Transparency + Active Public = Efficient Cities

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine, Chief Expert of the anti-corruption group at the Reanimation Package of Reforms.

When increasingly more power and, more importantly, money is being given to local authorities, what becomes the most important aspect in the decentralisation process? The answer: to know that funds will be spent for their intended purposes, i.e. on building roads, renovating schools and kindergartens etc. Without the transparency of local authorities, the decentralisation process will come to nought.

At Transparency International Ukraine, we have set us a goal to increase the level of transparency in 15 Ukrainian cities in 2 years. To do this, we will engage the public. At first, we will teach them how to combat corruption and promote transparency. Then, we will support public projects aimed at increasing the level of transparency and public participation in local governance.

We have now completed the first stage of the project, namely we have measured the transparency of 25 cities using 91 indicators in 13 areas. This includes information about local authorities’ performance, open access and participation, procurement, housing policy, budget planning and contracts, grants and allocation of funds, social services, human resources, codes of conduct, conflicts of interest, land acquisition, planning and building policy, public enterprises, public property, and education. The cities were evaluated using a 100 point-scale. A similar research project has been conducted by our partners, Transparency International Slovakia, so their methodology, adjusted to regional peculiarities, underlies our research.

We came up with the surprising results: Kropyvnytskyi took first place, followed by Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Mykolaiv and Lviv. However, their leading positions are relative, since even the top-performer scored only 54.9 points out of 100. That is to say that even the leaders are far from being transparent. Still, this is only the beginning.

Why did Kropyvnytskyi come up first? It got most points in the following areas: public property, budget planning, contracts, and education. Admittedly, the city uses an open system of granting places n kindergartens, the city also made public a list of the premises which belong to public enterprises and those available for rent. Another reason for its top-position is the accessibility and good organisation of the information on the Kirovograd City Council’s official web-site, which was reorganised in 2016. Kropyvnytsyi performed worst in the following areas: public enterprises, social services and human resources. In particular, the following documents have not been made public: annual reports of the supervisory council and those of enterprise’s executive bodies as well as the audit of consolidated financial statements. In addition, it is not possible to apply online for a place in, or service of, social service offices; there is no information about mayor’s relationships with business or non-profit organisations before he assumed office.

Kyiv scored the most points in the following areas: information about local authorities’ performance, access and participation, and procurement. Ukraine’s capital features a participatory budget and the opportunity for the public to be present at committee meetings without deputies’ approval. The web-site contains a lot of information, e.g. notifications, announcements of the council, executive committee, public enterprises and other organisations. It also contains reports of the State Audit Service and protocols of council’s plenary sessions. What does Kyiv still lack? Human resources, allocation of funds, public enterprises are the areas in which Kyiv performed worst. In addition, there is no information about mayor’s relationships with businesses or non-profit organisations before assuming the office. The public is not allowed to attend sessions concerning allocation of funds to financing to individuals or entities.

Additionally, there is no information about the structure and principles of organisation of the city’s executive bodies and the amount of remuneration for the members of the supervisory council.

Numbers 3 and 4 in the ranking, Ivano-Frankivsk and Mykolaiv, are rather similar, e.g. both of them scored most of the points in the following areas: information about local authorities’ performance, procurement as well as planning, and building policy. Their web-sites contain the list of land lots as well as investors’ offers. Moreover, there is information on how to lodge an application for renting land and about privatisation, too. Both cities performed worst in two areas: grants and allocation of funds, and public enterprises.

Lviv scored maximum points in the “budget planning and contracts” area, getting 7 points out of 7. Since 2008, budget reports have been published by this city. In addition, public hearing on the budget regularly take place there, too. In contrast, the area of public property is not up to standard, since online auctions are not conducted and property is sold in an out-of-date way. There is no information about the current results of selling or renting public property. Neither are there protocols thereof.

Detailed information about performance of other cities is available on the web-site transparentcities.in.ua. Using the web-site, you can compare performance in various areas, learn about the leading as well as the last cities in each of 13 areas of research. You can also find the explanation of research methodology and learn about interesting issues in transparency.

In general, taking into account all of the cities, the results show that participatory budgets, information about local authorities’ performance as well as budget planning and contracts are the areas in which scores are highest. Conversely, public enterprises, education and housing policy are the areas in which performance is poorest. The “open access and participation” area shows whether the public is allowed to attend city council’s sessions without deputies’ approval. It also shows how regularly the public makes use of a web-site and whether there is a participatory budget, whether draft decisions are published, whether it is possible to send an online enquiry or not. We are glad to know that these things are available in many cities. Still, a lot more could be done, so we will pay special attention during our trainings and workshops to those areas in which cities scored worst. An increase in the level of transparency should stem from cooperation among civil activists, authorities and media, because reform is only possible through a joint effort. Only transparency that is reinforced by the active participation of all stakeholders guarantees not only that corruption will be rooted out, but also that cities will be working most efficiently.

The materials are prepared by the project team headed by Kateryna Tsybenko. The evaluation of the cities was made by experts of Transparency International Ukraine and the Institute for Political Education.

Author: Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, blog on Ukrainska Pravda.