The series of five specific ToTs that are being implemented within the NALAS project "Local Leaders in Southeast Europe: Lead for Change" (LL SEE) continued with implementation of the fourth specific Training of Trainers (ToT) on“Implementation of infrastructure investment projects” that took place from 18 to 22 January 2016 in Zagreb, Croatia.
Nineteen future trainers from the LL SEE project countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia were trained to deliver trainings that include: project implementation phases, project design phase and documents, legal requirements for permitting, inception phase and financial agreements, establishment and roles of project implementation unit, procurement procedures and procurement rules of IFIs, introducing to PRAG procurement procedures, introduction to FIDIC contract procedures, roles and responsibilities during the construction phase, and project closing.
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National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria
NAMRB developed the knowledge and competences of the newly elected Mayors and municipal Councillors
In the period from 19 January till 5 February 2016, NAMRB organizes the traditional trainings for the newly elected Mayors and municipal Councillors for the mandate 2015-2019.
Six regional two-day trainings will be carried out in each of the six Bulgarian NUTS II planning regions. The topics of the trainings are the reforms, tasks and challenges that local authorities will face in the next four years; the fiscal decentralization and the municipal budgets for 2016; the collaboration and coordination between the municipal administration and the municipal council, relations with the business, mass media, NGOs and citizens participation at local level; and the elaboration, application and implementation of EU funded projects in municipalities.
The key trainers and moderators are Mayors and Councillors with extensive professional experience. NAMRB Executive Director and Deputy Directors present topics on future reforms and the fiscal decentralization at the local level. Mayors from Norway and representatives of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities will present the Norwegian experience in the establishment of independent and innovative local government sector.
The trainings will end with the organization of regional delegate sessions, where Mayors and Councillors from each planning region will select and propose to the NAMRB General Assembly their nominations for members of NAMRB Board of Directors, Control Council and Chairs of the NAMRB Standing Committees.
The nominations from the regions will be discussed and approved at the General Assembly, which will take place in Sofia on 23-24 February.
Consultations on financial recovery procedures for municipalities
In mid January the Ministry of Finance published for public discussion the draft amendment to the Public Finance Law, introducing a special recovery procedure for municipalities in financial distress.
The draft procedure consists of:
- A set of indicators with benchmark values above which municipalities shall be deemed to be in financial difficulties.
- If and when a combination of the benchmark values is abused, then the Mayor shall inform the municipal Council and propose the launch of a financial recovery procedure.
- The municipal Council is to take a decision for opening of the procedure and to entrust the Mayor with the task both to prepare a recovery plan and to conduct public consultations with the local population.
- Following the public consultations, the municipal Council shall determine the length of the financial recovery procedure (from one to three years) and adopt the financial recovery plan.
- The recovery plan may contain assistance from the Ministry of Finance. In this case, the plan shall be agreed in advance with the Minister and endorsed by the municipal Council upon Minister's opinion.
- Provisional interest-free loans may be granted to municipalities under the terms and conditions of the Minister of Finance, with a period of recovery that may not exceed the period of the financial recovery procedure.
- In case of sustainable financial stabilization, the additional grants may be provided to the local governments.
Other proposals introduce sanctions for the municipal Councillors if the Council does not approve the annual municipal budget in the timeframe prescribed by law - their remunerations shall be suspended.
NAMRB launched consultations with municipalities for adopting a common position on the proposals of the Minister of Finance. In the meantime NAMRB experts are exploring alternative options and are analysing the number of municipalities under potential risk. NAMRB’s position on the proposal is expected by the end of January.
Training on the elaboration of municipal budgets for 2016
On 5 and 6 January, NAMRB organized the traditional training on the elaboration of the municipal budgets for 2016. 200 elected representatives and experts took part in the training, including Mayors and Deputy Mayors, Chairs of Municipal Councils and Municipal Councillors from budget committees, financial experts, accountants and managers of municipal revenue units. Officials from the Ministry of Finance presented up-to-date information for the basic macro indicators of the state budget and the most important issues in the elaboration of the annual municipal budgets. The participants received the traditional Consultative Guidance for the preparation and adoption of the municipal budgets for 2016, prepared by NAMRB.
Association of Albanian Municipalities
The influence of the territorial reorganization on the electoral reform
Albania has started discussions on a new electoral reform. It started with a major conference that gathered representatives of the main political forces, state institutions, civil society, and representatives of foreign missions in Albania. The Conference “Electoral corruption: the necessity for an in-depth and inclusive electoral reform” was held on 26 January 2016 in Tirana.
