Please provide a brief summary of the initiative including the problems/challenges it addressed and the solutions that the initiative introduced (300 words maximum)
Policy planning and coordination in the Republic of Serbia was one of the weak points of the public administration. In addition, budgetary planning was separated from strategic planning. Four years ago, Public policy secretariat (PPS) was formed as specific organization in the centre of the Government, with a mandate to initiate improvements of procedures for developing public policy documents.
According to that mandate, PPS introduced result-based management and evidence-based policymaking practices in Serbia’s public administration and developed a legal package, consisting of the Law on planning system and two by-laws on methodologies for public policy management and mid-term planning. Its main features are:
• Unified terminology of policy planning, content and structure of policy documents, which makes them comparable.
• Hierarchy of policy documents and the obligation of consistency with the existing policy framework, which makes documents harmonized and coherent.
• Obligation to conduct impact assessments while drafting policy documents and laws (including by-laws), which makes documents evidence based.
• Obligation to include stakeholders and the public in drafting of documents, by means of consultations and cooperation, which makes documents transparent, inclusive and easier implementable.
• Obligation to monitor and periodically evaluate the implementation of policy documents and laws, and to report to the Government, which introduces result-based management.
• Introduction of the single IT system for policy planning and monitoring, which makes the whole process more efficient and controllable.
• Obligation to link mid-term and budgetary planning in public sector with strategic planning, which makes policy documents more realistic and implementable.
This package was drafted in a process of broad consultations. The Government of Serbia passed the proposed law to the National parliament for adoption.
a. What are the overall objectives of the initiative?
Please describe the overall objectives of the initiative (200 words maximum)
This initiative aims to establish a robust and coherent system for policy planning, monitoring and coordination in the public sector, on national and local level. In practice, it will enable reaching of the Level 8: Governmental prioritization, on the Metcalfe public policy coordination scale.
Such a system will ensure the harmonisation of the legal framework for business and life of citizens in Serbia introducing a clear set of long-term national development planning documents of the highest importance and mid-term sector policy documents with concrete measures and expected results. In other words, it will ensure an efficient and consistent planning system and a favourable regulatory framework for societal development.
The proposed law provides linking of public policy with medium-term expenditure framework. Reporting on the implementation of medium-term plans should ensure transparent work of the public administration and collection of data/evidence on established public policy measures on all levels of implementation.
It is also important in the EU integration process because it will bring us closer to European administrative space and build our capacities to apply for assets from structural funds.
b. How does the initiative fit within the selected category?
Please describe how the initiative is linked to the criteria of the category (200 words maximum)
The legal package (legal framework) prescribes the inclusion of all stakeholders and target groups (promotes equality) that are addressed by a policy, from the initial stage of policy document preparation, through implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In order to ensure inclusion, public announcement of the beginning of work on a public policy document is mandatory. Authorised proponent may decide to include representatives of stakeholders and target groups in the working group for the preparation of the document (participatory decision-making). It stipulates that public policy document proponents will consider suggestions presented by stakeholders and target groups during consultations (responsiveness) and inform consultation participants on results of consultations conducted, in particular about the reasons for not including specific suggestions into policy document. Information on results of conducted consultations must be presented within the public policy document.
It also stipulates that an initiative to amend, prepare and adopt public policy documents may be submitted (responsiveness) to an authorised proponent or PPS by public authorities and organisations, local government authorities, citizens, business entities, civic associations and other organisations in respect of which the public policy is implemented.
The initiative should improve people’s lives, notably by enhancing the contribution of public services to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the realization of the SDGs
a. Please explain how the initiative improves the delivery of public services (200 words maximum)
An efficient, transparent, coordinated and realistic planning system on the national, provincial and local level will cover all key aspects of social and economic development policy and regional and spatial development with optimal use of budget funds, provision of sustainable growth and development of the Republic of Serbia, including the Autonomous Province and local government units.
