What Is the Publicity of Local Self-Government?

By the notion of “publicity of local self-government” we mean a set of management and political measures implemented by the authorities and local self-government bodies in order to guarantee fully open and benevolent relations with citizens as well as to raise the overall level of credibility in municipal institutions on the part of community. In democratic societies, it is common to consider government’s publicity as a basic indicator of good governance and an efficient mechanism to combat corruption. It is also believed that the publicity of government institutions has a positive impact on living standards, especially at the local level where the authorities are much closer to the citizens and render basic public services to them.

The research uses the term “publicity” to stand for a complex notion including three interrelated principles of good governance – transparency, openness and accountability. Transparency implies the process when the municipalities themselves initiate to publicize important and actual information about their staff and structure, plenary powers and functions, finances, current activities and plans, political initiatives and decisions voted, services rendered to the citizens, as well as other information that is of public interest[1]. Government’s openness is seen as a process of offering free access to information at municipalities’ disposal and promoting active citizen participation in direct communication and regular dialogues on policies development at the local level. The notion of accountability of authorities covers a process of systematic informing the public about the results and efficiency of municipal institutions performance, the use of public resources and budgetary funds.

What Are the Objectives of the Publicity Index of Local Self-Government?

Publicity Index of local self-government is a practical tool that helps to complexly evaluate and compare the level of transparency, openness and accountability of local municipal institutions in their interaction with citizens. In broad terms, the measuring campaign aims to demonstrate the public dimension of decisions made and policies implemented by municipalities, as well as to highlight the contribution of major self-government bodies into this process, in particular of mayors, executive bodies and local council deputies.

What Is the Object of Publicity Index Measuring?

The principal objects evaluated during the measuring campaign within the Publicity Index are mayors (as the main city official), executive bodies of the council (bodies authorized to carry out executive and managerial functions), and city council deputies (deputies, as a representative body in the system of local self-government). The publicity of each of the objects was evaluated according to a 100-grade scale while the overall Publicity Index is an aggregate sum of these three scores (see Table 1). The value of each of the object under analysis was determined with respect to powers and political functions of local self-government bodies and officials in terms of publicity dimension of their work.

Table 1.

Objects under measurement Value, %
Publicity of a City Mayor 30
Publicity of executive bodies 35
Publicity of deputies 35
Total Publicity Index 100

What Were the Indicators to Measure the Publicity Index of Local Self-Government?

The notion of “publicity” was divided into three cumulative components of transparency, openness and accountability for each of the monitoring objects (the mayors, executive bodies and deputies). The cumulative indicators are based on 210 operating questions that cover a wide range of functions and policies led by local self-government bodies and officials. In particular, the questions include aspects that assess the access to public information, presenting of tax declarations, transparency of the human resources policy, making public city master plans and target-oriented programs, transparency of the budgetary process, release of regulatory legal acts, visits of citizens, access to the offices of municipalities, openness at meetings of municipality collective entities, functioning of the mechanisms of citizens’ participation, reporting procedures, openness of executive committee performance, content update of official websites, transparency of land auction and regulatory policy of a city council, availability of administrative services, etc. For the sake of convenience, all operating questions were grouped into 13 parameters that cover 23 indicators (see the Measurement matrix).

Which Sources And Information Collection Tools Were Used For the Measuring?

The measuring is based on the analysis of initial empirical data collected by the monitoring team through:

  • submission and processing of answers to information request letters,
  • content analysis of official webpage and printed media of the municipalities,
  • monitoring visits to municipalities, experiments and direct observation over the work of local self-government bodies and officials,
  • analysis of regulatory legal acts adopted by self-governments.

During the measuring campaign, the participants were submitted circa 700 information request letters for public information in different forms and conducted circa 400 monitoring visits.

How Was the Data Processed?

The data obtained by observers on each of the 210 operating questions were entered into a specially designed evaluation form. Each answer was normalized, i.e. it was assigned a numerical expression according to a 5 grade scale (0, 25, 50, 75 or 100 scores) within 100 scale where “100” stands for a high level of publicity standard compliance. All answers were “valued” and were assigned a value quotient with respect to their significance in terms of implementation of the highest possible publicity principle. Thus, the questions concerning accountability practices, citizens’ participation and access to public information have more “value” than the issues on availability of personal or contact data for executive body heads.

The final score (F) for each of the questions is calculated according to the formula: F=SCOREact/SCOREmax*Vq

where the SCOREactis an actual score for the question,

SCOREmax is a maximum possible score for the question,

Vq – a Value Quotient for the question.

