Providus think tank, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, has developed Openness Standards for Local Governments, which are summaries of recommendations on the information that local governments should publish on their website in order to promote the transparency of local government activities.
You can download the standards here.
Latvia, as a member of the international movement – the Open Government Partnership – has undertaken to comply with the Open Government Declaration, including, among other things, to promote the availability of information on the work of state and local government institutions; to support civic participation; to introduce high ethical standards and responsibilities in state institutions; to promote access to new technologies that increase openness, accountability and participation. To achieve these objectives, Member States shall draw up an action plan with specific actions to be taken. Openness standards for local governments is one of the measures of the action plan for 2020–2021, which Latvia was committed to developing.
Openness standards are of a recommendatory nature. Local governments have an obligation to comply with some of the measures included in them, but some are measures, the implementation of which depends on the municipality’s own desire to move towards greater openness, making information about the municipality’s activities public, easy-to-find and understandable. A more transparent flow of information allows the local government to improve its governance, as well as gives more encouragement to the local government’s residents to participate more actively in the work of the local government.
The openness standards consist of 16 main categories of information, which include a total of 42 subcategories of information items, covering a wide range of local government activities – availability of local government regulations, traceability of local government decision-making processes (City Council meetings and committees activities), dealing with local government resources and property, local government budget openness, supervision and openness of local government capital companies, public procurement, costs for information services, information costs, observance of information openness requirements, as well as opportunities for the public to participate in the activities of the local government. These categories of information items could be supplemented over time, especially when the new Law on Local Governments is adopted, which was under discussion in the Saeima at the time of drafting these Openness Standards, before the 2nd reading. In the future, this draft law is likely to strengthen several of the measures contained in the standards, which are currently a voluntary choice of the local government, as an obligation.
The openness standards were developed through extensive research and consultation, including an extensive survey of local government representatives, activists on the main challenges of openness in local governments, in-depth research and analysis of websites, focus groups – in-depth consultations with the representatives of local governments and stakeholders, discussing the categories of information to be included in the standards with the responsible state institutions, as well as receiving comments on the draft openness standards from several local governments of Latvia. We are thankful to all local governments, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, the State Audit Office, the State Data Protection Inspectorate, and activists in the field for supporting the development of these standards!
Following the entry into force of the administrative-territorial reform, local governments are currently undergoing ambitious changes, including the creation of new local government governance units, local governments need to develop new regulations, as well as take over farms. It is important that local governments, through these processes of change, promote better governance and, inter alia, move towards an ever higher level of transparency in their activities.
The move towards greater openness of local government’s work is the choice of local governments. It is not just the publication of more information on the local government’s website, but also the influence on many other important processes, in particular trust in the local government and the public’s willingness to participate in the work of the local government. Residents will be ready to get involved if they are able to follow the work of the local government, know their rights and opportunities, see that the local government takes care of the improvement of work, and regularly reports on its activities. The implementation of openness standards and trust in institutions and public participation are closely linked. At the same time, in order to ensure public participation, it would be useful to develop separate guidelines that would remind one of the basic principles of successful citizen involvement and the different methods that the local government can use in its work. The new Law on Local Governments will provide a number of new opportunities for citizen involvement and a separate handbook should be provided to successfully use these opportunities in practice.
Information about Openness standards:
Author: Providus think tank in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia
The publication was prepared by and the responsibility for its content is held by: Centre for Public Policy “PROVIDUS”
The publication has been prepared within the framework of the Active Citizens Fund project “Long-term solutions for more successful public consultations”. The Active Citizens Fund is a programme of financial instruments of the European Economic Area and Norway, which is being implemented in Latvia from 2020 to 2024 with the aim of strengthening the participation of civil society and the population and increasing the capacity of vulnerable groups.