GONG previous initiatives related to transparent work of public institutions
Transparency of local parliamentary assemblies (city, municipality and county councils/assemblies)
In March 2001 GONG sent amendment to all parties relating the new Draft Law on Local and Regional Self-government and introduced with several MPs the amendment on public presence at local parliamentary assemblies’ sessions. Unfortunately, amendment was not accepted by the parliamentary majority and the Law was adopted in April.
During the summer, GONG sent to all local bodies a suggestion to open their doors to the public as Parliament had already done, by including an article about citizens’ presence at these sessions into their local Standing Orders. Presence at sessions would enable citizens to become acquainted and directly observe the work of their local parliamentary assembly.
Regional offices contacted all local bodes several times and tried to research the issue and at the beginning of July 2002 the initiative ended. Here are results:
– From total of 20 contacted counties, we received 16 statutes or rules of procedures
– From total of 123 contacted cities, we received 80 statutes or rules of procedures
– From total of 419 contacted municipalities, we received 159 statutes or rules of procedures
in which we found satisfactory article about publicity of work.
As a part of this initiative we conducted action for re-opening session of Municipality of Fericanci and action for re-opening sessions of Pozesko-Slavonska County Government.
In October 2002, GONG submitted to the Constitutional Court question for legal opinion: is it necessary to include in the Law on local and regional self-government an article about publicity of the local bodies’ sessions? Constitutional Court declined competence for giving legal opinion.
In spring 2003 we introduced members of Committee for Local and Regional Self-government with a lack of provision in the Law. It was said to be amended as soon as the Law reenters parliamentary procedure.
In November 2005, the Law was amended with clear regulation on public presence at local parliamentary assemblies’ sessions.
Initiative for public session of Committee for Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System on political parties’ financial reports
In January 2002, Committee for Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System held a session where they concluded that political parties which received funding from the state budget are obliged to submit official annual financial reports for the year 2001 to the Committee, in accordance with the Law on political parties.
As GONG believes that transparency of financing political parties is one of the most important issues in Croatia, we started an initiative for public session of Committee where financial reports can be discussed. The public session on party’s financial reports has not been scheduled and will be held only if members of the Committee conclude that there is a need for that. Committee has not yet received financial reports from all political parties.
In February 2003 GONG again requested the Committee to hold a public debate on received financial reports. Committee has reached a conclusion that each next session for allocating funds should begin with public debate on financial reports.
In January 2004 GONG again requested that a Committee’s conclusion from previous year should be taken into consideration and respected. However, this did not happen. GONG then requested that copies of all submitted financial reports received so far should be presented to the public.
At the end of 2004, GONG conducted an analysis of Parliamentary political parties’ annual financial reports for 2003. The analysis continued also for 2004 and 2005
Initiative for rules that regulate Transparency of Work of Croatian Parliament
Secretary General of the Parliament invited GONG in the beginning of 2002 to join in drafting rules that regulate transparency of work of the Parliament. New Rules on Transparency will incorporate detailed provisions about presence of the representatives of citizen’s groups, NGO’s and single citizens on Parliamentary Sessions as well as organized visits of groups of citizens to the Parliament, which was incited by GONG’s Open Parliament Program. A detailed procedure of requesting permission for such visits was set, without unnecessary restrictions towards citizens. We managed to insert a provision on free access to transcripts and official records of the Parliamentary and Committee sessions. Everyone will be able to request and get permission for insight in these materials through the Secretariat of the Parliament.
At the beginning of 2004, one MP and member of Committee for Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System approached GONG in order to move on with this idea. We were again asked for inputs on draft rules, and draft was given supports by the Committee. Finally, after 3 years, the rules have been adopted.
GONG requested amendments to Standing Orders of Croatian Parliament
After finding out from the media in November 2004 that certain steps have been taken in order to amend Standing Orders of Croatian Parliament, GONG addressed all Parliament caucuses, members of Committee for Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System and Speakers of Parliament for a second time requesting to include clear criteria regarding external members of Parliamentary Committees.
According to the Provisions of Standing Orders out of 24 Parliamentary Committees, at present only 11 of them have external members. In current version of Standing Orders there are no criteria according to which some committees have external members and others not, for example it is unclear why Committee on the Family, Youth and Sports, Physical Planning and Environmental Protection Committee, Gender Equality Committee or the War Veterans Committee do not have external members coming from experts since these committees are dealing with specific matters.
Also, there are no clear criteria of selection of external members which in the end damages the image and transparency of work of Croatian Parliament.
Subsequently, GONG requested from members of Parliament while considering amendments to Standing Orders to also take into account these modifications:
1. Including clear criteria regarding parliamentary committees with right to appoint external members in order to improve quality of work thanks to expert contributions and help from external members and to absorb large quantities of material that MPs have to deal with. (in 5th mandate total of 1382 topics on agenda were discussed and 622 laws and 4 Constitutional Laws were passed);
2. Defining transparent process and criteria of appointment of external members with public announcement for a call for proposals of candidates and the process of selection in order to avoid speculations about the manner of appointing external members (e.g. during selection of external members of committees for the 6th mandate, 26% of them were candidate outside legal time limits)
With the aim to advance and strengthen the work of Croatian Parliament, especially in the period of harmonizing legislation with EU acquis communautaire, GONG expresses hope that Members of Parliament will take the above stated comments and arguments into account.