The AAM Executive Director, Agron Haxhimali addressed the influence of the territorial reorganization in the electoral process. In his speech, Mr. Haxhimali underlined that the territorial reform and electoral reform are political legal processes that affect one another. The territorial reform influences the local and parliamentary elections. In its political and electoral dimension the reform was not well designed, as local elections showed a discrepancy between the approach of the territorial map and the right of citizens to participate. As a result, the territorial reform created a map with electoral purposes, which was predicted by many stakeholders. The reorganization tried to expand the territory as much as possible, as a result losing vigilance and civic participation. Consequently, local governments went far from citizens.
Local elections showed incompliance with the reform and the core principles of the legal framework on elections, although there were some recent changes. Those are the geographic representation, government effectiveness and accountability to the voters, diversity of representation and representatives, etc. For example, in Gjirokastra Region with a population of some 75.000 inhabitants seven municipalities were created with an average of 10.000 citizens per local unit. Meanwhile, Tirana, with about 800.000 inhabitants was divided in five cities, with an average of 160.000 citizens per unit.
Likewise, there is an inappropriate ratio of the number of MPs. In Gjirokastra there are 5 MPs to 75.000 inhabitants, while in Tirana 32 MPs to 800.000 inhabitants. Such analysis and indicators should be considered for the new electoral system to better balance the representation of voters’ will.
Mr. Haxhimali mentioned some of the concrete problems that need to be addressed in the new electoral system, which should clearly reflect the norms and standards of representation not only for the parliamentary elections, but also adjust the system of local elections.
The problems encountered relate to the following:
- Many areas or administrative units (former communes) are not represented in the local councils.
- The new territorial division had a negative influence on the opposition elected representatives. In 11 out of 12 regional councils there are no representatives of the opposition. This means weakening of democracy, and not only local governments.
- It is difficult to understand who are the MPs who represent the area.
- The elections based on the new map showed that the local councils are not representative when it comes to territorial development, urban or rural. The number of councillors from urban areas is extreme compared to the majority of rural areas, which weakens the development of harmonized policies and balanced urban and rural development.
These concerns, arising from the territorial reform and the recent local elections require a solution. This solution requires a consensual and inclusive political process. Now is the time to reach a consensus for intervention in the Constitution, now is the moment that the political factor provides consensus on electoral reform that will bring correction in the current division of the first level of local government and reconfiguration of the second level of government.
Establishment of Regional Development Agencies
From 11 January 2016 the municipalities in Albania have the Agency for Regional Development as a joint platform for projects that go beyond boundaries of single municipalities. The Agency is designed as a structure of the local governments to ensure the right approach to cooperation among municipalities and with the central government.
The Agency will have four local offices, in Tirana, Shkoder, Vlore and Korce and will function with the support of the municipalities, although at the beginning their work will be supported by the State Budget. They will focus on finding common areas of interests among municipalities to be used in project applications for EU funds or other opportunities.
The AAM Chairwoman, Mrs. Voltana Ademi, expressed the Association's position on these new structures suring the launching ceremony. Mrs. Ademi stated that municipalities will support and contribute to the work of these Agencies, although some scepticism remains, mostly related to the role and influence of the central government in the work of the Agency, knowing that regional cooperation should derive from the local level, naturally and not imposed.
Photo: AAM Chairwoman Voltana Ademi and the Minister of Urban Development, Eglantina Gjermeni
NALAS Executive Director meets AAM
NALAS Executive Director, Kelmend Zajazi visited AAM on 24 December 2015, as a first meeting after the new elections within the Association. Mr. Zajazi met with AAM Chairwoman Volata Ademi and the Executive Director Agron Haxhimali.
The meeting focused on the future cooperation to serve the new municipalities in building their capacities, as well as the approach in unifying the voice of municipalities for a better local democracy in Albania. The meeting also explored opportunities for partnership and the role of the new AAM leadership in service delivery for the members and in representing their common interests in the domestic and international arena.
Mrs. Ademi emphasised the importance of maintaining the professionalism in this new role as AAM Chairwoman and offered continuous support to AAM and NALAS cooperation in the future.
Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova
CALM General Assembly – 5 years with CALM!
