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Saving Public Resources – A Leaking Ship

This project aims to use the synergy of Transparency Serbia and CINS’ efforts in order to contribute to the reduction of waste and misuse of public resources by highlighting the need for transparency and high-quality information together with actively engaged citizens.

Project duration: 24 months

Specific objectives of this project are:

1) To inform and educate the general and professional public about the waste/misuse of public resources and the consequences it leaves on the community while engaging them in broader debate and encouraging them to get further involved in finding solutions;

2) To improve the knowledge and research capabilities of journalists, civil society representatives, active citizens, public institutions representatives, and other interested groups to investigate, report on, and monitor the situation related to the waste/misuse of public resources;

3) To influence reforms aimed to prevent/identify mechanisms of wasting/misusing public resources.

Publishing investigative stories

CINS will produce and intensively promote five investigative stories on the misuse of public funds within the broader topics of the six thematic areas that TS will be focused on within the project.

 

Publishing of short films

CINS will produce five short films (10 to 15 minutes long) on topics related to the six thematic areas explored in Transparency Serbia analytical papers. Short films will be done in a documentary fashion with a human-interest component exploring and analyzing the impact of misuse of public finances on the lives of ordinary people.

 

Publishing podcasts

CINS will produce five 20 to 30 minutes long audio podcast episodes, to be recorded in the field, as well as in the studio of Podcast.rs. Topics of each episode will be in strong relation to six thematic areas that have previously been identified, but each podcast episode will bring new topics, not covered by investigative stories or short films.

 

Online training for journalists

CINS will organize three 3-day long online training sessions in investigative journalism, each  for 10 journalists and civil society representatives. Training will be held by CINS journalists (with extensive experience as trainers and mentors), together with experts from Transparency Serbia, who will have slots about specific problems with the waste and misuse of public funds. After each training is completed, participants willing to investigate further will have full support from Transparency Serbia in the form of guidance and consultations.

Drafting and publishing of Comprehensive Guide

Development of comprehensive publication on mechanisms for the waste/misuse of public resources in six selected areas, which will be presented to the citizens, journalists, and professional public in a popular and user-friendly manner as a guide on “How to plunder public resources in six different ways” (ironical working title). TS team will identify possible topics based on citizens’ inputs, existing knowledge and experiences, findings of EU and other international and national reports (official, expert, media), findings of relevant researches (e.g. Open Budget Index), and weaknesses in the legal system identified in previous projects of Transparency Serbia.

 

Conference to promote Comprehensive Guide and media products of CINS 

Once the Comprehensive Guide on mechanisms for waste/misuse of public resources is published (digital and in print), it will be additionally promoted at the conference for representatives of media and other stakeholders in Belgrade.

Workshops for promotion of Comprehensive Guide and education of CSOs and other stakeholders on the local level

The three one-day workshops will be organized on the local level, in three regional centers (preliminary: Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Nis). TS representatives will present the Guide, explain mechanisms of public resource plundering, invite participants to discuss the ways of preventing the exposed mechanisms, as well as discuss what they can do about it and how. Representatives of CINS will support such discussion by introducing participants to skills and tools useful for investigating public resource plundering and obtaining evidence of wrongdoing.

Workshops for stakeholders

Three workshops will be organized in Belgrade with representatives of relevant institutions (depending on topics to be discussed) and CSOs. We want to open discussion within the communities of experts, practitioners, and policy-makers, about monitoring findings and six policy papers by TS and their possible engagement in resolving problems identified.

 

 

Conference to present project findings, recommendations, and online game

The conference will be “final” in terms of conclusions and recommendations resulting from the monitoring of developments in six selected areas of public resource plundering, but will also serve as an opportunity for further engagement of stakeholders during the rest of project implementation. The conference will gather participants from all the project target groups and will be held in Belgrade as a half-day event. The event will consist of an opening session and two thematic ones: 1) presentation of findings from the monitoring conducted by TS, six policy papers with recommendations and advocacy activities (e.g. proposals for amendments in legislation), 2) Promotion of the online game developed by CINS. The event will also be an opportunity to promote MATRA and support from the Embassy as the Ambassador will be invited to speak in the opening part.

Publishing online game

The online game builds on the previous one that CINS created in 2018 with great success among the public. The game titled “The Good, The Bad, and The Corrupt” explored the topic of abuses in public procurements in a fun and engaging way.

Monitoring of developments in the selected areas of potential waste/misuse of public resources and reporting of identified wrongdoings

TS will monitor developments in six selected areas of potential public resource plundering on a relevant sample of cases. In the initial phase, the monitoring will aim to support the development of the Comprehensive Guide. After publishing the document, TS will continue to monitor developments in all areas covered by The Guide. Monitoring will serve to identify the extent to which patterns and signs of mechanisms of public resource plundering elaborated in the Guide are visible/recognizable in the implementation of such procedures in practice. Where the monitoring of various processes and documents related to the public finances results in the identification of wrongdoing, TS will submit relevant legal initiatives to an institution in charge. TS (and CINS if relevant for media products) will follow the outcome of these reports. Findings obtained during the monitoring process will be summarized in policy papers. Following the publication of each policy paper, monitoring of developments in that area will continue in order to track the effects of submitted reports, charges, complaints, etc, and also to track developments in the field.

Detailed analyses of mechanisms for the waste/misuse of public resources and development of analytical/policy papers - six papers

Findings of monitoring will be summarized in policy papers and accompanied by recommendations to resolve identified problems. Recommendations may address deficiencies of the legal system, practices of public authorities, and their capacities. Unlike the Comprehensive Guide, which seeks to trigger the interest of the broader public, policy papers will elaborate on the same phenomenons with deeper expertise, intended for professionals, experts, and decision-makers. Each policy paper (e-document) will be delivered to the representatives of institutions analyzed in the sample, in charge of taking remedial action and implementing recommendations. Policy papers will be distributed to a wide list of potential stakeholders from various target groups (CSOs, international organizations, media, active citizens, professionals, and business sector representatives). Each policy paper will be accompanied by related infographic presenting the most relevant findings and used for further promotional activities.

 

Legal initiatives

Having in mind the nature of the reform agenda of Serbia, related either to EU integration Cluster 1 commitments and recommendations of EC, or to the ongoing reform of the financial system, opportunities for CSOs to influence the content of draft laws can be reasonably expected. It is, however, not possible to predict when such a legislative consultation process might take place and what laws exactly will be prioritized by the new Government of Serbia. So, the concrete initiatives of TS (it would be against professional neutrality policies of CINS, as a media outlet, to conduct one) might be in the form of proposals submitted during the public debate about the draft law (submitted to the ministry that organized such debate), in the form of amendments to the legislative proposal of the Government (submitted to the MP groups and independent MPs), or in the form of contribution for the development of the legislative or policy proposal (if representatives of TS are part of the working group that drafts the document). The legal initiative will be promoted by all means used within this project. In order to create more pressure on decision-makers, we will seek direct support from other relevant CSOs in order to engage citizens of Serbia to contribute to necessary reforms and organize an online petition for the support of our proposals, informing decision-makers about its results. 

Billboard campaign

Billboards or other forms of outdoor advertising will be placed in front or near the institutions/organizations/enterprises identified by our research as potentially involved in plundering public resources, or responsible to react. Messages on the billboards will promote “easy steps for plundering resources” from our Guide, and findings of the monitoring, pointing to specific findings related to the institution/state-owned enterprise/organization. The content of the billboard campaign will be decided by the project team during the implementation, with the support of external media experts/designers.

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