Corruption and local authorities’ inefficiency are some of the greatest challenges facing our country. To control local authorities’ activity and to encourage positive developments on the regional level, annual studies of transparency and efficiency are undertaken in the largest localities all over Ukraine. Two studies of this type, the divergence of their formation and results are discussed below.
Expert opinion is expressed in Transparency Ranking of 100 Biggest Ukrainian Cities by Transparency International Ukraine. This ranking results from professional research done in 100 Ukrainian cities on the basis of the criteria such as social services, personal matters, professional ethics and information about local authorities’ activity, procurement, budgeting and contracts, land use, public utility enterprise, education. Expert commission sends information requests to city institutions, analyses citizens′ complaints and court decisions, studies the documents that are in the public domain, checks the standards set by the CMU Directive No. 835 of October 25, 2015 about open data sets etc.
Having analyzed the data, the expert commission provides a certain score for each criterion that determines a city’s results and its transparency rank. This meticulous work makes the ranking usable as a yardstick for the situation on the ground.
The other research that is essential to form a clear picture of what happens in the regions is the Fourth Annual Ukrainian Municipal Survey by ″Rating″ Sociological Group. This research is based on a survey of citizens about the state of affairs in their cities. Respondents are asked about local authorities, opportunities, the quality of services (communal, educational), corruption in the city and general state of affairs all over the country. Survey Data isn’t incorporated into a single rating but is compared separately in each category, comparing 22 regional centers that are under the control of Ukraine, as well as Mariupol and Sieverodonetsk (as the biggest Ukraine-controlled cities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts consequently).
Observing the results of the studies, we get an impression that two ratings have very little in common, but conducting a thorough analysis, we can observe certain regularities. Firstly, we need to explain why they are not identical.
What Is the Difference?
If we take a look at results of the two studies, the question emerges: ″Which one to believe more and do we have to believe them?″ Different criteria entail the difference in the findings, but both sets of criteria are important to estimate the cities′ state of affairs.
Consider Kharkiv as the most controversial city, for example. In TIU Transparency Ranking, Kharkiv is lagging behind ranking 53rd generally and 5th from the bottom among regional centers (including Mariupol and Sieverodonetsk). There is a particularly poor situation with housing policy, funding, municipal property (zero points in these categories) in Kharkiv. If we look at the big picture, Kharkiv is far behind the other regional centers.
In the survey of citizens, however, these scores do not play a major role. Other criteria have come to the forefront, such as the Mayor′s popularity, the opportunities that the city provides and the general quality of municipal services. Those are two completely different stories that are difficult to compare − a charismatic Mayor and a big city with lots of opportunities; but from experts′ point of view it has many shortcomings in transparency of local public structures that are mostly hidden from the public eye.
Those things on which experts are focused are often ignored by the citizens or are not observable in their daily life (procurement, funding, professional ethics, conflicts of interests, land use and construction policy).
Furthermore, the ″Rating″ Group survey does not aim to converge all the data in one rating to choose the so-called winner. This rating formation policy entails a difference in results with, for instance, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk leading the “opportunities” category in the survey, but coming in 25th and 17th respectively in the total list by Transparency International.
What Is Similar?
And yet, if we compare the general consensus of citizens in the most and the least transparent cities, there is a certain correlation to be found. Some data differ due to differences in the evaluation criteria, but the overall picture is more or less similar.
Observing ten most and least transparent oblast centers of Transparent Cities, we see that in the ″Rating″ Group survey, they are placed almost in the same order if we sum up all the data in one table. On the whole, as the survey shows, in 10 the best cities according to Transparent Cities only 6 scores are below average. In Kropyvnytskyi (8th place in Transparent Cities) citizens are dissatisfied with the quality of services (2.9 points) but the situation has improved since last year. In Lutsk (25th place) citizens are dissatisfied with local authorities (27% approval rating) but opportunities and the quality services are some of the best in all the regional centers − the first and the third place respectively. As for Mykolaiv (6th place), the city got the most negative scores, and the citizens are dissatisfied with its development (24%), the quality of services (2.9 points), opportunities (2.9 points), and local authorities (23% approval rating). In the most transparent cities, there are only 2 low scores out of 45 (Mykolaiv and Kropyvnytskyi).
In the worst cities according to Transparent Cities, the ″Rating″ Group survey shows poor results (20 low scores out of 50). Eight out of ten cities have at least one low score in some parameters. But, just like in the top, we find one very interesting exception. While Mykolaiv (6th place) got almost all the low scores, Kharkiv (20th place) got almost all the high ones.
Kharkiv got 3 out of 9 good scores; people in the city are satisfied with local authorities (75%), the quality of services (2.3 points) and the city development (50%).
It should be noted, that in the best cities according to experts, there are 15 positive citizens′ assessments and in eight out of ten best cities, there is at least one positive score (Mykolaiv as the exception has none).
The general tendency that we see is that the more transparent a city is, the better assessment citizens give it in every category. In each city citizens are dissatisfied with some categories, but in general citizens give a positive assessment on average only to more transparent cities, while cities at the bottom of the transparency ranking get rather negative average opinion.
The two studies have different methodology and evaluation criteria, which means there are quite a few differences. However, if we look at the total of both ratings and the positions of cities in them, we will see that the cities on the best positions in the transparency ranking have more positive citizens′ assessment and a better tendency while cities at the bottom of the transparency ranking have more negative reports and a medium-negative tendency.
At the end, it ought to be remarked that expert opinion is very important, but people’s opinion is necessary for the big picture, because numbers alone are not enough to understand the true situation in the regions.