If you are a resident of Kyiv or and regularly use the Metro, then you could not have avoided the news about a possible rise in the price of fare in the capital’s subway.

Here it comes! The Kyiv Metro wants to raise the fare to UAH 21 — the media abounds with such headlines.  For his part, the mayor Vitalii Klytschko stated that the cost of fare in the capital’s public transport is UAH 15. Whom should we trust?

When the authorities review tariffs, interest in how they are formed in general becomes particularly relevant. However, not everyone knows that such information is not a state secret to which only a select few have access. The structure of tariffs for goods and services of municipal enterprises should be accessible to everyone.

At the same time, the transparency of local authorities is not only about the formation of tariffs. It includes many aspects. To assess whether cities comply with legal norms and how fully they publish public information, Transparency International Ukraine has created Transparency Ranking of 100 Ukrainian cities and Accountability Ranking of Ukrainian 50 cities. These rankings determine how accessible information about the work of local authorities is to citizens and whether citizens can actually be involved in the development and decision-making processes.

Therefore, let’s try to find out whether the Kyiv authorities are transparent and accountable and whether the local community has real mechanisms for monitoring and influencing the work of the capital’s officials.

 

More alive than dead. 

In the Transparency Ranking-2020, Kyiv took the 13th place. The capital received 68.2 points out of 100 which means that it belongs to the “mostly transparent” cities of Ukraine.

In general, Kyiv improves its results from year to year and this is good news. Over the past four years, the average transparency index of the capital has increased by 16.7 points.

With accountability, the situation is not so optimistic. Although Kyiv was in a relatively high sixth position, the city scored only 19 points out of 100 possible and fell into the category of “unaccountable.”

What do these figures indicate? Let’s take the example of municipal enterprises.

According to the Register of the Territorial Community of Kyiv, at the end of 2019, 1904 KP operated in the capital. At the same time, the results of the Transparency Ranking show that every third municipal enterprise in Kyiv did not publish information about its work; this means that it restricted access to it for Kyiv residents. The same information about the size and procedure for forming tariffs was partially provided, but this is far from the only data that citizens would be able to find out about just by visiting the relevant site. For example, not all businesses reported cash flows (yes, this is also possible and necessary to know!), — in particular, ME “Kyivblagoustrii” could boast of such a tendency. And in general, the situation with budgets in ME of Kyiv is not always positive.

As far as accountability is concerned, municipal enterprises in Kyiv are neither doing well — the city received only 4 points out of 14 possible. Among the achievements of the capital is the holding of calls for senior positions in ME (for example, last year, a call in ME “Kyivshliakhmist” was held). However, as for other areas, a lot of things were not implemented.

Is the current state of affairs with the capital’s ME acceptable? Of course not. Firstly, the current legislation that requires publication of certain information, such as financial statements, is systematically violated. Secondly, the community does not have the necessary data to monitor and control the work of municipal enterprises and often does not have the opportunity to participate in such processes at all.

As a result, Kyivans often do not understand exactly how and on what basis local services work. It is worth remembering that for the most part, such MEs are about providing services, not about dictating decisions, so the involvement of the community will not be out of place at all.

By the way, in Kyiv, it is common for an MP of the city council concurrently hold the positions of ME heads or directors of educational institutions. This is not prohibited by law, but it may lead to a conflict of interest during the performance of the MP’s duties. This brings benefits not to the city but to specific people.

Digital transparency vs real opacity

Even though the situation with municipal enterprises can hardly be called comforting, the capital can boast of undoubted advantages.

Over the past four years, Kyiv has taken a huge step towards digital transformation and online availability of services. And this is a real advantage because this approach not only simplifies the life of Kyivans but also provides an opportunity to track many important aspects of the activities of local authorities in real time.

So, an example may be the information-analytical systemProperty”. On the platform, you can get acquainted with the general plan of the city, investment objects, the register of green zones and vacant land plots, whereas urban cadaster contains detailed territory plans and a list of cultural heritage sites. However, as we know, this does not really help to stop the sprawl in parks and the destruction of historical buildings. In addition, the city publishes the placement of all advertising tools on the interactive map. The data can be filtered by area, status, and construction type. On the website of the Department of Land Resources, residents can get acquainted with the Register of Land Lease Agreements that were concluded over the past two years. However, how much residents of the city can influence such things again remains an open question.

Let us also recall that in 2020, the Kyiv City Council published the agenda of sessions with a list of draft decisions not 10 days before their holding, as envisaged by law, but right on the day of the meeting. There was also no early announcement. This approach undoubtedly restricted the rights of Kyiv residents, since they did not have enough time to get acquainted with the full list of issues described.

We also have many comments concerning the field of education. On the one hand, the city has introduced an electronic queue for kindergartens and on the educational map one can find brief information about each educational institution in different districts of the city. On the other hand, not all institutions publicly report on the flow of funds. For example, school No.89, specialized school No.234, or kindergarten No.244 did not publish financial reports.

This not only violates the law, but also does not allow parents to evaluate the effectiveness of the distribution of funds in institutions that their children attend. At the same time, volunteer and public initiatives, such as our online school procurement map, help to understand some issues.

And these are not all examples when there seems to be a potentially useful service but when using it, there is always a “but.” Too often these “buts” coincide with accountability problems of Kyiv.

 

Meeting halfway

Despite the shortcomings we have described, Kyiv has done a lot in the direction of transparency: important data for society is regularly published, useful services and interactive maps are launched. But that’s not enough. And low scores in the Accountability Ranking confirm this.

Only active involvement of citizens in the process of developing and making managerial decisions in the capital, direct communication with society, and the political will of the leadership can bring Kyiv to a new level of accountability and really take into account the needs of Kyiv residents.

It may sound a little snobbishly, but this is precisely how such things work because no one understands the city’s needs better than its residents do.

And here we must remind you that there are also alternative ways to participate in the life of your city. One of the most useful tools is the Transparent cities online platform where citizens can write about problems in the city and leave reviews about the work of local authorities in 14 areas of their activity, such as education, housing policy, or procurement. Local authorities, in response, can quickly respond to criticism and solve problematic issues.

If you can’t accurately formulate the problem that troubles you, use our study. After all, rankings are not some abstract thing. They show specific pain points (such as the formation of tariffs or problems with construction) that everyone who cares should pay attention to.

Our transparency and accountability rankings are a kind of compass that allows us to evaluate the current situation and determine the direction of further development of the city. And now this compass shows that Kyiv needs an effective and constructive dialogue with its residents.

 

The article was created together with Ihor Kostitsyn, an analyst at the Transparent cities project.

Only active involvement of citizens in the process of developing and making managerial decisions in the capital, direct communication with society, and the political will of the leadership can bring Kyiv to a new level of accountability and really take into account the needs of Kyiv residents.