Participation and Transparency Increase in Local Governments…

Participation and Transparency Increase in Local Governments

The Strategic Local Governance Project, which is carried out by the General Directorate of Local Administrations of the Ministry of Interior, with the co-financing of the European Union and the Republic of Turkey, aimed at ensuring transparency in public services and participation of the public in the decision-making processes, has completed its second year of implementarion. In these days when the closing date of the project was approaching, we received information about the project content, implementation process and outputs from the beneficiary institution and the team that provided technical support in the implementation of the project.

The project, which started its activities in August 2011, consists of activities aimed at implementing democratic governance, formation of transparent, accountable and effective local governments that provide services to the citizens and increasing the participation of the people in the decision-making processes.

In this context, the activities of the project were carried out under three components. The first component aims to strengthen the participatory strategic planning capacities of local governments and to develop and use participatory analytical tools to increase efficiency and transparency..

For the development and dissemination together with local governments of participatory analytical tools consisting of three tools, citizen report cards, socioeconomic mapping and budget monitoring, more than 5000 local government and civil society representatives were reached through more than 50 trainings, meetings and workshops held in 26 cities.

Citizen report cards, which stand out within the scope of local participation tools, aim to measure citizen satisfaction and service expectations. Citizen report cards are not only data collection activities, but also a tool that encourages local governments to fulfill their accountability through the widespread media and civil society advocacy accompanying the process. By systematically collecting and disseminating public feedback, it enables citizens to reliably and collectively signal public service providers about their performance and motivate them for change.

The citizen report card is handled in a framework that evaluates the services used by the households, measures the quality of the services, determines the variables such as satisfaction with the service, access and use, and monitors the spatial differentiation within the city regarding urban services.

The citizen report survey, which was completed with a field study in which more than 15,000 household surveys were conducted in Adana, Antalya, Kocaeli, Malatya, Mardin and Trabzon, was carried out to measure citizens’ satisfaction with and access to public services. The results of the citizen report survey were shared with the public at the meetings hosted by the city councils of the provinces in question, and then it was discussed how consistent the allocations in the 2013 budget were with these results.

In addition to the citizen report cards, meetings were held with the headmen in the city centers in order to form a basis for socio-economic mapping studies aimed at understanding the quality of the services provided in different parts of 20 cities and the social and economic situation of the cities. In the meetings held with the participation of more than 1000 mukhtars, a voting was held in which the mukhtar determined their priorities regarding their own neighborhoods. Ballot boxes were created under 8 service headings: urban structures, common areas, transportation, cleaning and environmental health, social services, social assistance and cultural services, education, health and safety. With this voting, which aimed to contribute to the service planning of municipalities and central government institutions through the service priorities highlighted in the ballot boxes, it was also possible to determine to what extent the needs of local governments were met.

Within the scope of the project, studies are also carried out to develop strategic planning legislation for more effective strategic planning practices. For this purpose, joint workshops were held with the participation of representatives of 26 cities. In these workshops held in 7 cities, local stakeholders contributed to the preparation of legislative proposals. The prominent topics in these meetings were the revision of strategic plans at regular intervals, the leadership of the plan preparation guides in the process, the participation of internal and external stakeholders during the plan preparation period, and the active role of city councils and NGOs under this roof in the plan process. In addition to these suggestions, the work on the strategic planning guide for local governments continues to progress with the contributions of the representatives of the General Directorate of Local Administrations.

In order to disseminate these studies throughout the country, handbooks on participation tools are prepared in the light of the contributions of the Joint Working Group formed with the representatives of other relevant ministries and institutions and the information obtained from local practices.

Within the scope of the efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the city councils, which is the second component of the project, more than 3500 city council and civil society representatives were trained. The training program was created according to the results of the needs analysis study carried out through questionnaires with the support of local governments and city councils. In the trainings given by foreign and local experts who have carried out similar studies in Turkey and in various regions of the world, the importance of citizens’ participation in local government processes, the ways to ensure participation, how the city councils can be made more effective and the methods that should be used in all these processes, were explained.

Another activity carried out within the scope of the component was the benchmarking study, which is a learning tool used by the private sector and government institutions around the world to increase their performance and productivity. In the first stage of the benchmarking study, which was implemented with the participation of 28 local governments and aimed at increasing the quality of the services provided by local governments, the areas where sample applications would be carried out were determined with the participation of local government representatives. Data on property tax collection, business and work permits, building permits and occupancy permits, water and sewerage services, and solid waste management services were collected through a website specially prepared for the benchmarking study and analyzed by experts. In the joint workshops held afterwards, these data were compared by meeting with local government representatives and the way was opened for local governments to benefit from each other’s best practices.

Another important part of the project activities was the development of participatory decision-making culture at the local level. In this context, it was aimed to increase transparency and participation by encouraging local government representatives to give a voice to city councils in decision-making processes through budget discussion meetings held twice in each city. The budget discussion meetings, which are repeated twice, are of great importance as they aim to pave the way for the in-depth change in the attitudes of both local governments and non-governmental organizations, which is necessary for increasing participation in decision-making processes and ensuring transparency and accountability.

In this context, local awareness campaigns were also organized. Within the scope of the campaigns, a “Declaration of Good Governance” was prepared with the participation of civil society representatives in 26 cities. The document created on the basis of active participation, subsidiarity, effective local government understanding, transparency and accountability, sustainability, equality and social security, which are required by the governance principles of a city, will be presented to the local government representatives of 26 cities at the national conference to be held within the scope of the project.

At the same time, the project’s closure will be held at this conference, and it is aimed to deliver the project outputs to all segments of the society. In this context, the conference, where the participation of the mayors of the beneficiary cities as well as the local and central stakeholders is expected, will be held in Ankara on 24 – 25 September 2013.

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