On 26th of May 2015 Open Government Index was published by the World Justice Project, that was created by the joint work of many famous research institutions, international organizations and professionals. According to the Open Government Index report, Georgia got 0.61 (out of 1 ), that puts Georgia in the first position among 13 states of the Eastern European and Central Asian regions. Globally, Georgia occupied 29th place among 102 states by the Open Government parameters. With these results, Georgia succeeded some European states, such as : Slovenia, Macedonia, Greece, Croatioa. Countries with highest scores are: Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark and Netherlands.
The ranking derives from the assessments and perceptions of the interviewed citizens of the respective states. In Georgian case, the results are based on the responses of 1000 respondents from Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi, in 2014. They were asked to assess openness of the government based on four basic factors:
- Release/accessibility of the legal acts and government data – reflect to what degree the legislation, public information and other government related data is accessible.
- Access to Public Information – measures whether requests for information held by government are granted, also whether the information are granted within a reasonable period of time, and if the information provided is pertinent and complete. This dimension also measures whether people are aware of their right to information and if request for information are granted at a reasonable cost or without having to pay a bribe.
- Civic Participation – The third dimension measures the effectiveness of civic participation mechanisms, including the protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, and assembly and association, and the right to petition the government. It also measures whether people can voice concerns to various government officers and members of the legislative body, and whether government officials provide sufficient information and notice about decisions affecting the community, including opportunities for citizen feedback.
- Complaint Mechanisms – The fourth dimension measures whether people are able to bring specific complaints to the government about the provision of public services or the performance of government officers in carrying out their legal duties in practice, and how government officials respond to such complaints.
It is noteworthy that the highest score Georgia received in is the second component – Access to Public Information (0.70 – 16th in the world) – and joined the states that have the highest scores in this category. Relatively low score is observed in the first component – Release/accessibility of the legal acts and governmental data (0.51 – 36th position in the world and 4th in the region) – therefore it joined the middle rank states. It is worth mentioning that in the Complaint Mechanisms component Georgia is again 4th in the region and 48th globally, and it is effectivelly functioning and supports the access to information.
In the first conponent – Release/accessibility of the legal acts and government data – the authors of the report took into account the following factors : public awareness on budget spending and their right to information, the quality, quantity, accessibility and reliability of the information released by the government. The results demonstrated , that according to the citizens, the scale, quality and reliability of the government released information is quite high. Besides the positive tendency, only 39% thinks, that the government is providing enough information about their rights. The average percentage of the same issue in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia is 44%. The lower percentage was monitored in citizens’ access to the information about budget spending. On the question – how good is the way the government provides the information about their spending – only 32% replied positively.
The next category is the access to public information and the awareness of it as one of the basic rights. In this case, the countries were assessed according to these six questions and Georgia has the following results:
The number of citizens who know about their right to request public information is relatively low – 21% (40% is the global average), therefore the number of those citizens who exercised the right to request public information is even lower – 8%. Out of this percetage, 62% requested the public information about themselves. 12 % out of the respondents who requested the public information needed the information for business, 14% for educational or research purposes, 1% were either from media or non-governmental organizations or the information was requested for political activities.
Despite the low frequency of the request of public information, the survey showed high frequency of the release of information (94%), however relatively low figure was observed in timely release of information – only 59% of the requests were delivered in 7 days period. The results showed, that in most cases the government takes from seven (7) to thirty (30) days to release the information (33%). The number of those citizens who got the complete information from the government institutions is quite high (86%). Generally, 89% of those who experienced the request of public information, positively assess the access to public information. Only 1% admitted paying bribe for obtaining information.
The next component was the Civic Participation that assessed the available instruments for civic participation in decision-making process. The majority of Georgians think, politicians can freely express their protest against the government (93%), any interested citizen can join the political organization (93%) and sign the petition to express their position (91%). Relatively, low number of respondents (83%) think the media (TV, Radio and Newspaper) is free to set agenda and the same number of citizens consider the civil society organization representatives are free to criticise the government policy. It is true, that according to 83% of respondents communication with the local municipality is easy, however the number of those who think that the local municipal authority is using effective means for public consultation before making a decision is low (32%).
As it was stated above, one of the lowest scores Georgia got in the Open Government Index is the effectiveness of Complaint Mechanisms. In this case, people use two criteria to assess the local municipality: 1. Whether the self-governing institution enabled the citizens to voice their complaint about particular services; 2. How effective was the self-governing institution in providing the means for expression of complaint against public servants? In Georgia, hardly more than the third of respondents (35% and 37% respectively) replied positively to these questions.
In overall, the report demonstrated that the main problem in Georgia is the lack of public awareness about their rights. They do not know that they have the legal right to request the public information about governmental activities. Moreover, in terms of civic participation, the ways of communication between the decision-makers and the public is underdeveloped.
According to the report, the highest score is monitored in those states, that are the members of “Open Government Partnership” (OGP). Georgia joined this global initiative in September, 2011 and in cooperaton with the civil society, many OGP related reforms were implemented. For its commitments, in 2014 Georgia earned international recognition and was elected in OGP steering committee.
We congratulate Georgia this outcome and are hoping for more active cooperation between the government and the civil society sector to further improve the Open Government Index results.