Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), which assesses activities carried out by the Open Government Partnership member country, published Georgia Progress Report 2014-15. The report is prepared by the independent researcher of IRM – Lasha Gogidze and it provides assessment of the OGP action plan commitments, analysis of self-assessment report published by the Ministry of Justice and analysis of the OGP action plan development process. The IRM researcher has been observing the OGP processes in Georgia since the country developed its first OGP national action plan in April 2012.
OGP action plan development process is vital for designing an effective plan that is based on the civic priorities. IRM researcher notes, that the Government fell short of fulfilling the OGP requirements while elaborating the first national action plan (2012-2013). However, it should be noted that the government addressed the flaws of previous time while developing the second action plan (2014-2016). The government published the plan and the timeline of consultations, actively involved the OGP Georgia Forum members in conducting the consultations and informed the media about ongoing processes. The consultations were conducted in accordance with the pre-determined schedule and covered the whole country, more cities and regions (it total, 19 consultations took place in 15 cities and villages of Georgia’s 9 regions) than it did during the first action plan development process. It is also important that the participant feedback was reflected in the final action plan. Representatives of the local self-governments, non-governmental organizations, political parties, business, academia, trade unions and journalists attended the consultations.
Moreover, the government published online most of the public comments received in the consulted cities/villages and the minutes of in-person consultation meetings. According to the minutes, citizens were concerned mostly about having limited access to the internet, employment and public services. They also asked for more information about public expenditure and for opportunities to participate in decision-making. The report claims that the conducted public consultations contributed to the diversity of opinions, also more public agencies were involved in the process than before.
As the government used the OGP template for complementing the commitments with detailed benchmarks and timeframes, this made assessing the progress easier. It is also important that the Forum member non-government organizations, with the leadership of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), presented 6 commitments for the action plan (see the report, pg. 17), while the Transparency International-Georgia presented 2 additional commitments.
The independent researcher has assessed compliance of commitments with the fundamental principles of OGP and according to him, the biggest amount of commitments (45%, 13 commitments) are related to Access to Information, 7 commitments (24%) emphasize on Civic Participation, 6 (21%) aim to increase Public Accountability, while 1 (3%) aims at ensuring Transparency and Accountability through technologies and innovations. It is noted in the report, that 59% (17 commitments) are directly related to the OGP principles.
IRM report also reviews current implementation state of the action plan. According to the report, out of total 29 commitments, 12 (41%) are fully completed, fulfilling 1 commitment has not started yet, while others are on different stages of realization. 16 public agencies are responsible on carrying out the commitments, while 5 of them are subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.
The IRM methodology includes OGP’s starred commitments. To be qualified as starred is important that the commitment is: measurable, clearly relevant to OGP values, of transformative potential impact, and substantially or completely implemented. The Georgia action plan contains 2 starred commitments: Political party financial declarations and Proactive publishing of surveillance data. Both of the commitments are fulfilled according to the schedule of the Action Plan.
Realization of 10 commitments listed below are lagging behind the schedule due to different reasons. According to the researcher, majority of these commitments (except of: I-Change.ge (Public participation tools) and Interactive statistics and crime mapping) bear minor potential impact and their relevance to the OGP principles is unclear (except of commitment: Electronic catalogues of MIA archives):
1. Travel insurance services – Completion of the commitment has not started since the government has yet to appoint the service providers as well as develop the administrative system for implementation.
2. State property registration – Within the period covered by the report, the state property registration service was introduced in the Marneuli municipality. The Public Service Hall (PSH) is conducting trainings for the PSH staff in municipalities to make the service available there.
3. Education services – During the assessment period, the Public Service Development Agency (PSDA) was waiting authorization via a decree for the implementation of service.
4. Citizen’s portal www.mygov.ge – There are three main issues hindering the process: First, inconvenient and time-consuming registration requirements, second, the FoI section of mygov.ge does not allow users to track the status and the timeline of processing the requests, third, public awareness of mygov.ge remains low and many people are not using the services provided.
5. Digital signature and online authentication - The main challenge for the PSDA is that there are limited number of users of these systems, since people frequently lose the login pin codes. In addition to this, being very cautious about making personal information available online is another topic.
6. I-change.ge (Public participation tool) - Realization of the commitment is hindered due to delay in the adoption of the government decree.
7. Digital human resource management system – The module has already been implemented in 13 Ministries, while six Ministries are in the process of implementing it.
8. Digital preservation system: e-Archive – Data Exchange Agency has developed a draft general concept of the e-Archive system, its main modules, and general requirements. However, the commitment has not been implemented yet.
9. Electronic catalogues of MIA archives – Lack of an appropriate storage facility for sorting the documents and funding for the initiative is constraining the implementation process.
10. Interactive statistics and crime mapping - The Ministry was not able to move forward with this commitment due to the problems with purchasing of hardware in the form of a GPS tracker.
