Good governance, the glue of democracy

Zagreb, 26.04.2013. - Konferencija GONG-a "Pravo na dobru upravu u hrvatskoj praksi". Na slici (L-D) ministar pravosuða Orsat Miljeniæ, ministar uprave Arsen Bauk, predsjednik Vijeæa GONG-a Berto Šalaj i zamjenica izvršnog direktora GONG-a Jelena Berkoviæ. foto FaH/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIÆ/ lsd

Citizens have the right to good administration, working for the goal of maximising common good, and not particular interests of politicians alienated from citizens. The only meaningful solution for finding a way out of this situation is the cooperation of the entire society and good governance as the  glue without which there is no democracy – it was pointed out at the opening session at the conference “Right to Good Administration in Croatian Practice”, organized by GONG, whose Research Centre presented the results of the Index of Good Governance in Croatia (DUH Index).

“It is commonly known that we are living in the times of crisis with numerous aspects, but two are indisputable and relate to the economic and political crisis. The interesting question is – how do the media and politicians see these two types of crisis. Namely, the election turnout, not only in Croatia, is declining, as well as citizens’ trust in politicians and political institutions. Citizens are becoming less and less satisfied with the functioning of democracy. Moreover, an increasing number of citizens is starting to doubt the very principle of democracy, which is very dangerous, at the same time they are losing trust in politics as a sphere that should maximise the common good. For the majority of them it is a sphere where particular interests are maximised, cautioned Berto Šalaj, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences and the President of the GONG’s Council.

“The crisis requires certain solutions, and it is important to know that the economic crisis is a consequence of the political crisis, which occurred when the political class alienated itself from the citizens and when it started believing in the unlimited power of the market, in other words, when economy became more important than politics. In that context the present state should be overcome and the political crisis should be solved. The reform of the public administration is one of the ways to reinstall the citizens’ trust in the political class. The role of the civil society is similar,  it is not merely a watchdog that barks when the government is bad, but it also has a capacity to partner  with the political class in order to improve the present state”, Šalaj concluded.

Systematic disorder of the system

“Do not make people’s lives worse, if it is not absolutely necessary – this is how the public administration system should function”, as the Minister of Administration Arsen Bauk noticed jokingly. For now, in spite of all recent improvements, this is still not the case.  Minister Bauk reminded the participants of some problems he encountered within the system , such were the Register and the centralized payroll calculation system for employees in civil services.

A part of the problem, he said, lies in subjective problems which take form of obstruction by the ones who are not in favour of this regulated system, and the other part relates to objective technical problems. However, the plan is to end this story by end of 2014, the Minister announced and concluded that the State is craving for a regulated system: “Although systematic disorder ruled the system, we do not want to leave irrationality behind and the goal is to regulate as many things as possible, without discrepancies between laws. On occasion, civil organisations breathe down our neck, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not, but they push us to improve and to explain our decisions more easily, I personally, feel support more often than pressure”.

Bad judiciary system leads to bad economy

“Transparency is extremely important and is actually the only form of control of everything that is happening. Yet there are situations when the influence of the public on decision making should be avoided and judiciary system is in specific position.  Since the public is the only control of all processes, and here some steps forward were made, so from last week, for example the e-spis (e-file) functions are available on-line and citizens can see the status of their court procedures. The next in line should be the documents and that is one of the ways to fulfil the legal obligation to make judicial procedures public”, the Minister of Justice Orsat Miljenić stressed out.

He complained, wiping sweat from his face in expectancy of results of the Good Governance Index, as he said jokingly, that “the opposition to the amendments of the Law was strong due to a lack of understanding that the judiciary is also a service, paid by the tax payers and that the citizens have a right to expect that it functions. He also, warned of the emergence of feudalization, namely, the solutions for the same situation will vary depending on the location. Of course, in the judiciary, too, there is a perception and there will always be fifty percent of dissatisfied who lost a dispute, and that are convinced that they are right, and they will say that the judge was bribed, as well as the case when the procedures are long”.

“However, this is the case of lack of organisation, because corruption, although it exists,” the Minister admitted, “is still lower than perceived. However, the decline of trust exists, and the judiciary is a sensitive system in which this should not happen and good governance is one of the basic anti-corruption tools.  Moreover, there is a link, European studies show, between bad judiciary and consequences of bad economic results. Therefore this is one of the tools we will insist upon and combat against corruption will not stop with EU accession, namely, it will be possible to monitor the status through the European Semester, Schengen and through the monitoring of all European judicial systems which is being initiated, as well as through the report on corruption which will be issued every two years which will include Croatia as well. We should do all that and we will, as always, because of the problems we wish to solve and not in order to fulfil someone’s criteria”, the Minister Miljenić concluded.

Without good governance there is no democracy

According to the GONG’s research “Good Governance in Croatia – DUH” the Ministry of Public Administration, the Government Office for Cooperation with NGO’s and the Ministry of Tourism are the best governors in Croatia, . These acknowledgments to the least bad ones, considering the entire findings of the study, were awarded by Jurica Malčić, the former Ombudsman and the member of the GONG Council with the message: “Honesty, openness, transparency and responsibility of the administration towards the general public are the components of good governance. Without it there is no true democracy and opportunity for meaningful and full participation of citizens in democratic life. Therefore, it is necessary to highlight the success of the ones who did the most in this area. Often it is forgotten that the right to good administration is one of the basic rights according to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

“In Croatian circumstances good governance is possible, but it is necessary to approach the problem systematically, with political will in order to manage the public administration system efficiently. Therefore, we wanted to affirm good governance because it does not occur by chance, but is the result of political will. The state administration reform is a strategic project that will result in good governance”, Nives Miošić, the head of the GONG’s Research Center pointed out. She presented the results of the DUH Index  together with Marina Škrabalo from GONG and Mihaela Bronić from the Institute of Public Finance. You can access to the DUH database here.