The overall country Local Integrity System Index – 2016 is 3,17 on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is the maximum possible score. This is a minimal increase in the score compared to 2015 (3,14).
The ranking is presided for a second year by Burgas, sharing its leading position with Stara Zagora with a score of 3,57 – however, for both municipalities the index registers a slight decrease since 2015. This score is nevertheless, far from the leading standards of integrity. Plovdiv, Shumen, Vidin, Vratsa, Pazardzhik, Razgrad have registered a significant increase in their index in comparison to 2015. A trend for an increase in the ranking is also visible for Haskovo and Kardzhali.
Kyustendil, Silistra and Varna (Varna for a second year) are at the bottom of the ranking with poor indicators for accountability and integrity. Alongside, Montana also registered a significant decrease in its ranking and score.
The sector with poorest assessment in the overall comparative study is the local business, for a second year – only 2,73 points, despite the fact that this score is slightly higher than in 2015 (2,44). Media (2,79) and political parties (2,68) follow among the low scoring sectors in the overall comparison this year.
KEY PROBLEMS FACED BY LOCAL LEVEL AUTHORITIES
In the beginning of the new mandate of the local self-governance authorities (2015-2019) there are challenges in three particular dimensions. For a second year the LIS Index registers critically low levels of transparency and accountability in the functioning of self-governance bodies in the municipalities – regional centres. Less than one out of four municipal councils have established functioning mechanisms for reviewing of signals for conflict of interest or unethical behavior by municipal councilors. The levels of publicity and accountability of the check-ups and investigations performed by control bodies in the municipalities remain inadequate. Not a single municipality municipal administration has implemented a functioning model of protection of whistleblowers signaling for irregularities.
The Local Integrity System Index in 2016 does not register an improvement in the implementation of instruments for electronic administration and provision of administrative services. At the same time, only 3 out of 27 studied municipalities have taken adequate measures for selection of a local ombudsman. Out of 27 regional municipalities, only ¼ have functioning local ombudsman institutions.
The low-enforcement and judicial authorities are faced with high public expectations. Few of the studied courts have scored significant success in being transparent and in providing quality judicial service. The Index 2016 registers a decrease in the indicators for annulled or amended court decisions. The key challenge of the local units of the Ministry of Interior (police) is to improve the parameters for the indicator Governance, with a focus on integrity and proactive prevention of corruption policy.
THE CIVIC DIMENSION OF THE LOCAL INTEGRITY SYSTEM INDEX 2016
In the LIS Index 2016 the local business and media are among the low scoring pillars of integrity at local level. Perceptions of insufficient transparency in decision-making in regard to the regulation of economic activity by local authorities are among the reasons for a lower score of the business country-wide, along with weak engagement of the business with support for civic initiatives in the anti-corruption field and diverse ethical self-regulation practices. The country score for the business sector this year is 2,73 (a slight increase compared to 2015). Sofia is the leading municipality in the ranking of local business, while the business in Kardzhali remains in the bottom (1,67).
The media, on the other hand, are the structures that need the most significant investment in elaboration and implementation of initiatives and good practices which have the potential to counteract to the notable perceptions of dependencies between media and political/economic interests. Other key problems in the media sector are related to shortage of financing and low engagement with investigating and reporting on corruption cases.
Political parties demonstrate strongest deficits in the dimension “governance”. Local political parties fail to adequately adhere to the legal obligations for accountability of financing. Their engagement in counteraction of corruption is declarative. Political party engagement in elaborating anticorruption initiatives and measures is an exception, rather than the rule on local level. On the positive side, this year the assessment outlines a more active engagement of political parties with support and initiatives for public campaigns on key issues for the local communities.
On the other hand, a key problem in the work of the civil sector is related to insufficient financial sustainability of most local civic organizations, dependencies on local authorities’ funding for implementing civic projects and initiatives (social services) and hence, low level of activism of the civic sector for exerting monitoring over local authorities and their work. The civil sector scores an overall index of 2,99 (slight decrease since 2015 – 3,04). The leader in the yearly ranking is Stara Zagora (3,93), while Montana’s civil society sector is ranked at the bottom – 1,88.