the combination of public and state audit is given in the project ‘Effective and fair local budgets’ in Mykolaiv. The City Council closely collaborates with civil society on improving the effectiveness of the local budget, based on the results of a public audit.

Financing of political parties

Financing of political parties and election campaigns is a necessary component of the democratic process. It enables the expression of political support and competition in elections. Principles governing the financing of political parties should include fairness in the distribution of state funding, strict rules concerning the transparency and limits on the size of private donations, ceilings on campaign expenditure, full transparency of funding and expenditure, independent election commissions, independent audit of campaign finance, and the consistent imposition of proportionate sanctions on candidates and political parties that violate the rules (such as fines or a reduction in state contributions to future election campaigns).

International standards

Clear rules and transparent reporting of political campaign financing and expenditures are essential to sustain trust in political candidates, political parties and government institutions. An imbalance in funding of political parties may result in an unfair advantage, handing undue influence to powerful narrow interests, running the risk that policies will be "captured" by narrow private interests, serving their goals over the public interest.

Mechanisms and rules on limits on party political financing, and on state financing of political campaigns, should be designed in a way that provides a level playing field for the different political candidates and parties competing in elections and serves to preserve the political forces' independence from financial supporters.

The following international conventions and standards relate to the financing of political parties:

 

Domestic context

In 2020, Albania addressed part of the OSCE recommendations for improving the organisation of elections. The passage of electoral reform, while partly positive, also included amendments that were added without the agreement of the opposition. Conclusions from the March European Union Council meeting stipulate that prior to the first intergovernmental conference opening negotiations between Albania and the European Union, “Albania should adopt electoral reform fully in accordance with OSCE/ODHIR recommendations, ensuring transparent financing of political parties and electoral campaigns”. Additionally, the negotiation framework, which had to be adopted by the Council, must reflect that Albania has implemented the agreed-upon electoral reform and that the Constitutional Court has issued a final decision on the lawfulness of the June 2019 local elections.

Political parties are vital to the establishment of a democratic society. Availability of funding is crucial for political parties, without which they cannot develop and gather enough voters to win the election. In a democratic society, the transparency of funding, and the accountability of the parties to the public is crucial to gaining public trust. Therefore, democratic states must not only create favourable conditions for the establishment and development of new political parties, but also provide conditions for their lawful, responsible activity. Illegal access to funding for parties should be prevented as a result of proper state and public control. 

Political parties have traditionally been considered one of the least trusted institutions in Armenia. According to the Caucasus Barometer 2015 survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), among 17 Armenian institutions political parties enjoyed the lowest public trust - only 8%. A public opinion survey conducted by the International Republican Institute in 2018 showed that only 5% of respondents considered the activities of the political parties to be completely transparent and open. Increasing the role and significance of the political parties in the Republic of Armenia is imperative today, taking into account that after the constitutional amendments of 2015, the state has passed to the parliamentary form of government.

Provisions on political party financing are present mainly in two legal acts in Georgia: the Organic Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens (the LPUC) and the Election Code of Georgia (EC). This causes discrepancies in terminology between the acts, ambiguity of the scope of the acts, and extensive referencing between them. International observers to the elections often refer to the blurring of the line between the state and political parties, which is further strengthened by the provision of the Election Code allowing for the unlimited campaigning by high-level public officials. In addition to that the sanction for misuses of the administrative resources lacks effectiveness as the fine is quite low (approximately EUR 800). Civil society representatives observing elections often complain about the misuse of financial, legislative and institutional administrative resources during election campaigns.

 

Financing of political parties is one of the most discussed issues in Kosovo*. Despite the legal framework, financing of political parties and their campaigns lack transparency, and the relevant legislation remains weakly implemented. The civil society and the international community have criticised political parties in Kosovo* for the lack of transparency when it comes to reporting revenues and expenditures. More information available here, here and there.

