Parliament Approves Georgia’s Second Open Parliament Action Plan

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On May 16, 2017, the Parliament of Georgia approved the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017-2018. The Action Plan consists of 25 Commitments that aim to increase accountability and transparency of parliamentary activities and ensure citizen participation in lawmaking processes.

The Commitments were collectively elaborated by the representatives of:

– Parliament of Georgia

– Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

– Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)

– Transparency International Georgia (TIG)

– United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

– National Democratic Institute (NDI)

– Civil Society Institute (CSI)

– GIZ Georgia

– JumpStart Georgia

– USAID Good Governance Initiative (GGI)

All of the Commitments included in the Action Plan derive from the fundamental principles of Open Government Partnership (OGP): 1. citizen involvement, 2. accessibility to information, 3. accountability and transparency, and 4. technologies and innovations. 

The Commitments are also in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a topic explored in detail in a study prepared by IDFI.

The following Commitments of the Action Plan are worth highlighting:

  • Commitment 1.1.Elaboration of an Electronic Petition System – implementation of this Commitment will significantly increase citizen participation in lawmaking processes and ensure their trust towards legislative authorities. The Parliament also plans to improve procedures of review of electronic petitions in accordance with best international standards.

 

  • Commitment 2.3.Proactive Disclosure of Information on Activities Carried out by Majoritarian MPs – not all information about majoritarian MPs is available on the Parliament website– http://www.parliament.ge, e.g. addresses of regional MP offices. The main objective of this Commitment is to proactively disclose information on activities carried out by MPs and make it easier for voters to contact and organize meetings with them.

 

  • Commitment 2.5.Elaboration and Proactive Disclosure of Action Plans by Parliamentary Committees – Each year, during the spring session of Parliament, Committees will be obligated to elaborate and publish one or two year actions plans. As a result, all stakeholders will have timely information on planned legislative processes.

 

  • Commitment 4.2.Elaboration of a Monitoring System of Public Information Reports (also known as “December 10 Reports”) – Each year, the Parliament of Georgia receives public information reports from public entities, however, the Georgian legislation does not determine any particular procedure for submitting these reports, which has become a formality. The Commitment is aimed atintroducing a review procedure and effective response mechanisms related to public information reports through the Rules of Procedures of the Parliament of Georgia.

 

  • Commitment 4.6.Supervision/Monitoring of Activities Carried out by the Government of Georgia within the Framework of OGP – As of today, the Parliament of Georgia does not supervise/monitor activities carried out by the Government of Georgia within the framework of OGP. The Commitment aims to strengthen the supervision/monitoring function of the Parliament and improve coordination between different branches of the Government.

Elaboration and adoption of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017-2018 is a result of meetings and long negotiations between the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and its Consultative Group. Various opinion polls and public consultations were also held during the elaboration process. For example, on April 19, 2017, IDFI used Facebook to organize an opinion poll in relation to the newly elaborated commitments. Participants had the opportunity to choose issues of most interest to them. The results of the poll can be viewed here.

The whole process of elaboration of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017-2018 (including public consultations, polls and meetings) was carried within the scope of the Project titled Strengthening the System of Parliamentary Democracy in Georgia, which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

In order to elaborate the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017-2018, three meetings were held:

Meeting held on January 18, 2017;

Meeting held on March 14, 2017;

Meeting held on May 2, 2017.

Members of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and its Consultative Group were actively involved in the meetings.

A working group consisting of MPs and CSOs will also be created in the near future, in order to implement the Commitments of the action plan.

The Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017-2018 is the second action plan that was elabotated within the framework of OGP in Georgia. The first Open Parliament Action Plan of Georgia was adopted on July 17, 2015 and included 18 Commitments.

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The Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance adopted the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan

_DXP7196On May 2, 2017, the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and its Consultative Group adopted the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan. The process was supported by European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with IDFI.