On 29 January 2016 the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova (CALM) held its General Assembly, on Association's fifth anniversary. The General Assembly was linked with the Official Day of Local Autonomy celebrated in Moldova on 1 February thanks to CALM advocacy efforts. The main topic of the General Assembly was decentralization and local autonomy, present and future of Local Governance in Moldova.
In the General Assembly opening, CALM President, Tatiana Badan, specified: "Today the Assembly coincides with two very important events for all of us who represent Local Public Administration (LPA). The first event is related to the fact that about five years ago in conditions of a highly divided society on different criteria, was founded the Congress of Local Authorities in Moldova, an organization which I am honoured to represent and which managed to unite the vast majority of local authorities of Moldova, regardless of their political options, ideological affiliation, ethnics, etc. This organization won the trust of the majority of LPAs, becoming the force and the main voice of local governments in Moldova both internally and internationally. We believe that Local Governments through CALM and by its example showed that in Moldova is possible consensus between the different political forces, when the vital interests of citizens and the country's national interest precede over some ambitions of party interests or groups. And these general interests are: decentralization, autonomy and local development needs and requirements of local communities. Another important event is the professional holiday of all those working in the local government – the Day of Local Autonomy and LPA workers, established at the initiative of CALM through a Government Decision on 8 February 2012 and which is celebrated on February 1. This day was chosen because 18 years ago, on 1 February 1998 in Moldova entered into force the European Charter of Local Autonomy. A document fundamental and extremely important for the present and future of decentralization and local autonomy in Moldova, as it contains all the principles and rules based on the existence of a modern local government. Still, although it is almost 20 years since this regulation entered into force, it is still not understood and respected accordingly in Moldova".
In this context, NALAS and ACoR President, Emil Draghici, said: "If things go wrong in a country it’s because we are not united. No matter what language we speak, it matters how we act, it matters that we respect each other. It was said that LPA voice must be louder, but our voice must be heard, understood and applied in harmony. Face more than howl at each other. We must act more in common. Last year we held the General Assembly of Councils of Romania and Moldova in Alba Iulia, Romania, this year - in Chisinau and in 2018 in Sibiu."
"Without a genuine decentralization of the public administration system, without demolishing the vertical of power, without a local government independent from political factors, Moldova will not headway in the effort to reform and rallying European standards" - was the consolidated message of hundreds of Mayors participating in the General Assembly. Mayors have expressed their concern about sluggishness and even stopping those initiatives that would contribute to strengthening local governance and thus to the development of settlements. They said that unless quick actions are taken, decentralization reform could be permanently compromised. Thus, for solving the problems faced by municipalities and the country in general we need decentralization and local autonomy, including in financial and human resource management.
The CALM General Assembly was attended by more than 400 participants: members of the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova, representatives of the central authorities (Prime-Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, etc.), international guests - local governments associations from European countries like Latvia, Slovakia and Romania, as well as main international partners in Moldova - Ambassadors and representatives of donor agencies.
Discussion about the next stage of the decentralization reform in Moldova
The next stage of the decentralization reform in Moldova was discussed on 17-18 December 2015 in Chisinau by the representatives of the local and central public authorities, development partners and experts during the International Conference “Decentralization: the path to modernization of the Republic of Moldova” organized by the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova (CALM) in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Moldova.
During the conference, the results achieved in implementing the decentralization reform in the Republic of Moldova starting 2012 were analyzed, including various aspects like the institutional and legal framework, sectoral policies, fiscal decentralization and the territorial administrative reform.
„Solid partnerships and cooperation are essential for promoting the decentralization reform. While implementing the National Decentralization Strategy we come to the conclusion that such a complex reform like decentralization, that affects the central and all local public authorities, requires the broad support of civil society and development partners, as well as the support of line ministries and local governments”, said Sergiu Palihovici, the Secretary General of the Government of Moldova.
About one third of the Mayors of the Republic of Moldova participated in the debates with the representatives of central public authorities and presented the issues, needs and visions of local public authorities related to decentralization and local autonomy.
“It is obvious that decentralization and strengthening local autonomy are basic requirements for effective modernization and European integration of the Republic of Moldova. When the decision - making process and all resources of a country are controlled by several groups of people/institutions, and when the largest part of the population does not participate in the decision making process, corruption and inefficiency, poverty and injustice end up ruling that country” said Tatiana Badan, President of the Congress of Local Authorities in Moldova.