In this way, the Law on Financing of Political Parties was amended and completed in 2012 and in 2013 with the aim to increase transparency and accountability of political parties. One of the changes that were made concerns the financial control of political parties. The amending law regulates that the Assembly of Kosovo* audits annual financial reports and campaign financial statement reports of political parties before the Central Election Commission publishes them. In order to implement this legal obligation, the Assembly of Kosovo* together with the Committee for the Oversight of Public Finance selects through a public competition at least 10 licensed auditors to audit these reports. However, this legal change did not improve the situation nor increased transparency due to the fact that the Assembly failed to select external auditors. Consequently, the Central Election Commission did not publish reports of political parties for years.

As a result, civil society and international organisations in Kosovo* recommended that the Law on Financing of Political Parties be amended. In June 2020, 100 civil society organisations protested against the draft law on financing of political entities claiming that it violated Kosovo*’s Constitution and international party funding regulations. Since 2017, the Agenda for European Reform emphasises the need to amend the Law on Financing of Political Entities. The European Commission report on Kosovo* also emphasises the need to further strengthen the electoral process and the adoption and implementation of laws to address high-level corruption in accordance with the opinions of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).

In 2018, the Government of Kosovo* established a working group to amend the Law on Financing of Political Parties and the Law on General Elections. After the working group drafted a new law on the financing of political parties, it was sent for opinion to the Venice Commission. Following the opinion of the Venice Commission, the Government proceeded with the draft for approval in the Assembly of Kosovo* after making some changes regarding the allocations to the democratisation fund.

In the Assembly, the draft law was treated by the Committee on Budget and Finance, which established a working group for the draft. Civil society, international organisations and the members of the Assembly were excluded from this working group, keeping it very closed and away from the public. This working group made major changes to the proposed draft – many of them contrary to the opinion of the Venice Commission. Later on, in 2019, the civil society requested the withdrawal of the draft law after assessing that the interventions made in it by the working group reduced the transparency and accountability of political parties to the public.

In this way, the Government withdrew the law from the Assembly. In July 2020, the new Government reactivated the drafting of the law, requiring in advance the opinion of the civil society. In September 2020, the Government sent the draft law to the Assembly, where it was expected to be reviewed and voted by the end of 2020; however, due to the dissolution of the Assembly, it is expected that the draft law be voted in the following legislature.

Current regulations of the process of financing political parties were adopted based on international standards in the field. However, given the fact that some international standards have recently been revised or published in a new version, national normative acts should be revised accordingly.

The Central Electoral Commission is responsible for supervising and controlling the political parties’ financing. However, according to civil society reports on monitoring political parties and electoral campaign financing (see the reports here and here), the capacity of the Central Electoral Commission is still quite low in this regard. With a few exceptions (verification of donors and their income), the electoral authority does not have effective tools and mechanisms to fully check the correctness of the information in political parties financing reports regarding their political promotion activities.

On 28 May 2021 the President of the Republic of Moldova held a meeting with the Supreme Security Council to discuss the topic of the risk of corruption in the process of political parties and electoral campaigns financing. As a result of this meeting, it was decided that the Presidency of the Republic of Moldova would set up a working group to further develop recommendations for the amendment of the legal framework on political parties and electoral campaigns financing, as well as of the criminal legislation, thus tightening sanctions for illegal financing of political parties or electoral campaigns.

The Promo-LEX election observation and monitoring of political financing in the Republic of Moldova shows the following conclusions on political parties and electoral campaigns financing:

  • Political parties’ activity and their financing is mostly based on subsidies from the state budget to the detriment of other sources of income.

In 2020, the revenues reported by political parties were constituted at 62% from the subsidies allocated from the state budget, and only 33% from membership fees and donations (5% were from other sources). This shows a decrease in citizens’ involvement in political activities, including through donations made to the political parties. 

Despite the fact that the legal framework requires the submission of semester-based and annual reports to the Central Electoral Commission and publication of those reports (in the case of elections - weekly reports), under the shield of personal data protection, public access to the data from political parties’ financial reports is limited. Thus, interested parties do not have access data about donors such as their job / occupation, place of residence, which makes it difficult to identify whether specific donors, especially those working in the public administration indeed had the resources to make the respective donations (usually the salaries of public servants are low and often their donations are suspected of not being always legitimate). In addition, the submitted reports, which are accessible to the public, do not meet the criteria of open data – the format used for their publication does not allow for an analysis of the information.

