When we speak about Ukrainian cities’ transparency, we do not speak about implementing somebody else’s strategy or the demands of our Western partners. Transparency is something that each one of us needs, since it is the first step towards overcoming corruption.
People often don’t know that they have the right to free access to information about their city. Ukrainians don’t even realize what data they need and why.
For some people, transparency is the ability to put their child on a waiting list to the kindergarten online. Some make use of open data for their business. Transparency truly opens up many opportunities for citizens, and that is why we have to talk about it.
In 2017, Transparency International Ukraine published the first Transparency Ranking of Ukrainian Cities, which showed how open local authorities actually were. It was the first real measurable result of decentralization and people’s engagement in governance in their cities.
And now, two years later, we can say that that first ranking wasn’t in vain.
Now, cities are competing to go to the top of the list, and thus, citizens obtain more opportunities to influence their living environment. Can anything be better than that?
Perhaps, since the majority is not the same as everyone. And the need for transparency is often disregarded not only by municipal officials but also for regular Ukrainians.
After three years of work and two big rankings, we can give confident and obvious answers to the question of why cities need transparency.
Why Cities Need Transparency
Here are the three key reasons.
1. Efficient use of resources.
Opening information helps to manage the available resources more efficiently. All municipal officials know that about 50% of the local budget comes from the taxes in the city itself, while the remaining half comes from the national budget. But the funds are usually insufficient.
Thus, open market is a great way to improve the situation. I hope it will become compulsory for everyone in the future.
What does it mean? By using the ProZorro.Sale system, you can rent out and sell real estate, grant the right to hold fairs or other public events, and receive a fair amount of money for this. A fair amount is probably different from the one that a public official would come up with as a favor to a distant relative.
2. Investment attractiveness
Investment is a word well-known to the mayor and the entire administration. We know that the World Bank group research the efficiency of financial management and budget formation, how open this information is. After that, each city is granted a certain credit rating that investors use to be better aware of how to negotiate with local authorities.
For instance, cities often engage cheap foreign loans for purchase of public transportation vehicles. Mariupol, one of the ranking leaders, got a loan of EUR 12.5 million for this. Isn’t that an improvement?
3. Information requests
I should note that it is not enough to just make information public: it is also necessary to analyze the demand and make the website user-friendly. This can produce unexpected results.
I was impressed when I found out that during the period of our research, the number of information requests received the current ranking leader, Drohobych, reduced by 2.5 times. This means that the administration has more manpower to improve citizens’ lives in other spheres.
But there is an important point to make here: this tendency only works in small cities with under 500,000 people. In bigger cities, it is just the opposite: the more information you open, the more requests you get. We need to find a way to work with that as well.
By using the ProZorro.Sale system, you can rent out and sell real estate, grant the right to hold fairs or other public events, and receive a fair amount of money for this.
To put it simply, the more data you open, the more money your city gets.
We tried to analyze the correlation between the score in our ranking and direct investments into the city. Now, we can already say that 1 point in our ranking means about UAH 200,000 of additional investments.
Maybe that’s not a lot for Kyiv, but for smaller cities, this means big money and more jobs.
Openness and transparency are a key to success. Including financial success.