The issue of transparency of the government is important both for the media and the civil society. Experts of Better Regulation Delivery Office decided to make a research on how open institutions of the Ukrainian government are. Within a discussion on the results of the research they made suggestions about what should be changed in public communications to build confidence between the Government and the society.
Among eighteen Ukrainian ministries, the most open is the Ministry of Infrastructure, which obtained 65 points of 70 in “Openness of the Government” rating, formed by Better Regulation Delivery Office. The next in the top-five are the Ministry of Education and Science (64 points), Ministry of Finance (59 points), Ministry of Regional Development and Construction (57 points) and the Ministry of Culture (53 points). At the bottom of the list are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (24 points), Ministry of Information Policy (23 points) and Ministry on Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons (15 points). The results of the research were presented by Ihor Lavrynenko, analyst of Better Regulation Delivery Office, during a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The rating is based on evaluation of compliance with 70 requirements on data openness which are compulsory for governmental institutions (one requirement equals one point). These requirements were united into 7 groups of criteria: compliance with the principle of information openness, providing open data, public plans of activity and reports, compliance with anti-corruption requirements and presence of public monitoring. The situation turned out to be rather positive with availability of open data and information openness, however, there are more problems with open access to plans and reports. “In total, the Ministries comply with nearly two thirds of legislative requirements on data openness,” summarized the expert.
In Ukraine, public communications are usually politicized
Openness of ministries’ websites which was analyzed within the research is just the minimum openness that is compulsory for governmental institutions, it should be a part of government openness in a broader sense. In Ukraine, there are deep problems in this field. “Frankly speaking, the majority of public communications in Ukraine are not state but obviously political communications, when political decisions are being “sold” to the general public, instead of being explained,” noted Yaryna Kliuchkovska, ВRDO expert.
Absence of dialogue as an old tradition
“There is an old tendency to legitimize decisions, instead of consulting different stakeholders and learning from the stakeholders. It’s not enough to keep people informed. It’s not really the issue of a website, or making more information available online, or having minister’s Facebook account, the issue is about having systematic attempts to consult people. Through this you will come to openness and credibility,” emphasized Jurgis Vilcinskas, head of Press & Information Section, Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine. He noted that the European Commission always holds such consultations through various mechanisms.
According to Yaryna Kliuchkovska, constructive dialogue will start as soon as both sides see opportunities it can bring. The state should change its attitude to public dialogue and perceive it not as a useless burden but an instrument which helps to take into account interests of the stakeholders and receive useful information and proposals for solutions from them. On the other hand, as soon as the stakeholders see that their voices are heard, they will come up with constructive proposals.
According to Halyna Petrenko, deputy senior editor, editor of “Detector.Media”, communication between the government and the media improved over the past three years. However, several problems still remain, such as confusing structure of the websites, often vague or even run-around replies on official information requests.
Recommendations to improve communication
The ministries received general recommendations and special recommendation for each ministry based on the results of the research, which are expected to help them to fix problems. Ihor Lavrynenko noted that several problems were purely technical and now, one week since the recommendations were provided, several ministries have significantly improved their websites. Experts will also prepare recommendations with suggestions on how to improve legislation in this field, because a lot of the existing requirements are obsolete. Security of websites and protection of electronic means of communication are of primary importance.
In addition, BRDO is preparing a new project to cooperate with the Ministry of Economic Development and the State Regulatory Service. They are going to create a “green book” with description of the most urgent problems of markets and then through public discussions with the stakeholders to draft a “white book” of solutions.