  • Low transparency and large discrepancy between political parties’ observed/monitored expenses and official expenses reported to the Central Electoral Commission.

The political parties do not report all the expenses incurred for the political activities carried out during the inter-electoral and electoral periods. According to Promo-LEX monitoring reports on political parties’ finances (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), there was a constant significant difference between parties’ officially declared expenses and expenses observed by monitors.

Legislation

Financing of political parties is regulated by the Law No. 8580 “On Political Parties” and by the Electoral Code of Albania approved with Law No. 10019, as amended.

Paragraph 2 of Article 15/1 of the above stated law stipulates that «The financing of political parties is guided by the principle of transparency. Data on the financial resources of the parties, as well as on their expenses are always published”.

This law entitles the Central Election Commission (CEC) as the body responsible for monitoring and overseeing the funding of political parties, ensuring that it is in compliance with the rules set, and in order to do so, the political parties are obligated to submit their financial reports once per year to the CEC. Further, the CEC is entitled to decide the specific amounts of public funding that each party will receive in the form of annual financial funding provided by the law, following the instructions set by Article 19 of this law “On Political Parties”.

Article 23/1 of the Law No. 8580 “On Political Parties” stipulates that:

1. Each political party must record in a special register, according to the format approved by the Central Election Commission, the amount of funds received from each natural or legal person, as well as data related to the clear identification of the donor. In any case, the donor, at the time of donation, must sign a donation declaration, according to the format approved by the Central Election Commission. The list of persons who donate amounts not less than 100 thousand ALL, as well as the respective value, must always be made public.

2. The donation of non-public funds, with a value greater than ALL 100 thousand, should be done only in a special account, opened in a bank by the political party. The person responsible for the finances of the political party, within three months from the establishment of the political party, declares to the Central Election Commission the number of the bank account, opened for this purpose. The bank account number for each political entity is published on the official website of the Central Election Commission.

3. It is prohibited to benefit from non-public funds, carried out by entities that do not declare their identity or whose identity is clearly not defined by the political party beneficiary of the non-public fund.

4. Every expense incurred by the political party is performed and documented respecting the tax legislation in force.

This Article is very important in guaranteeing transparency in the financing of the political parties.

Chapter III/1 of the law “On Political Parties” named “Financial funds and expenditure of political parties during the election campaign” was repealed by the law no 135/ 2020.

Under Article 3, paragraph 5/1 of the Electoral Code is acknowledged also the importance of transparency in the “…Electoral subjects bear the obligation for transparency and publication of election revenues and expenditures towards the Central Election Committee CEC, the persons in charge of auditing or monitoring and the public”.

Article 86 of this Code expresses the sources of election campaign financing “The sources of campaign financing for electoral subjects are:

a) funds provided in advance from the State Budget for registered political parties as electoral subjects;

b) the income of the electoral subject itself created according to the law;

c) gifts for the electoral subject and its candidates, in monetary value, nature or services provided, according to article 92/1 of this law;

ç) loans or credits received from political parties or their candidates according to the law. In no case the value of a loan or credit should exceed the amount of funds, according to point 2 of article 92/1 of this law.”

Election-registered political parties have a legal responsibility to report their candidates' income and expenses, and candidates must also comply with adjustments to the allowable donation limit. Candidates on the multi-name list must also record all donations received, ensure that in-kind donations are properly evaluated and registered, and keep one copy of the statement signed by the donor. Candidates can accept donations over ALL 50 000 only through a special bank account, even if the donations are less than ALL 50 000 but are made through the bank. These donations must be credited to the special account declared at the time of registration. If the candidate decides not to accept such donations (e.g., the candidate decides that donations should be sent to the special party account for the campaign), then the candidate is not obligated to open a special bank account.

It is illegal if an electoral subject or even a candidate accepts a donation from a natural or legal person who does not declare his or her identity, or whose identity is unclear.