Public policy planning with mandatory implementation of policy impact assessment ensures observance of interests of all participants addressed either directly or indirectly by a policy. It enables the assessment of options for the change to be achieved or optimal resolution of a problem.
The draft law explicitly introduces the requirement of monitoring and evaluating public policy and legislation. The mechanism for the public policy implementation control is primarily established through the implementation control of medium-term plans, by authorities in charge for specific measures or activities from public policy documents and the Ministry of finance. There is also the requirement to report on the implementation of public policy documents by the enacting authority for that document.
The initiative must impact positively a group or groups of the population (i.e. children, women, elderly, people with disability, etc) and address a significant issue of public service delivery within the context of a given country or region.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant issue related to the delivery of public services (200 words maximum)
Introduction of the result-based management improves responsible decision-making and performance of any organization. As already proved in our practice, in the case of the Action plan for implementation of the Government Program (APIGP), what gets measured, gets done.
Until now, the public policy planning process and the preparation of legislation were separated, which resulted in an inefficient planning system.
The requirement of monitoring and evaluating public policy and legislation is not obligatory. In practice, the legislative provisions are amended only when they create significant problems in doing business, blocking the implementation of some administrative procedure or hindering the application of legislation in the public focus. It creates an accumulation of inefficient and harmful legislation, burdening the operations of businesses and life of citizens. Obligatory periodical evaluation of policies and legislation, will provide for more responsive, evidence-based and flexible framework for societal development.
Unified information system for inputting public policy documents, medium-term plans and reports on their implementation will enable an uninterrupted rolling planning chain and automatic generation of substantive parts of implementation reports. It will provide the basis for systematic analyses of deployed measures, coherency check and constant monitoring.
b. Please explain how the initiative has impacted positively a group or groups of the population within the context of your country or region (200 words maximum)
Although the legislative package is not formally adopted, the PPS and ministries implement it in practice. There is general understanding that the proposed methodology will improve the quality of laws and policy papers.
Draft laws and strategies are being amended in line with the comments of the PPS. Representatives of the PPS are being included into working bodies that draft policy documents such as strategy for climate change and strategy for irregular migrations that are being developed strictly in accordance with proposed methodology.
Regarding coordination, PPS is responsible for processes of APIGP and Economic reforms program (ERP) drafting and implementation. It coordinates activities of all ministries, aligns their goals with Government priorities and facilitates problem-solving meetings of high profile officials. ERP of Serbia was the lowest ranked in the West Balkans in 2015, according to European Commission. After the intervention of PPS, our ERP for 2016 was the highest ranked, and used as a role model for other countries.
In the area of monitoring, PPS provides expert and operational support to the ministries by establishing and processing reporting templates, collecting and analysing data and building capacities of other institutions to monitor their progress and interpret data and indicators.
The initiative must present an innovative idea, a distinctively new approach, or a unique policy or approach implemented in order to realize the SDGs in the context of a given country or region.
a. Please explain in which way the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region (200 words maximum)
There were previous efforts to introduce planning and analysis into the public sector of Serbia, as a bottom-up initiative. Since 2000 and democratic changes in our country there were several projects, supported by DFID, SIDA, IPA and USAID, aiming to establish policy planning and coordination.
For the first time in the modern history of Serbia, PPS used systemic instead of partial approach, trying to apply lessons learned from previous failures. Most important of them was that chief obstacle for true coordination is poor horizontal communication between ministries and lack of interest for the objectives and activities of others. Due to its position in the centre of the Government and direct access to decision-makers, PPS was able to introduce and apply the top-down approach to match bottom-up initiatives. It proved to be a strong incentive for the ministries. Persistent and detailed monitoring followed by timely reporting to the Prime Minister resulted in high level of APIGP implementation.
b. Please describe if the innovation is original or if it is an adaptation from other contexts (If it is known)? (200 words maximum)
Although the concepts of policy and regulatory impact assessment and result-based management are well known in the EU for many years, they have never been applied in the Western Balkans.
c. What resources (i.e. financial, human , material or other resources, etc) were used to implement the initiative? (200 words maximum)
All resources of the PPS (annual budget of about 0, 5 mil euro and about 40 employees) had been involved in this task. On top of that, external experts, engaged through several projects assisted in formulating the methodology and helped developing tools for better delivery of results.