NALAS President, Emil Draghici underlining the context of discussions of territorial-administrative reform and those mathematical calculations provided by international experts: “People are not figures and villages are not sums”.
The development partners of the Republic of Moldova that implement projects in the field of decentralization have encouraged the Government of Moldova to undertake more specific actions that would ensure a better development of Moldova in general, and of the local communities in particular.
“The decentralization reform in the Republic of Moldova is imminent, particularly due to the fact that many rural localities are very small and local governments do not have sufficient human and financial resources to ensure quality local services for the citizens. The per capita administrative costs of such local governments are five times higher than compared to those of the cities. This affects mainly the vulnerable groups, but not only them. The Human Rights Based Approach, citizens participation and transparency are the basic principles of the decentralization reform and they need to be further applied across sectors with joint efforts”, declared Narine Sahakyan, the Deputy Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in the Republic of Moldova.
The exhibition “A modern locality: strong local governments, quality services, involved people” could be visited during the international conference. The main results achieved in applying local development tools, in the context of the decentralization reform implemented by the Moldovan Government with the support of the development partners, where presented at the exhibition. The Mayors had the possibility to read and take relevant literature in this field.
Residents of 40 villages from Moldova benefit from better communal services
Residents of 40 villages from the Republic of Moldova benefit from better communal services, due to the continuous development of ten joint inter-municipal enterprises.
Each of the 10 enterprises received a special vehicle and specialized equipment necessary for providing better quality services of centralized waste collection and disposal, snow removal, road maintenance and street lighting, development and maintenance of water supply systems, etc.
These inter-municipal cooperation projects were supported by the Joint Integrated Local Development Programme (JILDP). The total amount of grants was 1 million dollars. The beneficiaries are more than 120,000 citizens. JILDP was implemented by the Government of the Republic of Moldova, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the financial support of the Government of Denmark.
Sergiu Ceaus, Deputy Secretary General of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, attending the event, mentioned that change in the country starts at local level with the effort of local authorities and citizens: "For small communities, this is the only viable solution to provide quality services. It is worth mentioning that in Moldova 86% of localities have less than five thousand inhabitants. Inter-municipal cooperation modernizes the country, protecting the environment becomes a must and the citizens’' satisfaction – a priority. The Government, together with the development partners, supports and encourages the development of the Republic of Moldova in this direction ".
"The development of the country begins with every village. In the last three years, with joint efforts, we managed to develop several localities in Moldova thanks to this efficient model of organizing quality public services. The identification of these solutions is not accidental, but a logical one, since it ensures raising living standards in rural areas, where more than 60% of the Moldovan citizens live and work. However, the greatest achievement is when people have a better life due to the fact that they can walk in well-lit streets, have snow cleared roads, can live in a cleaner environment having a centralized waste management service", said Narine Sahakyan, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Moldova.
"In our community several projects were developed and have brought prosperity to residents: a modern water supply, street lighting, service sanitation, roads’ maintenance. We had the opportunity to join these services under a single enterprise to serve several localities. This ensures the sustainability of the implemented infrastructure projects, and the rational use of municipalities’ available resources" said Nicolae Buzu, Mayor of Peresecina, at the ceremony for the donation of equipment to 10 inter-municipal enterprises.
The 10 inter-municipal cooperation projects apply in practice the provisions of the National Decentralization Strategy of the Republic of Moldova approved by the Parliament in April 2012.
Association of Kosovo Municipalities
Workshop with Municipal Procurement Managers to present the reforms in the Law on Public Procurement
Considering the recent amendments to the Law on Public Procurement in Kosovo, the Association of Kosovo Municipalities (AKM) took the initiative of organizing a Workshop for the Municipal Procurement Managers to present the amendments to the Law, as well as the new reforms in the e-procurement application.
Mr. Sazan Ibrahimi, the AKM Executive Director opened the workshop, while the introduction of the amendments to the Law on Public Procurement was done by Mr. Ilaz Duli, the Director of the Balkan Institute for Procurement.
This was the first training of municipal officials on the new amendments to the law and it is expected to influence the future work of the municipalities in using public funds in the most efficient and transparent way. Regarding the e-procurement, it was highlighted that the practical implementation of this platform will be in a period of six months, to test its functionality. It is expected that the platform will increase transparency through the publication of all contracts with access for all.