The Constitution of Armenia stipulates that parties should publish annual reports on their sources of funding, expenditures, as well as their assets. This provision is further detailed in article 27, stipulating that the party is obliged to publish in the mass media the report on their sources of funding, expenditures, and assets, as well as the auditor's conclusion on the report in the cases provided by the law, and post it on www.azdarar.am. The party is then obliged to submit the evidence of its publication to the Corruption Prevention Commission. At the request of the Corruption Prevention Commission, the party is obliged to submit the information necessary for the verification of the report, documents, including information constituting banking secrecy, information on securities transactions, information constituting insurance secrecy, as well as credit information. Before making amendments to the Constitutional Law on Parties in December 2020, the parties were obliged to report to the Supervisory Service of the Central Electoral Commission․

The general and current financing of political parties is also regulated by the Constitutional Law on Parties. According to Article 23 the property of a party is formed from the following sources:

  • entrance fees when joining a party;
  • membership fees,
  • donations,
  • budget financing,
  • income from activities defined by this Law.

The Law stipulates the limits of donations, acceptable sources, prohibited donations for parties. According to article 24, parties have the right to receive property, including cash, loans, repayment of the party debt by a third party, forgiveness of the party debt by the creditor, as well as receiving donations from individuals in the form of other activities in favour of the party. Special regulations and limits are envisaged in terms of real estate. In particular, the donation of real estate by one person may not exceed 200 000 times the minimum wage (AMD 200 000 000).

The financing of parties in the pre-election period is regulated by the RA Constitutional Law on the Electoral Code․ According to Article 8 of the Constitutional Law on the Electoral Code, within five days of the deadline to become registered for participating in elections, parties (party alliances) shall present to the Central Electoral Commission a declaration on the property and income of the party (of the parties included in the party alliance). The declaration shall contain the composition of the property as of the first day of the month in which the documents are presented to the Central Electoral Commission for registration, as well as the income received during the 12 calendar months preceding the month of the deadline for presenting the registration documents.

The rules governing the funding of political parties are found in the Organic Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens (the LPUC) mentioned above. The LPUC regulates the establishment of parties, their funding and financial management and, as well as the termination of their activities. It foresees a mixed system of funding in which political parties are provided with state funding and may finance their activities from certain private sources. In addition, the Election Code contains provisions on the funding of election campaigns of political parties and other election candidates.

 

Currently, the financing of political parties is regulated by the Law on Financing of Political Parties. This law sets out the manners and conditions of funding of political parties in Kosovo*, and regulates the administration, monitoring and reporting on the spending of incomes of the political parties in order to increase transparency.

According to this law, financial and material sources of political parties are membership fees, donations, financing from the budget of Kosovo*, assets and income from the activities of the political entity such as publications, publications, sale of advertising materials, etc. Political parties are requested to submit an annual financial report to Central Election Commission. This financial report includes balance sheets, profit and loss statements and a statement showing every payment made to another person during the reporting period.

Public financing of political parties is done through the Budget of Kosovo*, from the Fund for Support of Political Entities. As per the Law on Financing of Political Parties, the Assembly of Kosovo* may allocate up to 0.05% of the Budget for financing of central and local election campaigns.

The law also provides for penalties in cases where political parties violate the provisions and obligations set forth therein. In order to increase transparency, the amending laws (Article 21, Article 7, Article 12, and Article 10) increased the fines for violating the provisions of the law. In cases when political parties do not pay its obligations such as fines imposed by the Central Election Commission, tax liabilities, or liabilities arising from the execution of final court decisions, then that amount is deducted from the budget allocated to the political party by the Fund for Support of Political Entities.

Political parties financing in the Republic of Moldova is regulated by the following normative acts:

According to the legal framework, political parties are financed both from private sources (membership fees, financial and material donations, and other legally obtained income) and the state budget (subsidies). Donations in support of political parties can be made both by legal entities (legally registered in the Republic of Moldova) and by individuals – citizens of the Republic of Moldova (residing on the territory of the Republic of Moldova or abroad). Public authorities and public institutions (including local authorities), public organisations and enterprises, other legal entities financed from the public budget or which have state capital, as well as international companies or companies created both by national and international representatives, are not allowed to finance or offer material support in any form for the activities of political parties, initiative groups, electoral campaigns or electoral contestants. In addition, legal entities that have been contracted for public procurement are not allowed to make donations to political parties.