The initiative should be adaptable to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions). There may already be evidence that it has inspired similar innovations in other public-sector institutions within a given country, region or at the global level.
a. Has the initiative been transferred to other contexts?
The practices of result based management and evidence based policymaking established on national level are being copied by the local self-governments in Serbia. Standing conference of cities and municipalities, as the key association of local authorities, is one of the strongest lobbyists for adoption of the Law on planning system. This is because they recognized these practices as beneficial for them, providing for the optimal use of resources in achieving strategic objectives.
The initiative should be able to be sustained over a significant period of time.
a. Please describe whether and how the initiative is sustainable (covering the social, economic and environmental aspects) (300 words maximum)
This initiative is all about sustainability and sustainable development. Good practices are established by means of advocacy and capacity building of the PPS as the coordinator and public authorities and all other subjects for the full implementation of the planning system. The legal package elevates this good practice and transforms it into a sustainable formal obligation. Improvements and benefits that it brings, when recognized by the implementers and beneficiaries, will make it easier to sustainably embed this shift of paradigm in policy making into the organizational culture of public administration across all levels.
b. Please describe whether and how the initiative is sustainable in terms of durability in time (300 words maximum)
See previous question.
The initiative should have gone through a formal evaluation, showing some evidence of impact on improving people’s lives.
a. Has the initiative been formally evaluated?
If yes, please describe how the initiative was evaluated? (200 words maximum)
The initiative deals with the introduction of formal, obligatory policy evaluation into the work of public administration. Through its implementation, PPS is establishing the capacities, procedures and mechanisms for data collection and their usage for analytical purposes. The process itself has not been evaluated.
b. Please describe the outcome of the evaluation of the impact of the initiative (200 words maximum)
c. Please describe the indicators that were used (200 words maximum)
The initiative must demonstrate that it has engaged various actors such as from other institutions, civil society, or the private sector, when possible.
a. The 2030 Development Agenda puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, coordination, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe what stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative. Please also highlight their roles and contributions (300 words maximum)
The legal package that is the core of our initiative prescribes inclusion and transparency. In line with that, it was designed in a transparent and inclusive manner. Its development was made public from the beginning and early drafts were posted on PPS website. In the period 2015-2017, several public events were organized on which drafts were presented to the representatives of governmental institutions, local authorities, civil society, business and academic community. On top of that, the public debate was formally conducted in January 2017. Inputs from these consultations were incorporated in the final draft of the Law that was presented to the Government.
Inclusion and transparency are crucial in our practice. Development of ERP, for example, was inclusive throughout the whole process, containing two rounds of public consultations and on-line suggestions in November 2017. Its implementation is being monitored by the so-called Platform, which brings together ministries and National convent on EU (association of relevant civil society organizations).
a. Please describe the key lessons learned, and any view you have on how to further improve the initiative (200 words maximum)
The work on establishment of planning system showed that reform like this is not possible without clear support from the top of the government. Besides of that, there has to be an agent of change, persistent, competent, independent from the rest of the public administration and fully committed to the reform.
SMART planning of the reform is a starting point, but many adjustments are necessary during the process. Agent of change has to be flexible and aware of the social and economic context in which the reform is implemented.
This reform already shifted the mission of public administration from enforcement to service delivery. Adoption of the legal package is not the end, but a milestone, on the way to the rational and effective public administration. Practices that are now based on persuasion and common sense, will become mandatory, which will strengthen them and widen their scope. In the course of their implementation, new issues will arise and legal provisions will be adjusted accordingly. The system needs to be constantly improved in order to fulfil its role to provide high quality public service. Legal package will also be a reminder on the higher purpose of public administration, which is not to produce documents, but to be true service to the citizens.