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Novi Pazar, Sombor and Veliko Gradište the Most Transparent Local Governments in 2023

lti kzn 01Novi Pazar, Sombor and Veliko Gradište are the most transparent local governments in 2023 according to the Local Transparency Index published today by Transparency Serbia, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since 2015, the Index has been measuring the transparency of all 145 local governments and 25 city municipalities in Serbia and tracks trends over time. 

"These three local governments worked hard to increase transparency in their operations… And I sincerely hope that other local governments can, and will, apply some of those changes and improvements to better serve their own communities – because as we know – there is always room for improvement, "said Ms. Brooke Isham, USAID Serbia Mission Director.

As in 2022, the strongest overall performers were the cities of Novi Pazar and Sombor, with respective scores of 94 and 84. They are joined by the municipality of Veliko Gradište in third place, with a score of 82. One of the most concerning trends is a decrease in transparency in the work of local self-government bodies in the biggest cities in Serbia (Belgrade, Niš, Novi Sad), which serve the largest population and manage the largest local budgets.

The 2023 results showed higher transparency scores in almost two thirds (65%) of municipalities, compared to 2022. The most marked improvements concern local budgets and publication of information booklets. On the other hand, a third of municipalities registered lower scores compared to 2022. The most critical decline concerns public procurement and is related to legislative changes in 2020 that require local governments to publish information about procurements only on the centralized electronic Public Procurement Portal and no longer on local websites. The work of local parliaments and councils remains the least transparent among governance bodies.

"The importance of transparency for the prevention of corruption cannot be overstated. At the same time, it is equally important to have in mind that even the highest level of transparency does not warrant that corruption will not occur – it just facilitates the identification of potential corruption risks. Transparency Serbia is glad that the new draft national Anti-Corruption Strategy recognizes both the importance of transparency of local governments and the Local Transparency Index as a tool to measure it. We would be even more glad if good practices that we identified in some cities and municipalities are replicated on the national level, in particular when it comes to data on budget spending and publishing of data on small value procurements, "said Mr. Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia.

The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Protection of Personal Data, Milan Marinović, who addressed the audience via video link, stated that the transparency indices of local self-governments are growing year by year, that the TS research is clearly yielding results and that local self-governments are becoming more transparent. He added that it is particularly important results in the field of Information booklet have been improving and that authorities, in the first full calendar year of the application of the new single Information System, published more than 7,000 on the Commissioner's website, which made information about their work more accessible and transparent.

Nihat Biševac, the mayor of Novi Pazar, the first-placed local self-government for the second year in a row, assessed that there is still room for improvement despite the continuity in the results. "By increasing transparency, we gain citizens' trust, and we want them to participate in decision-making, especially when it comes to the adoption of the budget and the way of spending their money."

Ljiljana Tica, the deputy mayor of Sombor – LSG in the second position for the third time in a row, said that she and her colleagues "have seen how much transparency in their work means to the citizens, especially regarding the budget". In deciding how to spend budget, this LSG included students and local communities, who can vote directly on the best way to spend the money intended for them".

For the first time, a member of the "Big LTI Three" and with the best results in some areas of research - Veliko Gradište is an LSG in which, according to the mayor of the municipality Dragan Milić, the motive of the employees was not only competition but the desire to establish cooperation with the citizens, particularly, as well, when it comes to the budget. "Our goal is that there is no wall between us and the citizens, and transparency is a mechanism for others to see how we work."

Recording of the press conference (in Serbian): 




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