In 2022, the city that enables the easiest public control is Partizánske, while the most obstructions for active citizens are created by Nová Dubnica.
The sixth city transparency ranking, that Transparency International Slovakia started publishing in 2010, has brought the best results in its entire history. As many as 74 out of one hundred largest city administrations have managed to improve – at least a little bit – on their ranking. Their average score has exceeded 63%, which is a jump by 6 percentage points when compared to 2018. City administrations still lag behind self-governing regions when it comes to openness, as the average score of the latter is 69%.
The transparency ranking does not serve to measure the level of services, efficiency of public finance management or corruption. However, the more open to public scrutiny a particular administration is, the easier citizens find it to participate in public affairs and to point out to potential shortcomings and failures. We cannot assess the quality of work done by our representatives in local governments unless key decisions are taken in front of the public and not behind closed doors of inaccessible offices.
While four years ago only two towns got A+, the highest possible transparency rating, this year there are already five of them. The city that provides the highest level of transparency to its citizens in 2022 is Partizánske, having achieved almost 88%; the second place goes to the former winner of the ranking, Vranov nad Topľou, with more than 86%, followed by Stará Turá with 84%. Another two towns with the highest ratings are Prievidza (83%) and Rožňava (81%).
Most of frontrunners are thus smaller self-administrations – Stará Turá with 8,500 inhabitants actually belongs to the tiniest towns selected for the ranking. Moreover, this town is one of the three ranking jumpers, as it has managed to improve on its position by 72 notches and almost 33 percentage points. When measured by the place reached, the biggest climb is reported by Šamorín (from No. 96 to No. 17), while the city that has achieved the most considerable improvement in terms of score is Humenné (from less than 32% to almost 67%).
As for regional capitals that benefit from larger budgets and higher numbers of employees, they have taken places all across the ranking: from Banská Bystrica taking 6th place to Prešov ranking quite a bit lower, on 33rd place.
Nová Dubnica with 35% can be currently considered the least open town when it comes to public control. It has failed or reached poor results in as many as 8 out of 11 assessed areas.
Categories that have shown the best results for municipalities are Land-use planning and the local planning authority; Access to information and Budget and contracts – evaluated cities have scored on average more than 75% in these areas. However, individual categories have considerably different weights in the ranking (see table below).
In practical terms it means that as many as 9 out of 10 towns publish notices or decisions taken in building-permit or land-use procedures in some form on their websites; 8 out 10 publish materials for their municipal council deliberations in advance and 9 out of 10 local city governments seek to present their budget to citizens using a comprehensible language.
Among areas showing the weakest outcomes are Ethics and conflicts of interest; Subsidies and grants (41% each) and Sale and lease of property (38%). Inconsistent practice to disclose asset declarations of members of municipal councils (in September 2022, only 37% of municipalities shared relevant declarations concerning the previous year), no specific criteria for awarding grants for culture or sport (as much as 56% of towns) or missing sections dedicated to results of tenders to sell or lease property (this has been the case in one third of towns) are a few negative examples from these areas.
It is gratifying that improvement can be seen in 75 out of 103 year-on-year comparable indicators. This year’s ranking edition includes 109 such indicators.
There are several indicators across all areas of public scrutiny that are worth highlighting. During the pandemics there was again a significant rise in the number of cities that share video or audio recordings from municipal council meetings. We have currently failed to find them only in 11 out of 100 largest cities. In 2018 there were 28 towns with no such recordings. There has also been an increase in the number of self-administration bodies that use tools for participative budgeting where citizens themselves decide which community projects will receive part of municipal money. 39 out of 100 towns make use of such tools today. 57% of municipalities under assessment have Ethical Code for elected representatives in place, while last time there were only 38%.
The ranking points out to problematic areas as well. When it comes to recruitment of clerks and executive officers, cities use selection procedures in less than 60% and 85% cases respectively. More than two thirds of municipalities do not transparently share information on remunerations of city council members. Only half of towns have a routine of making deliberations of various council boards open for public as well. Whistleblowing has not taken root either – there are only 12 municipalities that have had at least one complaint since 2019.
Same as with the raking of self-governing regions, our evaluation has also included the new question related to open data. There are 51 out of 100 towns that have been publishing at least a minimum of datasets complying with standards that allow for making visualisations or applications. Greater progress in this respect has been made by larger cities, especially by Bratislava, Košice, Prešov and Trnava.
We have used five different sources when putting together the ranking: websites of cities, questionnaires sent to municipal authorities, municipal media, information from web portals of the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO) or Electronic Contracting System (EKS), as well as questions raised by common citizens. Our test of municipal organisations has brought particularly negative results. We submitted inforequests via one of our co-workers to selected social service facilities and cultural organisations, asking for a simple piece of information on their costs of cleaning services. As many as 54% of these institutions made no reply, which is a violation of the law.
We believe measuring transparency of self-administrations is an effective tool on the way towards higher-quality public control that narrows down the space for unfair practices. However, it is in no way possible to conclude that when a municipality achieves worse results in the ranking there is automatically corruption, and vice versa. You can find detailed evaluation results, including analytical functions, on the portal http://samosprava.transparency.sk.
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“The project ‘Aktívnym občianstvom ku kvalitnejšej samospráve (With Active Citizenship for a Better Self-government)’ is supported from the ACF – Slovakia programme, which is funded from the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021. The programme is managed by Ekopolis Foundation in partnership with Open Society Foundation Bratislava and Carpathian Foundation.”