Whose government is the most transparent one? LOTUS 2011/12 Research Results

24. April 2012.

From September 2011 to February 2012, GONG conducted the second round of research focused on transparency and openness of local and regional self-government. The research was carried out in cooperation with the Association of Cities of the Republic of Croatia, including each of the 576 units of local and regional self-government. The aim was to determine the present situation in cities and municipalities in terms of the progress made in comparison to the results of the previous round of research in transparency and openness towards the citizens, cooperation with civil society organisations and functioning of the local self-government.

From September 2011 to February 2012, GONG conducted the second round of research focused ontransparency and openness of local and regional self-government. The research was carried out in cooperation with the Association of Cities of the Republic of Croatia, including each of the 576 units of local and regional self-government (127 cities, 429 municipalities and 20 counties). The aim was to determine the present situation in cities and municipalities in terms of the progress made in comparison to the results of the previous round of research in transparency and openness towards the citizens, cooperation with civil society organisations and functioning of the local self-government. These areas have been recognised as the key factors relevant for the further development of democracy and citizens' participation in political lives of their local communities.

· as much as 70 percent of local and regional self-government units (LRSU) are not transparent
· only six percent of LRSU are very transparent
· counties and cities are far more transparent than municipalities
· the majority of LRSU makes almost no effort to include the citizens into political decision making
· LRSU make insufficient use of Internet in order to keep the citizens informed and discuss the important issues
· political willingness in the most important factor in the matter

The level of transparency was measured by taking into account 51 indicators with regard to five basic dimensions of transparency: council/assembly sessions open to public, government activities and decisions open to public, Act on the right of access to information implemented, and citizens taking direct part in decision making. The most common indicators were the ones referring to formal mechanisms; the less frequent were those requiring transparently published decisions and documents that influence the lives of citizens, while the least frequent indicators were the ones enabling the citizens to truly participate in decision-making processes.

Comparative results have shown that the level of transparency has risen when compared to the results from 2009, but still hasn’t reached the satisfactory level. As much as 70 percent of local self-government units are not transparent and only six percent of them have been labelled as exceptionally transparent. The highest transparency level has been achieved in the cities, while the lowest level has been recorded in municipalities. The counties have largely proven as transparent. The number of exceptionally transparent cities was 18 percent higher, while the number of insufficiently transparent cities was 15 percent lower. There were no significant changes with regard to municipalities – only eight percent of municipalities changed categories by moving from insufficiently transparent to transparent ones, which proved that changes in the legal framework made no significant impact to the increase of transparency. The results showed that the transparency level is primarily the matter of political willingness and understanding the value of transparency and its benefit for the community, and not as much the matter of financial and institutional capacity. Excerpt from the Research Report is available here.

The LOTUS award was given to twelve cities, two counties and a municipality that made the biggest improvement compared to the research conducted in 2009. 

LOTUS 2011/12 award winners for transparency are as follows:

Counties: 
    1.   Krapinsko-zagorska County 
    2.   Varaždinska County

Cities: 
    1.   Rijeka 
    2.   Labin and Samobor (equal score) 
    3.   Pula 
    4.   Opatija 
    5.   Crikvenica 
    6.   Zaprešić 
    7.   Slavonski Brod 
    8.   Kutina 
    9.   Novi Marof 
    10. Osijek and Čakovec (equal score)

The biggest improvement in relation to LOTUS 2009: 
        - Pučišća Municipality 

This research was conducted in order to be used by representatives of local and regional authorities in their effort to improve their activities. It was also conducted in order to inform the citizens about the results achieved by their communities and to enable them to set higher goals in terms of transparency, as well as to be used by researchers as a starting point or inspiration for implementation of other research with regard to the level of democratisation of local authorities in Croatia and abroad.

The research has raised new questions, primarily in terms of identifying the factors which caused the increase in transparency level in the cities and which failed to manifest in the municipalities, i.e. in relation to the impact or lack of impact of the outside pressure, perception of one’s own importance (or unimportance), as well as in relation to achievements of the process of democratisation and Europeanization.

The overall research results are available in easy-access database (in Croatian) here. 

Audio recording of the press conference available for listening and download at
    1. part
    2. part

Project is financed by EU (IPA 2008).

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