GONG’s requests have not been accepted, but will be sent again to the Parliament for additional review.
Initiative for making entire paper content of Croatian Official Gazette available on the Internet
After starting the initiative and collecting signatures on the petition, petition was submitted to the Government of the Republic of Croatia on May 13 2004 with 1725 private and 99 legal persons signed. It contained appeal to the Official Gazette, as well as to the Government, to allow the entire paper content of Croatian Official Gazette available on the Internet.
There is a great difference in paper and Internet content of the Official Gazette because on the Internet, there is no data on:
– Public tenders on concessions;
– Public discussions;
– Public tenders on rent of office space;
– Public tenders on positions in state administration;
– Information on trade companies;
– Information on annulment of documents;
– Information on liquidations;
– Information on bankruptcies;
– Judicial announcements;
– Announcements of enrolment in judicial registers.
Considering great interest of many users who want to read this content on the Internet as well, and the fact that the Official Gazette is the only paper that issues such information in Croatia, we believe that it is in the interest of all citizens and their legal security to display the entire content of the Official Gazette on the Internet.
! On January 1, 2005, Official Gazette decided to display the entire content of the Official Gazette on its web site free of charge!
Rules for Volunteer Program for students and young professionals in Croatian Parliament
Thanks to GONG Internship program, which has rapidly developed during 2001, in January 2001 Sabor’s General Secretary invited GONG to take part in developing a Volunteer Program for students and young professionals in Croatian Parliament. All GONG suggestions and advices were accepted. GONG’s main goal was to ensure the keystones for future development of this program thru its regular implementation by University of Zagreb’s.
Amending the new Constitutional law on Constitutional Court
As the new Constitutional law on Constitutional court was being prepared in 2001, GONG suggested to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System to include the criteria about transparent elections of candidates into Constitutional Court following previous GONG-Constitutional Court initiative: public display of biographies, public hearing of candidates, presence of citizens at hearings and public adjudication about acceptance and dismissal of candidates. Of all above mentioned, public hearing of candidates and public adjudication about acceptance and dismissal of candidates were included into the new Law. The law does not proscribe the presence of citizens and other interested parts but the Committee grants it.
This initiative from 2001 aimed to change regulations in Parliament’s Standing Orders: improvement of working conditions for MPs (setting parliamentary agenda at least 15 days prior to the session, all working materials delivered at least 8 days prior to the session, providing MPs’ with their own offices), improving communication between MPs and voters by giving them financial means to travel to their constituencies; introducing public justification notes when MPs are unable to be present in the session room and imposing fines for those who are never present and creating MPs’ Code of conduct. GONG also suggested introducing a civic initiative that would, depending on the number of registered voters, introduce an opportunity for citizens to be directly involved in proposing bills to the Parliament. In spite of huge support from MPs and the media, not one “Orange amendment” was incorporated in Standing Orders. Nevertheless, poor working conditions in the Parliament became an issue. As new changes to Standing Orders have been announced by the Parliament, GONG intends to continue proposing “Orange amendments”.
“Newspapers to the people”
After “Narodne novine” (People’s Newspapers, Croatian Official Gazette), a publicly owned company, decided in 2001 to charge access to their web page, GONG started an Internet petition in order to make all laws in Croatian free of charge for all citizens. As there was no response from “Narodne novine” GONG decided to publish all Croatian laws on its web page, dating from 1991 under the name «Newspapers to the people». After a couple of days, “Narodne novine” changed their initial decision and allowed free access to their web pages again. As their search engine is still not free of charge, GONG decided to keep its search engine on our web page. Doing a free search on www.gong.hr/novine_narodu , citizens can find any law on “Narodne novine” web page.
Initiative for transparent elections of judges of the Constitutional Court
GONG has started the Initiative for transparent elections of new members of the Constitutional Court during 2001. As newly accepted Constitutional law on Constitutional Court has proscribed this procedure to be taken at Parliamentary Committee for Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System, GONG has, in accordance with its attitude towards transparent work of public institutions, suggested following key points to the Committee: public display of biographies, advanced definition of criteria, definition of “outstanding lawyer” provision, public hearing of candidates, presence of citizens at hearings and public adjudication about acceptance and dismissal of candidates. Of all abovementioned suggestions, public hearing of candidates and public adjudication about acceptance and dismissal of candidates were accepted.
During 2007 and 2008, GONG was actively following the procedure of the election and public hearings of the judge candidates of the Constitutional Court. GONG has been called upon Croatian Parliament to carry out the process of the election of the Constitutional Court with quality and properly giving more time to public to judge and discuss the candidates and their competence.
“Who is my MP?”
Through informative flyers during 2000 GONG has informed citizens about the names of each electoral unit’s MPs, helping them to improve mutual communication.
“Open Parliament” for citizens
After parliamentary elections in 2000, GONG proposed to the Parliament opening of the Parliament gallery for interested citizens who would like to be present at the Parliament sessions and parliament citizens’ sightseeing. Both proposals were accepted and since then all citizens, upon previous announcement, can observe parliament session or visit Parliament in Monday Tours.