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IMPROVING THE TRANSPARENCY OF MUNICIPALITY WEBSITES

In Latvia, municipality websites are noted among citizens as one of the most popular source of information, in order to learn not only the latest news, but also to obtain information about decision-making processes, finances, the annual budget and opportunities for public participation in the municipality.

In order to review the accessibility and usability of municipal websites and what are the main sources of information for citizens to learn about current events in the municipality, in March 2024, Transparency International Latvia (Delna) organised consultations with experts and published a survey “How to improve the transparency of municipal websites ?”.

In cooperation with the Transparency International Norwegian and Lithuanian chapters, Delna has developed a renewed, internationally applicable methodology to measure the level of transparency of local governments and which could be used to evaluate the transparency of local government websites of any country. TI Latvia started with a citizen survey in order to assess the availability and usefulness of the websites of the local governments they represent and what are the locals’ main sources of information to learn about current events in the municipality. Meanwhile, Lithuanian and Norwegian chapters provided recommendations for the methodology from their experience.

After consultations held with Transparency International Norwegian chapter, changes were made to the methodology: a new indicator was included – the publishing of public safety policies, including expected actions in the event of a crisis, on municipal websites are important because they provide citizens with essential information on how to act in emergency situations. This transparency allows citizens to understand the resources available in crisis situations, as well as the expected course of action, such as choosing evacuation routes or emergency contacts. Being well-informed allows citizens to respond more effectively and confidently, which improves overall public preparedness and thus safety.

The indicator on public officials’ agendas has been expanded in the methodology to include other municipal officials. If municipal officials do not maintain a public agenda and/or diary, this creates significant risks for transparency and questions about how specific decisions are made in the municipality. Without this documentation, there is a greater chance of undetected influence from specific interest groups, which leads to decisions that do not correspond to the interests of the municipality’s residents.

Transparency of local authorities is very important for citizens, as it promotes trust, ensures responsibility and gives the public the opportunity to actively participate in various administrative processes. By actively sharing information and explaining decision-making process, local governments can effectively fight corruption and ensure the efficient use of resources for the benefit of society, thus promoting sustainable local government trust in decision-makers that starts at the municipal level,” says Delna researcher Diāna Kazina.

Similar to the previous years (see 2023, 2022, 2021 reports in Latvian), the report of the Transparency Index of Local Authorities, which is expected in the Fall of 2024, will include a comparison of the results of local governments – a map of how the transparency of local government websites has progressed since the creation of the index in 2021.

The report will also compare the main differences in the transparency of municipalities between Norway and Latvia, as well as provide recommendations for the municipalities of both countries.

You can find out the indicators of the renewed methodology in English here->.

This publication has been produced with the financial support from the Nordic Council of Ministers. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the coordinators of this project and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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