NGO study suggests Slovenian government is failing to deliver on promises
Umanotera is an non-governmental organisation promoting sustainable development in Slovenia. In a rare study that it conducted last year, it assessed whether the government had delivered on the promises it makes in its policy programme. It also explored to what extent the public interest is considered in the process of drafting new legislation. The NGO has no presented the results of the "Mirror to the Government 2006" study, and as Ksenija Samardzija Matul reports, they were not pretty:
The worst grades went to the Ministry of Education when it came to including the public in drafting material for new laws. The Labour Ministry, by contrast, ranked highest. The director of Umanotera, Vida Ogorelec Wagner, explained that the lack of cooperation was one of the reasons why the Ministry of Education received low marks, Vida Ogorelec Wagner:
"I must say that the ministry of education of sports was not responsive and partly the low grades they received were a result of their lack to submit the questionnaires that all the other ministries did."
The project began as a response to the government committing itself last year to the active inclusion of the public in drafting legislation. I asked Mrs. Wagner to tell us more about the methodology of the project:
"Considering that this is a pilot project as far as we know, not only in Slovenia but also internationally, we were left to our own resources to come up with a methodology. But we based our indicators on cases of good practice. Parts of them are targeting the general environment of communication with the civil society and support for the civil society on behalf of the ministries but the majority of them focused on the process of the preparation of acts by ministries from the very beginning of the process to the closing of the process through the various steps."
And what were the main problems the ministries encountered during the long path of drafting new legislation, Vida Ogorelec Wagner:
"One of the conclusions was precisely that there are great differences between ministries but also within ministries there seems to be no consistent practice. Somehow the government is lacking a unified common approach and then the ministries as well as people, civil servants who are involved in this are left to their own resources they don't have proper guidelines, they are not educated properly as to how to implement the public participation process. One observation was that the early participation is very, very rare."
Ogorelec Wagner explained that Umanotera had also offered recommendations to the government on how to improve current practices, Vesna Ogorelec Wagner:
"Possible solutions that the government could adopt at a horizontal level such as investing in training of civil servants, of preparing common guidelines that would be more specific how to design these processes, how to implement them and how to evaluate them so that we can learn from them. We also proposed a common website, this is quite common practice in the west, where all public participation processes are open, are posted in one central point."
Another central point in improving the situation is to encourage earlier public participation. But what was the feedback of the ministries after the publication of the result of the project »Mirror to the government 2006«:
"We did receive quite a comprehensive feedback from the ministry of public administration, which is in charge of contacts with the civil society and also in charge of the procedures on behalf of the whole government and partly the blame was given to previous governments and a lack of this culture of public participation in the civil service in the previous years. We have to accept that this is the case."
Another result of the project is that during the period of harmonization of EU legislation, which was extremely intense on a very tight time schedule, participation had to be limited because Slovenia was on a very tight schedule to meet those targets of harmonisation of legislation, which actually discouraged good practise. But why did some ministries in Slovenia do better than others? Vida Ogorelec Wagner:
"For one is the support to the centre the channels it has for communicating but then also the specific acts we monitored. I must say though, considering the small sample of the acts that we followed in this respect, perhaps the scores for ministries are not fair on an individual basis. But the general conclusions definitely stand as they are."