In addition to Civil Society Organizations, the meeting was attended by representatives of the Parliament of Georgia, including Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance, Eka Beselia, Chairperson of the Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament, and Kakhaber Kutchava, Chairperson of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee of the Parliament.

The aim of the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan is to ensure accountability and transparency of parliamentary activities and citizen involvement in lawmaking processes. The commitments included in the Action Plan derive from the fundamental principles of Open Government Partnership (Citizen Involvement, Accessibility of Information, Accountability of the Parliament, Transparency of Parliamentary Activities, and Technologies and Innovation). The Action Plan includes 25 commitments that shall be implemented by the Parliament of Georgia in2017-2018.

Action Plan commitments were elaborated by representatives of the Parliament of Georgia, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Transparency International Georgia (TIG), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), National-Democratic Institute (NDI), Civil Society Institute (CSI), GIZ Georgia, JumpStart Georgia and USAID Good Governance Initiative (GGI).

All 25 commitments are based on the following 5 challenges of OGP:

Challenge 1 – Citizen Involvement:

1.1 Introduction of a public petition system;

1.2 Ensuring citizen involvement in the Constitution review process;  

1.3 Introduction of a mechanism for submission of legislative proposals and legislative initiatives electronically and introduction of a citizen support mechanism through the website of the Parliament of Georgia;

1.4 Elaboration of rules and procedures for public consultations in lawmaking processes, introduction of a feedback mechanism (electronic and/or written comments) on draft laws;

1.5 Adaptation of the building of the Parliament of Georgia to the needs of people with disabilities and ensuring the accessibility of parliamentary services to people with disabilities;

1.6 Raising public awareness on Open Government Partnership;

1.7 Simplification of the procedures for entering the Parliamentary building;

1.8 Elaboration of a state concept on the Development of Civil Society Organizations.

Challenge 2 – Accessibility of Information:

2.1 Increasing the list of information to be proactively published on the Parliament website;

2.2 Introduction of visible indications for amendments made to the initial text of a draft law during its review process, and timely disclosure of these amendments on the Parliament website;

2.3 Proactive disclosure of information on the activities of majoritarian MPs on the Parliament website;

2.4 Timely disclosure of  information about Parliamentary hearings of elected officials and reports presented by public institutions accountable to the Parliament, as well as preparation and disclosure of video-reports of relevant committee hearings on the Parliament website;

2.5 Elaboration and proactive disclosure of parliamentary Committees action plans in the beginning of each year.

Challenge 3 Accountability of the Parliament:

3.1 Institutionalization of annual meetings of the Parliament of Georgia and Civil Society Organizations;

3.2 Preparation and disclosure of annual Parliamentary reports;

3.3 Introduction of a self-assessment tool for the Parliament of Georgia.

Challenge 4 – Transparency of Parliamentary Activities:

4.1 Increasing the transparency of investigative and other temporary committees;

4.2 Elaboration of a monitoring system for public information reports (so called “December 10th reports”);

4.3 Elaboration of a Code of Ethics for the Members of the Parliament of Georgia;

4.4 Improving the contents of draft law explanatory notes;

4.5 Introduction of an obligation to substantiate changes to committee hearing agendas;

4.6 Supervision/Monitoring of activities carried out by the Government of Georgia within the framework of Open Government Partnership.

Challenge 5 – Technologies and Innovation:

5.1 Improvement of the voting results database;

5.2 Creation of a public information module and simplification of access to information on Parliamentary activities (including disclosure of documents in machine readable formats);

5.3 Restructuration of the Parliament website.

The Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan is planned to be approved by the Bureau of the Parliament of Georgia in May 2017.

See the photos of the event here: http://bit.ly/2qIC0Dr

 

Open Government Partnership Representatives Meet with Open Government Georgia Stakeholders

_DXP9822On April 5, 2017, national stakeholders of the Open Government Georgia met with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Support Unit Deputy Director Joe Powel and Director for Civil Society Engagement Paul Maassen.