Association of Municipalities,
Association of Cities in the Republic of Croatia
Facing deep reforms of local self-government
The Association of Municipalities supports the opinion of the new Minister of Administration Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović regarding the reduction of the number of local and regional government units, and believes that any changes connected to it cannot and must not be carried out without analysis and thorough research. Local government has a strong influence on the quality of life and as the first link between the government and the people must be strengthened and allow the public authorities serve the citizens.
"In the past five years the Association of Municipalities is calling for decentralization and public administration reform. It has also initiated improvements and gave recommendations for more efficient system and service structure. Changes and reforms are necessary, but should not be taken without a thorough and systematic analysis and study. The aim is to decentralize and facilitate the process of public administration, not to make wild and reckless cuts“, said the president of the Association of Municipalities Đuro Bukvić.
New Croatian Government
On 22 January 2016, the Croatian Parliament approved the new Government led by the former businessman, Croatian Canadian Mr. Tihomir Orešković. The consensus about the Ministers was brought with certain delays and obstacles. The new Minister of Administration Dr. Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović is well known as she was studying financing of state and local self-government.
Integrity Observer project
The implementation of the EU project Integrity Observer started at the beginning of 2016. A respectable number of Croatian municipalities, eleven of them, responded to the call for partners. The overall objective of the project is to improve transparency in managing public goods and natural resources while enabling general public and civil society organisations’ participation in design, development and monitoring of management policies. Croatia has to maintain its discourse in fighting against corruption and increasing transparency in management of public goods and natural resources. The role of the Association of Municipalities is to help municipalities to increase transparency, openness and accountability of the local governments and improve efficiency of managing public goods and natural resources at municipal level.
Average LGU pays
The Association of Municipalities has begun a process of gathering data on the average pay for civil servants and municipality employees - Mayors, Deputy Mayors and chiefs of the joint administrative units/offices. This research is being conducted to detect possible cuts in the cost of the payroll system in municipalities. It has been detected that, despite universal laws and regulations, pays among municipalities differ to great extent.
Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Three energy efficiency projects completed
In the period from 14 to 18 December 2015, in the framework of the regional project Energy Efficiency in the Associations of Municipalities (EEMA), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusamenarbeit (GIZ), was organized the ceremony marking the completion of the successful implementation of three pilot project in the field of energy efficiency in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The results of the following project were presented: Municipality Foča: replacing existing LED lighting on street Kralja Petra; Municpality Trebinje: improving public lighting using LED technology on road EM200 and modification of the second part of the facade and windows in the second elementary school in Hrasnica, in Municipality Ilidža.
Preparing the implementation of five pilot projects, out of eight, has been successfully completed and celebrated in November and early December 2015. The projects were implemented in the municipalities of Zenica, Kresevo, Bijeljina, Novi Grad and Gradiska.
Third Conference of Presiding of Municipal/City Councils in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Association of Cities and Municipalities, with the support of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, organized the Third Conference of Presiding of Municipal/City Councils in the Federation, on 4 December 2015, in Sarajevo, in the building of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The aim of the conference was to improve cooperation between the Association and the municipal Councils, as well as strengthening inter-municipal and inter-institutional cooperation. Participants from over 40 municipalities/cities discussed the application of the Law on Principles of Local Self-Government in the Federation and the electoral legislation from the perspective of local authorities. Conclusions from the conference will be delivered to the relevant Parliament Commissions.
With the aim to intensify the exchange of knowledge and experience between local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina at this meeting were promoted some of the best practices in municipal/city councils. In this regard the Municipality of Ilidža presented its innovative practice ‘’Procedures for Successful Organization of Municipal Council's Session’’ while the City of Banja Luka presented its newly developed web site aimed to improve the communication of Council’s members with citizens.
Association of Communes of Romania
Consultations on the draft guidelines for implementation of the Law on Public Procurement
On 21 January 2016, the representatives of the Association of Communes of Romania (ACOR) met the management of the National Agency for Public Procurement to discuss the draft guidelines for implementing the Law on Public Procurement. The Mayors of the communes members of ACOR presented some issues that should be dealt with through the new legislation, such as dealing with contractors with problems in previous proceedings, "unusually low price" of some of the bidders or the role of the evaluation committees. At the end of the meeting, the first Vice-President of ACOR, the Mayor of Cumpana Commune, Constanta county, Mrs. Mariana GÂJU reiterated ACOR’s openness to the dialogue on improving the quality of the law on public procurement and its methodology.