Support to Local Governments to Improve their Information Booklets
January 18, 2021
Government Accountability Initiative (GAI) provided technical assistance to the City of Sombor and the Municipality of Žabalj to improve their Information Booklets. Information Booklet is one of the main tools ensuring transparency of local governments, and also the document from which citizens can learn all important information about their municipality in one place. With the support of Transparency Serbia, these two local governments were provided with a detailed analysis of their Information Booklets, their compatibility with the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance and Instruction for the preparation and publication of Information Booklets, as well as their structure, content, and the process of its updating. Based on the analysis, detailed recommendations were developed and will be used by both local governments in the preparation of a new, improved Booklet template during the course of 2021.
Additionally, GAI developed two model internal acts (Instruction on updating information booklet and Decision on the appointment of an authorized person to act upon requests for access to information) that should enable more efficient updating of Information Booklets. Adoption of these documents will lay down a clear procedure and steps for updating the Information Booklets as well as allocation of responsibilities within municipal administration for the process. This would significantly improve the quality of Information Booklets and the process of its regular updating. GAI and TS also developed Methodology for evaluation of the Information Booklet’s compliance with the legal framework and good practices, which provides general instructions to all LSGs on how to improve their Information Booklets, and to make them more reader-friendly and usable.
Information Booklets are the most comprehensive way for providing proactive transparency by the Serbian public institutions. The 2004 Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance stipulated that all public entities are to publish Information Booklets. This document should contain all the relevant information about a public entity, presented in a user-friendly manner, and should be updated regularly, when circumstances in which institution operate change. Local Transparency Index survey 2020 indicates an overall increase in local transparency – but the only area in which results were worse than in 2019 relates to content and updating of Information Booklets – with overall average decrease of 16%. This sparked the GAI’s intention to work in this area and to expand technical assistance to include other LSGs during the course of 2021.