The workshop was to discuss Georgia’s vision, plans and expectations as the country assumes the chairmanship of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee in October 2017.

The meeting brought together key stakeholders involved in the OGP process in Georgia, including the Government of Georgia, Parliament of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, civil society and international organizations.

The event opened with welcoming remarks from Aleksandre Baramidze, Acting Minister of Justice of Georgia, and Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance.

“This event is of great importance and honor for a small country like Georgia. We plan to work more actively and improve our results in implementing OGP ideals in Georgia,” – Aleksandre Baramdize.

According to Irina Pruidze, “Georgia’s chairmanship of OGP greatly increases the responsibility of the Georgia and especially its Parliament. We have started working on the Open Parliament Action Plan and can already name the most important commitments that will be included in it. These commitments are: creating a code of ethics; drafting a concept of civil society development (to be implemented by a special working group); improving the content of explanatory notes; making the Parliament building and website accessible to people with disabilities.”  “In parallel to this, we work actively to raise the public’s awareness about OGP. In this process, I think, it is necessary to have good coordination among members of the Council as well as between fractions of Parliament. Finally, the Parliament and the Government should also cooperate  to implement OGP principles.”

Nina Khatiskatsi, Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi, and Nino Lomjaria, First Deputy Auditor General, spoke of specific areas related to the OGP process.

This was followed by a discussion on strategic priorities for the chair year led by Joe Powel and Paul Maassen, which focused on good practices from the previous OGP chairs and the role of civil society in this process.  _DXP0280

During his presentation, Joe Powel stated that “it is a big opportunity and responsibility of Georgia as a country, not just for the government during the chair year of OGP. Georgia is the 8th chair of OGP, and the first non founding country, which is a great honer. Georgia won a competitive election against other countries to be selected.”

According to Joe Powel, there are a number of opportunities for Georgia as a chair of OGP. “This is a seventy-five-country organization, so, firstly, it is a political opportunity for Georgia to lead a big coalition of governments. The second opportunity is to showcase the best practice and results that Georgia has achieved in recent years. And the third is that there will be a huge international spotlight on Georgia. Georgia had a great success as a member of OGP. Therefore, we believe that the country understands its opportunities as a new Chair of this organization.“

The discussions were moderated by – Zurab Sanikidze, Head of the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice, and Giorgi Kldiashvili, Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

“We think that electing Georgia as chair of OGP is not only a big challenge but also a big achievement for our country. I want to thank all donor organizations whose involvement and partnership will help us to achieve great results,” – Giorgi Kldiashvili.

Georgia joined OGP in September 2011. Since then, the Georgian Government together with civil society organizations has implemented a number of initiatives to promote transparency, empower citizens, and combat corruption with the overall goal of strengthening good governance in the country. In April 2015, the Parliament of Georgia endorsed a Declaration on Parliamentary Openness and Memorandum with international and non-governmental organizations, thus making Georgia the first country in the region to promote legislative openness.

_DXP0195In May 2016, Georgia, together with France, became a Co-Chair of the OGP Steering Committee, an executive, decision-making body which develops, promotes and safeguards the values and principles of OGP as well as establishes ideas, policies and rules of the partnership and oversees its functioning. The Steering Committee consists of 22 members – 11 from government and 11 from civil society. As of October 2017, Georgia will assume the Open Government Partnership (OGP) chairmanship for a year.

The meeting was organised by the co-chairs of the Open Government Georgia Forum – the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), in cooperation with the Parliament of Georgia and with support from the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Meeting of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and Consultative Group

DSCN9427.jpgOn March 14, 2017, in Hotel “Tbilisi Marriot”, IDFI organized meeting of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and the Consultative Group.  The aim of the meeting was to discuss the recommendations on commitments that shall be included in the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan.

Meeting was attended by the Council member MPs, Staff members of the Parliament, civil society representatives and international organizations.