The scores obtained for each question were summarized for each monitored object (mayor, executive bodies and deputies), as well as for the three individual subgroups within these objects – principles (transparency, openness, accountability), parameters (13 in total) and indicators (23 in total). Total estimates for each object and subgroup (principles, parameters, indicators) were further translated into percentage terms demonstrating the degree of implementation of due standards and publicity norms in practice. In other words, the percentage indicates the correlation between a planned indicator (standard) and the actual publicity level. Therefore, the sub-indices of City Mayor publicity, executive bodies publicity and the publicity of deputies present the percentage sum of all final scores assigned to each answer to operating questions as for each object under monitoring.

Value quotients for the Publicity Index (in accordance with the parameters):

Publicity parameters Value, %
City Mayor publicity
Transparency of the mayor performance and implementation of his authorities 19
Making policy and normative documents public 26
Openness of the City Mayor in his contacts with citizens 30
Accountability of the City Mayor 25
Total 100
Executive bodies publicity
Transparency of the structure and functions performed by executive bodies 13
Making regulatory legal acts and other executive body documents public 21
Openness of executive bodies and the degree of citizens’ participation 25
Availability of administrative services 14
Accountability of executive bodies 27
Total 100
Publicity of council deputies
Transparency of personnel structure and implementation of power functions by the representative body of local self-government 16.5
Transparency of the council’s work, making public regulatory legal acts and other documents 30
Openness of the representative body and citizens’ participation in a decision-making process 27
Accountability of city council deputies 26.5
Total 100

To rate the municipalities, we also incorporated the interval scale (the ‘traffic lights’ principle) where cities with the rating of 0-40% are classified as non-public, 41-60% – low publicity levels, 61-80% – satisfactory publicity levels, 81-100% – for public cities. This approach is more accurate to show the actual levels of municipality publicity.

What Normative Base Was Used to Develop the Indicators System?

Indicators and evaluation questions were developed on the basis of norms of Ukrainian law, international democratic standards and successful practices on different aspects of publicity of municipal authorities. The freedom of information principle is fundamental in the indicators system as it is based on the citizens’ right to receive information from the bodies of state public administration (and institutions that perform public functions) and on a duty of these bodies to publicize and offer information. The “right to know” concerns all information in any form created and obtained by authorities and related to any of their public or administrative functions.

In particular, the key international documents underlying the identified principles and standards of freedom of information are the following:

  • European Charter of Local Self-Governance (1985);
  • Optional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Governance on the Right to Participate in in the Activities of a Local Self-Government Body (2009);[2]
  • CouncilofEuropeRecommendations On Access toOfficialDocumentsRec (2002) as of February, 21, 2002[3]
  • CouncilofEuropeConventionOn Access toOfficialDocuments (2008)[4]
  • The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (1995)[5].

The legal basis to develop the systems of indicators consists of the following national regulatory legal acts:

  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Access to Public Information’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Local Self-Government in Ukraine’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Preventing and Combatting Corruption in Ukraine’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On the Status of Local Council Deputies’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Public Service’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On the Local Self-Government Office’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Administrative Services’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On the Principles of State Regulatory Policy in the Sphere of Economic Activity’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On Requests from Citizens’
  • The Law of Ukraine ‘On the Capital of Ukraine the Hero City Kyiv’

[1]Public interest means that the public can enjoy benefits (advantages) from certain information becoming public.

[2]Available at: http://zakon1.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/994_b49/paran2#n2

[3]Available at: http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/994_a33

[4]Available at: http://crimecor.rada.gov.ua/komzloch/control/uk/publicize/article;jsessionid=DD394411BA1FD129A5209C55F2D68391?art_id=49046&cat_id=46352

[5]Available at: http://library.khpg.org/index.php?id=94425559

What Is the Advantage of Measuring the Publicity Index?

  • Publicity Index includes a comprehensive system of indicators that allow anyone to regularly evaluate and compare the quality of governance by local self-government bodies and officials in terms of their publicity.
  • Publicity Index of local self-government is a preventive tool in cases of corruption and violation of citizens’ rights for freedom of information.
  • Publicity Index aims to promote the culture of openness of local self-government bodies and officials as well as to raise people’s awareness about their rights and opportunities.
  • Measurement of the Publicity Index is a platform to mobilize the relevant community members and to coordinate efforts of non-governmental organizations in increasing publicity of state and local governmental institutions.