According to Article 41 of the Electoral Code, for financing the activity of political parties, initiative groups and electoral campaigns only financial resources from the activity of employee, be it entrepreneurial, scientific or creative can be used. However, the legal framework does not regulate how to investigate, analyse and resolve cases in which citizens make donations that do not comply with Article 41 (when the source of the finances cannot be proven).

For example, in total, during the 2020 presidential elections and 2021 parliamentary elections, at least 800 registered donors giving over MDL 4 million did not declare any income or declared an income much smaller than the actual donated amount. Due to legal framework loopholes, the Central Electoral Commission has not been able to take any measure to investigate and assess those donations.

According to Article 43 of the Electoral Code, political parties’ promotion through all services and actions provided free of charge by physical and legal persons, as well as all voluntary activities during the period of signature collection or electoral campaign, must be evaluated and should be mandatorily indicated in the financial reports. However, political parties and electoral contestants do not report services, which were freely provided by volunteers. For example, during the presidential elections in 2020 and parliamentary elections in 2021, an estimated MDL 7 million were not reported by electoral contestants for activities carried out by volunteers. Nevertheless, the responsible institutions did not apply sanctions based on these findings.

Guidelines

Aiming to increase transparency and to ensure compliance with the campaign finance rules, the Central Election Committee (CEC) is authorised to appoint persons who are tasked to monitor and follow the election campaign, including adherence to prohibitions on certain forms of campaigning. In addition, the CEC shall establish and maintain an online tool for citizens to report potential violations of campaign and campaign finance rules.

The law sets limits for donations and expenditures for campaign finance and provides disclosure requirements. The auditors selected by the CEC oversee the adherence to the campaign finance rules both before and after election day. The audit results will be published by the CEC, which can impose sanctions for financial violations. Several ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Reports, interlocutors raised concerns over insufficient transparency of the campaign financing.

The amendments to the Electoral Code related to the structure of the CEC, aimed to address previous ODIHR recommendations regarding public and private financing of campaigns and its oversight, transparency of verification of candidate nomination documents, use of public resources for electoral purposes, legal protection of people reporting on misuse of administrative resources, electoral dispute resolution mechanism.

Decision № 403-N of the Government of the Republic of Armenia of April 20, 2017 defines the procedure for publishing the sources of funding and expenditures of the party, as well as the procedure for publishing, submitting the asset report, and the reporting form. Worth to mention that on 29 December 2020 amendments to the Constitutional Law on Parties have been adopted. The amended Article 27 of the Constitutional Law on Parties stated that the above-mentioned reports should be submitted by the parties to CPC. Accordingly, the Law stipulates that the form of the mentioned report and the procedure for its completion shall be established by the Commission. The transitional provisions of the law stipulate that the parties will submit their annual reports for 2021 in 2022 in an already changed order. Therefore, there was a need to repeal the decision N 403-N of April 20, 2017 on the publication of the report adopted by the Government, due to the fact that the legal provisions regulated by the decision are beyond the competence of the Government.

The State Auditor of Georgia approved a set of guidelines on the issues related to political party financing exist. For instance, decree No. 142/37 of the General Auditor of 17 August 2012 provides for the approved forms and instructions on the financial reporting with the purpose of ensuring transparency in the financing of political activities. The SAO has purchased the 2017 International Valuation Standards in the Georgian language from the Georgian Institution of Property Evaluation Experts and on its basis approved the decree of the Auditor General outlining the standards and methodology to be used for valuing in-kind donations, including non-monetary goods and services which do not have an observable market value and voluntary work performed by professionals.

 

The Central Election Commission enacted the Electoral Rule for Financing of Political Parties and Sanctions and the Election Rule for Limiting Campaign Expenses and Financial Declaration. The former regulates in detail the procedures for financing, administration, supervision and transparency of political parties. It also regulates the reporting of political parties. Furthermore, it sets out the penalties that the Central Election Commission can impose when the Law on Financing Political Parties and the Law on General Elections are violated in any form.

