Monitoring of public services at the local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina

EmailFacebookGoogle+LinkedInTwitterShare

joint efforts of civil society organizations (CSOs), citizens and local authorities

Authors: Emina Ahmetović, Project manager, UG EKOPOT and Sustainable Energy Working Group leader at DanubeNet for NGOs;
Edina Busovača, President of UG EKOPOT;
Edina Nožinović, Tuzla Municipal Attorney Office

Editor’s note: this article was prepared for the 23rd International Conference Danube – River of Cooperation

In recent decades, the focus is increasingly turning towards defining political responsibility for the results during the term of elected government where civil society organizations (CSOs) play one of the most important roles. Reasons for this are numerous, but the most imperative is the necessity of external control for the results achieved in post – election period.

For example, in pre-election programming platforms, we often witness questions of increasing unemployment, poor quality of public services, poor state of education and public health etc. Let us not ignore the fact – the more democratic society is, public accountability becomes mandatory and a must. It must be noted that responsibility is one of the principles of concept of good governance, in addition to efficiency, effectiveness, participation and transparency. These principles are complementary with the principles of the rule of law and openness, in essence completing the concept itself. It is hard to expect that a public institution is responsible if there is no possibility to review its work by citizens and other stakeholders.

When we look at the responsibility of the local government, we refer to responsibility for public affairs for which the local administration is directly or indirectly accountable to citizens and representatives of assemblies or councils. Here, we mean either full responsibility for individual jurisdiction or shared responsibility (where municipality or city shares with the higher level of government).

Responsibility for the provision of public services is defined by the European Charter of Local Self-Government that was adopted under the auspices of the Congress of the Council of Europe. BiH ratified the Charter in 2002.

The Law on principles of local self-government in FBiH in Article 2.,1 indicates that „the local government assumes the right and capacity within the limits of law, to regulate and manage certain public affairs under its own responsibility and in the interest of the local population“. (definition is taken from the charter)

Responsibility of local administration for public affairs in its jurisdiction is readily apparent in relation to local assemblies or councils; however, the responsibility for public affairs in relation to citizens and the public is still not sufficiently institutionalized and used. Therefore, it is serious to work on development and institutionalization of appropriate mechanisms that lead to increased accountability of local administration in relation to public and citizens. This is where the greatest need arises for the activities of civil society in advocating certain local public policies, or improving communication between CSOs and local authorities.

Lack of accountability of elected governments is frequently cited argument in the analysis of the state of public administration in BiH. Another argument often cited is the existence of complex administrative system. BiH has two systems of local governments – one in FBiH with 80 municipalities and one in the RS with 63 local governments. Brčko District also represents a unit of local government with special status as defined by the Constitution.

In spring 2012, Association EKOPOT conducted a survey about the satisfaction of public services in Srebrenik municipality. Activities were supported by the Center for Promotion of Civil Society, and initiated by the Open Society Fund in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The basic purpose of project activities is to improve the accountability and efficiency of the local authorities in the country in provision of public services and where real needs of citizens are met through the active role of civil society.

Survey was conducted, covering 645 individuals (the same number of households) from 39 local communities in Srebrenik municipality.

In the next section (Table 1.), we list the most important features of local public services in the application of PULS methodology (Methodology identified these 16 services as the most important for improving the quality of life of citizens at the local level; it is abbreviated from Improving local government services).

Although in some cases, it appears that provision of services comes from administration or organization from another level of government, these public services are primarily linked to local government units and the quality of life for people living within the area of their jurisdictions. Bearing in mind that choice of public services to include all relevant ones that enhance socio-economic status of individuals and families, selected list of services includes following:

Table 1. The list of examined public services

 

1.

Water and sewerage system

9.

Pre-primary education

2.

Community/communal hygiene

10.

Basic (primary) education

3.

Public/ District heating

11.

Secondary education

4.

Local streets and roads (including horizontal and vertical signalling)

12.

Libraries

5.

Street lighting

13.

Access to Internet network

6.

Green areas and parks

14.

Primary health care

7.

Cemeteries

15.

Social protection

8.

Public transportation

16.

Stop-shop services (municipal services)

Citizens had the opportunity to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with these services, on a scale of 1 to 5, with the following meanings:

1 – not at all satisfactory,
2 – fails
3 – partially meets,
4 – meets,
5 – fully satisfactory,
0 – I do not know.

Research has shown that the citizens of Srebrenik municipality are not satisfied with the service, “Green areas and parks” (Figure 1.).

The average rating for this service as a whole was 1.93. The lowest rated categories were voluntary work in the maintenance of green areas and parks (this is the lowest rated category in all 16 services that were the subject of the research), the availability and location of playgrounds, availability and location of sport fields, maintenance of green areas and parks, and the general condition of green spaces and parks.

Figure 1. The average rating for service „Green areas and parks“

Moreover, citizens are not satisfied with pre-school education and gave an average rating of 1.81 for the availability, 1.68 for the quality and 1.61 for the price they pay (Figure 2). The third public service with which citizens are not satisfied is the social welfare: the average score was 1.88 (Figure 3). Citizens of Srebrenik are not even partly satisfied with public lighting (average score 2.3), as well as stop-shop services (average score 2.72).

Research also shows there is no single public service that satisfies citizens entirely. The only two categories that were rated with average scores between 4 and 5, are: consistency in water supply and availability of graves.

Figure 2 . The average rating for service „Pre-school education“

Figure 3 . The average rating for service „Social welfare“

The structure of users according to their employment status and economic status of the household

We provide an overview of the structure of users by their work status (Figure 4.):

  • Unemployed persons: 46.55% (297 persons),
  • Status of pensioners: 22.10% (141 person),
  • The state administration is employing 9.87% of the respondents (63 persons),
  • People employed in the private sector: 13.22% (85 persons),
  • % of self-employed respondents was 5.33% (34 persons),

The polling included 17 students i.e. 2, 80% of respondents. Only one person is employed in international organizations and NGOs (0.16%).

Figure 4 . The structure of users of public services with regard to their employment status

Structure by economic status of household:

  • 45% of respondents live, in their opinion, below average,
  • Half of them (51%) live within the average,
  • Only 2,04% of respondents live above the average (according to their opinion),
  • 1,25% of citizens surveyed were not sure to which category of economic status they belonged.

Figure 5. The structure of users of public services with regard to economic status of households

Research results will be of use to candidates in the upcoming local elections, to create a policy that would contribute to solving these problems and improve quality of life in local communities. Comparative analysis and good practice in the country and abroad (of improving the quality of service delivery by local authorities) indicates, that for proper operation and improvement of service quality, it is essential to perform regular customer satisfaction surveys. This is almost not present in local governments in the country.

Many municipal administrations enter into various improvement projects, but with no objective criteria to confirm or reject the necessity for given improvements. In addition, citizens do not participate in decisions on a given project, nor are they consulted with regards to their effects.

PULS methodology is based on the collection and analysis of subjective attitudes regarding these 16 public services. As part of the media campaign we shall present results of the research to the public and organize public debates with candidates for local elections.

This is the mechanism for citizens to be able to evaluate the solutions offered, and be well informed on the upcoming elections. The main objective of the project is to frame the question of the extent and quality of public services as one of the central issues in the election campaign for the local 2012 election year, based on the results of the study.

EmailFacebookGoogle+LinkedInTwitterShare

Comments are closed.