The commitments are grouped in the report according to their goals, based on which the researcher offers recommendations to the government for next - more effective action plan. For instance, group of Public Services includes following commitments: Travel insurance services, State property registration, JUSTdrive, Educational services and others. Researcher states that the commitments of this group do not strengthen local communities but are rather related to increasing efficiency of the government. Thus, Lasha Gogidze notes the government should not be focused on current services while elaborating the action plan but use the OGP platform for implementing new, reformative initiatives.
Open Data group includes commitments on: Open data portal data.gov.ge and Political party financial declarations. It is recommended it the report that the information should be published about the resources of income of individual party contributors. Regarding data.gov.ge, the government should create a legal basis obliging all public agencies to publish data proactively on the portal.
Public participation tools are services of: “Voice of the Consumer” and I-change.ge. It is recommended that the government should simplify the rules of using the portal and remove extra bureaucratic setbacks. While the Ministry of Justice should set up an online version of “Voice of the Customer”.
Group of Local government capacity includes: Development of Community Centers in Georgia, Introduction of e-Governance in Local Self-Governments and Transformation of public libraries for regional development. IRM researcher believes, that the government should work on raising civic awareness and on encouraging people to participate actively in decision making process by sending their e-petitions via Ichange.ge.
Regarding the digital public service management systems, it is noted that while drafting next action plan the government should be focused on elaborating the commitments that are easily palpable by the citizens and they can monitor the implemented commitments.
Transparency of archives group combines the commitments on: Digital preservation system: e-Archive, Increasing openness and accessibility of national archives, Create and publish electronic catalogues of MIA archives. It is indicated in the report, that even though openness of archives is important, within the scopes of the OGP, government should focus on the commitments that are directly connected to the lives of citizens.
Safer communities through technology includes: Develop alternative channels to connect to “112”, Interactive statistics and crime mapping. It is important that for improving the 112 services for hearing and speaking impaired people, the police officers are trained on the basic communication methods to be used with this group of people. Regarding the crime statistics, the Ministry of Internal Affairs should develop a unified methodology for publishing detailed statistics across different categories, such as time and locations of committed crime.
• Freedom of Information Act Draft – As it is noted in the report that the draft is an extremely important and relevant OGP commitment. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on its implementation and oversight of the new accountability provisions.
• Georgia’s OGP Forum – Stakeholders suggest that the membership of the Forum should be expanded to regional civil society organizations
• Transparency of public service recruitment – Develop clear criteria for selecting candidates prior to their attestation, give free access to independent observers to all stages of the recruitment process, including the interviews and final decision making, etc.
• Public officials’ asset declarations monitoring system – To make the system work better, set a minimum number of declarations to be certified through the random selection process, equip the Civil Service Bureau with all necessary resources for assuming the new role, etc.
• Special needs accessibility to Ministry of Interior’s webpage – the government should adopt special legislation obliging all public agencies to adopt their websites to the needs of disable people. Also, MIA should publish data on how many people are using voice.police.ge and the live chat application, what are their level of satisfaction, etc.
• Proactive publishing of surveillance data – The report suggests that the stakeholders ask for more detailed data broken down by types and severity of crimes and by the categories of persons for which the courts grant motions on phone tapping. In addition to this, the Supreme Court should disclose statistics on how many tapped records were destroyed by the prosecutor’s offices after the completion of their investigative activities, as required by the law.
• Transparency of budgetary processes – Ministry of Finance should tailor the expenditure programs to the public needs by proactively reaching out to citizens and involving them in discussions, reflecting their feedback in the final decisions on key priorities.
• Electronic system of procurement – The State Procurement Agency (SPA) should create an effective monitoring system for reviewing the tenders to be processed under the simplified procedures.
IRM also suggests the government general recommendations to effectively tackle the above-mentioned challenges (see Figure #1).
It is reported that all principal agencies working in Georgia are involved in the OGP processes at some extent. Thus, it is recommended that the local self-governments also engage in the OGP, since legislative and executive organs operating on local level are elected in direct elections.
The report indicates that government should draft a commitment which establishes clear and effective mechanisms for protecting whistleblowers, such practice will improve integrity at the public sector. Moreover, the next action plan should move beyond current topics and address areas of energy, natural resource extraction and cultural heritage preservation.
IRM researcher Lasha Gogidze, summarized the findings:
“Georgia has advanced significantly, especially in increasing access to information through open data and creating mechanisms for improving public participation in decision making. However, with two- thirds of the current commitments focused on the delivery of public services and improvement of internal government systems, more could be done to build on first efforts to address open government values of transparency, public accountability, and civic participation. In particular, it was outlined that new commitments should be elaborated to restrain government’s ability of illegal surveillance and to ensure transparency of decision making in the fields of energy, natural resource extraction and cultural heritage preservation.”
The Supreme Council of Ajara started the implementation of the 2020-2021 Open Governance Action Plan29.12.2020
Review of the Media Critic Platform28.12.2020
The Draft Decree Regulating the Process of Selection of Supreme Court Judicial Candidates by the High Council of Justice is Problematic07.12.2020