According to the Election Rule for Limiting Campaign Expenses and Financial Declaration, the Central Election Commission determines the maximum amount of expenses in a political campaign and no political party can exceed them. Every political entity is obliged to submit a report on the financial declaration of the campaign. This rule regulates in detail what this report must include and it sets out sanctions that would be imposed in cases when provisions of this rule would be violated.

Since January 2020, political parties’ financial reports must be submitted to the Central Election Commission through a special informational system developed by the electoral authority “Financial Control” Information System, which is a part of the State Automation Information System “Elections” (SAISE). Interested parties should use the same informational system to monitor, analyse and assess political parties’ financial reports.

However, until September 2021, the Central Electoral Commission did not adopt any guidelines for using the “Financial Control” Information System. Instead, periodically, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET) organise trainings for political parties’ treasurers on drafting and submitting Financial Management Reports. In addition, at stakeholders’ request, the CEC and the CCET are able to organise trainings for other interested parties.

All delivered financial reports are available on the CEC official web page. Political parties’ financial reports can be found through the “Financial Control” Information System or in pdf format (depending on the format used by political parties to deliver those reports to the CEC). On the other hand, financial reports delivered during electoral period are not yet available through the “Financial Control” Information System. Those reports can be found only in the specific section dedicated to a specific type of scrutiny. Unfortunately, the published reports do not meet the criteria of open data – their published format does not allow for a free analysis of the information reflected in the reports.

In order to verify the information from political parties’ reports, the following public data can be consulted: Public Procurement Agency’s official data regarding the awarded contracts for public procurement and official data regarding legal entities registered in the Republic of Moldova.

Good practices

There are no specific good practice examples in Albania related to the financing of political parties.

In 2020 the bill on making amendments and additions to the Constitutional Law on the Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia was circulated. Authored by then ruling "My Step" faction of the National Assembly, it was put up for public discussion in March 2020.

The draft envisaged the ensuring the financial transparency of the pre-election campaign. For that purpose, the chapter of the pre-election campaign has been completely changed in the draft bill. Particularly, the process of giving free gifts or services to voters by candidates during the pre-election campaign period has been intensified by the draft bill.

Though this draft is a good step towards enhancing transparency of the pre-election campaign, including transparency of financing candidates in pre-election campaign, there are many important provisions regarding campaign financing and campaign regulations that have been removed from the draft at the last moment without any discussion with political forces or representatives of civil society.

The IDFI studied the cases of political donations that raised suspicions with regards to the integrity of the donors and the legality of their contributions in favour of the ruling party throughout 2019 and before June 3, 2020. The analysis revealed that the most prominent problem in terms of political funding is the fact that the most apparent violations have to do with bypassing requirements established by the law. In other words, the action may be formally in line with the requirements but may in fact contradict the purposes of the law. For this reason, the IDFI has called for the Audit Office to strengthen monitoring efforts, timely identify possible violations, request appropriate justifications, and impose fines on violating entities.

The Central Election Commission publishes annual financial reports and financial declaration reports of political parties. Usually, the Central Election Commission publishes the annual financial reports after the audit is conducted, which takes time. In 2020, unlike prior years, the Central Election Commission published unaudited annual financial reports of each political party before the elections were held. The fact that those reports were published before the election day was considered as an action that increased transparency about the work and spending of political parties.

The “Financial Control” Information System is an electronic tool which is meant to make the drafting and submitting of Financial Management Reports easier for political party treasurers. Although nowadays financial reports must be submitted both on paper and electronic format (in order to test, verify, assess and ensure “Financial Control” Information System efficiency), in the future, given its capacities, the system is expected to improve the reporting process and transparency of political financing (i.e. there are possibilities to integrate the “Financial Control” Information System with other electronic state registers). In addition, the information system will facilitate the activity of civil society organisations in the process of monitoring, analysing and assessing political party financing (should the Central Electoral Commission eliminate all the loopholes identified and reported earlier by the civil society organisations).

Handbooks for download

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