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The Ministry of Economic Development has joined a triplet of the most transparent departments

26.11.15

The Ministry of Economic Development has joined the ranks of the three most transparent institutions according to the rating provided by the Open Government and Russian Public Opinion Research Center. This is the first comprehensive external evaluation of Russian federal government agencies transparency.

While in 2014 only 10 “social” ministries and departments had been participating in “pilot” research, during this year so far 41 governmental authorities did. A presentation of results took place on November 24, 2015, in a panel session of Government commission in charge of coordination of activities by the Open Government under the chairmanship of the RF Minister Mikhail Abyzov.

Rating of federal executive power agencies (FEPA) transparency is comprised of monitoring to the extent of FEPA Transparency Concept implementation, which has been elaborated by Expert advisory body affiliated to the RF government for the purposes of government agencies transparency and answerability improvement, and opportunities for civil society in expansion of its participation in preparation and inspection of governmental decisions. The Concept was approved by the RF Government Executive Order on January 30, 2014, and became binding on federal authorities for its implementation.

“The inquiry succeeded to be historically vast – 36 thousand persons took part in it, 6 thousand of business representatives, 6 thousand of state machine representatives, and more than 500 experts. This is the first such massive experience, and I think, that it worked out well both methodologically, and qualitatively. It is necessary to keep in mind, that many factors influence the perception of transparency level demonstrated by our ministries and departments, and witnessed by citizens, starting with general social and economic agenda, which comes to be of top-priority at the moment, and finishing with personal publicity of leaders. Actions taken by institutions, in furnishing of information and getting feedback, play a key role in respect to transparency valuation”, - the RF minister Mikhail Abyzov mentioned.

The Ministry of Defense (57.5), EMERCOM (56.6), and the Ministry of Economic Development (50.0) (this one did not participate in “pilot” research in 2014) took the lead in the list of the most fenceless institutions, and leaders of the previous external rating – the Ministry of Labour and social policy (49.6), and the Ministry of Sports (49.7) – this time appeared among “challengers”. The Ministry of Education and Science (45.6) completely moved into a category of “behinders”. However, some establishments, positioning themselves in the topmost grade list in the course of the latest self-examination, did not score a hit among front runners: the Ministry of Energy (47.4), and the Ministry of Finance (49.7) also appeared among “challengers”.

Beside of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Sports, and the Ministry of Labour, FAS (49.8), Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (49.7), FMS (49.5), and FTA (48.9) reached the top-10 of the most transparent ministries and departments. The research had been conducted by means of polling among the distinct reference groups. According to the opinion of respondents from among population, business community, and state officials, EMERCOM and the Ministry of Defense got ahead in implementation of transparency principles best of all, and the experts considered EMERCOM and FAS to be the most open-minded.

As for the most shut down establishments, Federal Bailiff Service (41.7), Federal Road Agency (42.6), the Ministry of Affairs in North Caucasus (42.7), Federal Service for Alcohol Market Regulation (42.9), the Ministry of Construction (43.1), Russian Federal Fisheries Agency (44.3), and Federal Property Management Agency (44.9) were distinguished.

The request about transparency of government authorities had been well-defined in all groups of research, as general director for Russian Public Opinion Research Center (RPORC), Valery Fyodorov mentioned. Having said so, according to his version, the representatives of diverse groups understand transparency in different ways. For the public, this is, first of all, availability of the “hot line” and opportunity of getting prompt response against an appeal, accessibility of information about current performance of the establishment, and an alternative of receiving services through Internet. In executive's opinion, openness is, first and foremost, availability of timely information about plans, results, and current activities of any regulatory body, as well as accessibility of regulatory and legal framework. The representatives of business community understand transparency as presence of immediate response to any submitted references, and their status reports in respect to current operations, as well as visibility and fairness of tendering procedures. For the expert community this means operation of media offices, interaction between social councils, and information distribution about requests handling.

The cardinal problems with respect to information distribution about performance of institutions, according to the research, are connected to communication gaps regarding the results of implemented policy, with plans of department activities, as well as draft quality of furnished information. As for interaction between interrogator and target group, so, it occurred that general public does not conceive social councils as their representative establishment or body in government authority, while business deems that its opinion is hardly taken into account in the process of department’s decision making, and experts complain of feeble work in the territories. The participants of research, among stated disadvantages, also distinguished insufficiency of fighting against corruption inside of government agencies, and blackness of decision making in respect of state purchase contracts.