The meeting was held within the scope of the Project titled Strengthening the System of Parliamentary Democracy in Georgia, which is funded by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is implemented by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

Opening remarks were made by Irina Pruidze, the Chairperson of the Council, Sophie Huet-Guerriche, representative of the European Union Delegation in Georgia and Giorgi Kldiashvili, Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

In her opening speech Sophie Huet-Guerriche reaffirmed that European Union welcomes establishment of parliamentary openness within the framework of the Open Government Partnership initiative and underlined that election of Georgia as a chair of the Open Government Partnership represents big challenge for Georgia. Ms. Huet-Guerriche confirmed that European Union supports the Parliament of Georgia and the Permanent Council on Open and Transparent Governance in development of parliamentary openness in Georgia.

During the meeting, the Consultative Group member organizations presented recommendations concerning Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan. Transparency International – Georgia presented the following recommendations: Commitment to indicate causes of honorable absence of the plenary and committee sessions by the MPs on the website of the Parliament of Georgia, commitment to post stenographic records of committee hearings and other. 

Georgia’s Young Lawyers Association presented 7 commitments. The aim of the aforementioned commitments is to increase transparency of the Parliament, provide citizens with more information and raise public awareness.

The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) presented the following recommendations: Elaboration of feedback mechanism for comments left on draft laws,elaboration of a public information reports (so called “10 December Report”) monitoring system, elaboration of a public petition system and other.  Levan Avalishvili, the Chairperson of IDFI, underlined the importance of placement of stenographic records on the website of the Parliament and cited as an example the website of the Parliament of Canada, which is discussed in the Research prepared by IDFI.

As for the feedback mechanism for comments left on draft laws, the attendees of the meeting agreed that the comments left by citizens on draft laws shall be processed by the Staff of the Parliament and then submitted to the Members of the Parliament. Furthermore, the participants of the meeting agreed that it is desirable to conduct a research on best international practices in order to develop the feedback mechanism.

At the meeting of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and the Consultative Group the issues related to adaptation and improvement of accessibility of services of the Parliamentary building (Tbilisi) for people with disabilities were discussed. Moreover, Rusudan Tushuri, the representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), cited an example of the National Agency of Public Registry, which is already working on adaptation of its services for the needs of people with disabilities. Consideration of the aforementioned example will significantly contribute to fulfillment of the commitments undertaken by the Parliament of Georgia.

The attendees of the meeting also agreed that the commitments and their indicators that shall be included in the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan will be presented by the members of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance and the Consultative Group not later than March 28, 2017.

IDFI’s Recommendations on Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2016-2017

ogp_logoIDFI as the member of the Open Parliament Georgia Working Group and the Chair of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance is actively involved in the process of elaboration of the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan.

In February 2017, the Institute presented the recommendations on elaboration of the Open Parliament Georgia 2017-2018 Action Plan to the Parliament of Georgia. These recommendations included the following topics:

  1. Elaboration of a Feedback Mechanism for Comments Left on Draft Laws

Current Situation: As of today, individuals are able to leave comments on draft laws on the website of the Georgian Parliament. This commitment was initiated by IDFI and was included in the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016.

However, given the fact that there is no mechanism for providing feedback to these comments, one-way submission of comments cannot guarantee proper engagement of citizens in lawmaking processes; as of today, MPs are not obligated to consider or provide feedback to citizen comments.

According to best international practice, in order to ensure the engagement of citizens and stakeholders in lawmaking processes, it is necessary to receive comments as well as to implement feedback mechanisms.

IDFI Recommendation: In 2016, IDFI presented a concept of electronic system for public consultations on draft laws, which was approved by the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance. This concept included implementation of a feedback mechanism and its legal regulations. We believe that this commitment to elaborate a feedback mechanism for comments should be included in the new action plan.