Valery Fyodorov voiced number of recommendations, focused on promotion of Russian government authorities transparency. They concern, in particular, of getting perfection in official sites of authorities, the work on data disclosure in machine-readable form, and employment of crowd sourcing technology.

“The experience in the pursuance of the research exactly can be called successful. The evaluation system for transparency has been created, which appears integrated and multifactorial. This system must move in the direction of explanatory model extension, analysis of amplitude attributes to changes, and profound immersion into situation individually for each federal body of executive power”, - general director for RPORC completed.

Presently, according to Mikhail Abyzov, the detailed corrections of mistakes forthcome to be held with administration-outsiders, and thus detected best practices will be scaled and included into the Standard of Transparency for implementation to other establishments. Further the minister set mission for the Expert council affiliated to the government to conduct complex analysis of the research results versus the self-examination results of government agencies with respect to transparency (they were featured in April this year). Thereafter some corresponding methodological recommendations will be prepared, and at the same time it is necessary to pay particular attention to those institutions, which self-examination results of transparency level are very much different from independent external evaluation. The research itself, as explained by Mikhail Abyzov, will be delivered to the head of government in the nearest time.

Participants of hearings also summarized three years of the “Open Government” system operation and discussed future plans. Their general conclusion - at the moment an adequate complex legal framework has been created for evolution of this system.

“By modeling the Standard of Transparency and procedural guidelines for its implementation, we made it our mission to collect complete the best international practices, as well as the best federal and regional experience, to develop a model, whereby these fundamental principles would progress and advance, and also to keep up to date on the basis of best practices. In broad terms we can manage it”, - Mikhail Abyzov said.

Number of transparency means became an integral part of FEPA practical work to citizens, business, and public organizations. Notably, some systems of preliminary airing on draft normative legal acts are launched and functioning, and Public Councils for government agencies has become less “decorative”: on the instructions of president, together with the Public Chamber, new approaches to their formation and functioning have been developed. Government authorities aspire to come across for citizens: in 2015, 58 FEPA have adopted Public manifest of purpose and objectives – the document, which in popular and available form describes the focus and expected results of performance. The state bodies pay more and more attention to disclosure of their information, more than 5000 sets have been already published, and they are open for designers of electronic services and applications.

“Experts and government authorities began to understand better what is the essence of transparency, and what it consists of, and that it is not a simple information layout on site”, - member of the Expert council affiliated to the government Alexander Bragin mentioned.

Among the lines, which should define the objectives of the “Open Government” system evolution for the subsequent years, there are as follows: arrangement of performance of FEPA “behinders” for transparency principles implementation, more active working with open data, transparency improvement in civil service, and adoption of consistent interaction of FEPA and government with expert community. The manifold possibilities of perfection and cultivation prevail in the area of intelligibility performance improvement of the state bodies, and receiving of feedback from public services users.

To make implementation of transparency means in government agencies more feasible, experts suggest to develop flag projects, especially in social sphere. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, for instance, might involve citizens into discussion regarding traffic safety moves, and the Ministry of Labour might undertake creation of a unique information portal throughout privileges and discharges. According to Mikhail Abyzov, this suggestion merits attention. The priorities of further work on introduction of transparency means and propositions on implementation of such flag projects, according to him, should be considered during one of the nearest hearings.

Besides, among the lines of further performance by “Open Government” – search of new tools for discussion of socially significant legislative instruments is supposed. At the moment, less than half of acts submitted to regulation.gov.ru portal pick at least one comment, and the site, as a result, has changed into a bulletin board. However, technical documents by no means are separated from resonant socially significant legislative drafts and resolutions, Mikhail Abyzov noted. It would be rather more effective to discuss documents important for society on separate sites – such an experience was achieved in the course of discussion on legislative draft regarding state control.

One of the key tools for transparency – is the work with reference groups.

Taken as a whole, no fundamental change in the stated policy of transparency is needed, rector for Higher School of Economics Yaroslav Kuzminov believes. In his opinion, it is necessary to bring to perfection the existing means and to dilate an audience involved into the “Open Government” system.

“If we do not reject this line, and successively implement it, we shall provide rather higher level of the state and its democratic institutions quality, because today everything is well operated basing on wide involving of citizens into the process of administration”, - he emphasized.

“We should not look for new tools, we have already complete required arsenal. Nowadays, the RF government has introduced a model, which is the most perfect and absolute methodologically, compared to other models of transparency existing in the world”, - Mr. Abyzov confirmed.

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