2. Elaboration of a Public Information Module and Simplification of Access to Information on Parliamentary Activities

Current Situation: The Order of the Chairperson of Parliament of Georgia N132/3, dated December 31, 2013, on Approval of Procedure for Proactive Disclosure of Public Information and Standards for Electronic Request of Public Information sets a list of information that shall be published on the Parliament website. However, the Order does not include an obligation to publish information in open data format. The published information is also not structured, which complicates its search and subsequent use.

The Order also does not provide modern standards for electronic request of public information. Meanwhile, in accordance with Commitment 3.1 (posting documents on the Parliament website in an editable format) of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016, it is necessary to post documents on the Parliament website in user friendly, easily editable formats (for example: HTML/MS Word) and minimize publication of PDF documents.

IDFI Recommendation: IDFI recommends creating an integrated module on the Parliament website, where the information defined by the Order of the Chairperson will be published in user friendly (including open data) format, and where the module for electronic request of information will be implemented.

In addition, the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance should be given the authority to annually define the list of additional information and databases that may become accessible by means of this module (e.g., registry of petitions received during the year, registry of draft laws, registry of sessions missed by MPs, database of Parliament visitors, registry of MP expenditures during international visits and so forth).

This module should also include a mechanism for receiving public feedback through opinion polls. This mechanism will help the Council define the information that is important for citizens.

3. Elaboration of a Public Information Reports Monitoring System

Current Situation: In accordance with Chapter 3 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia, each year, on December 10, all public institutions are obligated to submit the so called “December 10 Report” – Public Information Report to the Parliament, the President and the Prime Minister and publish it in the Legislative Herald of Georgia. Submission of this report makes it easier for the government (Parliament, President, and Prime Minister) and the civil society to control the accessibility of public information and the transparency and accountability of public institutions.

Unfortunately, research conducted by IDFI and other non-governmental organizations revealed that year after year only the number of information requests changes in these reports, without improvement of existing flaws. In most cases, data included in the reports is incomplete, does not comply with the requirements of the General Administrative Code of Georgia and, therefore, does not reflect the real situation regarding freedom of information. Submission of these reports is only formal in nature and neither legislative nor executive bodies generalize, study, monitor or supervise the data included in these reports.

IDFI Recommendation: IDFI suggests elaborating a parliamentary oversight mechanism that will facilitate monitoring of the reports submitted by public institutions. A platform where public institutions will post their data in accordance with the requirements of the December 10 reports will give the Parliament an opportunity to simplify the processing and generalization of this data, produce and publish relevant statistics and prepare a report.

At the same time, citizens and stakeholders will be able to detect irregularities or discrepancies in the submitted reports and request clarification, correction of the data or, in case of intentional falsification of information, request the use of relevant sanctions. This platform will become an important preventive mechanism in terms of increasing the effectiveness of public information reports and carrying out parliamentary oversight activities.

4. Elaboration of a Public Petitions System

Current Situation: Petition is a written request of a group of individuals, which concerns state or general problems and is submitted to the Chairperson of the Parliament. Upon submission, a petition is registered in a special registration journal. It is forwarded to a relevant committee or interim commission for consideration, which makes one of the following decisions: 1. Reviews the petition at the plenary session of the Parliament; 2. Forwards the petition to the relevant ministry, agency; 3. Deems it unreasonable to discuss the petition.

In order to discuss the petition at the plenary session of the Parliament, relevant committee or interim commission presents a conclusion on petition to the Bureau of the Parliament. In the event the petition is sent to the ministry or other relevant agency, within one month, the latter introduces the decision to the author of petition or relevant committee or interim commission. After review of the petition, the Parliament adopts a decree, resolution or other decision.

According to the official data, from December 20, 2012 until July 12, 2016, only 19 petitions were registered in the name of the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia. This number points to a significant lack of trust and awareness of the society in relation to this important mechanism of civil participation and parliamentary oversight.

Recommendation: IDFI suggests creating an electronic mechanism for submission and tracking of petitions Based on best international practice (e.g., New Zealand, Germany, UK).