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At the centre of the monitoring of public administration reform (PAR), there are topics that are of primary interest to citizens and civil society. One of them, which pervades practically all areas of PAR and on which the quality of implemented reforms can depend to a significant extent, is certainly transparency.
Transparency implies that the goals of public policies, their legal, institutional and economic framework, as well as political decisions and all related data and information are delivered to the public in an understandable, accessible and timely manner.2 Relying on this understanding of transparency and the OECD/SIGMA Principles of Public Administration, the WeBER PAR Monitor methodology for monitoring PAR in the Western Balkans largely integrates the principle of transparency as one of the central components of good governance.
The importance of transparency can be viewed from several perspectives. In the first place, transparency enables citizens to be fully aware of their rights and to fulfil their obligations timely and efficiently. It is also important for the smooth functioning of the market, i.e., so that economic actors can conduct their business in a free and competitive atmosphere. In connection with the previous, full transparency that enables public oversight of the administration narrows the space for corruption, which is of vital interest to both citizens and the economy. Finally, PAR is an area of fundamental importance for the process of accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union, side by side with the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions.
The aim of this brief is to show the state of transparency in various areas of the PAR, draw attention to numerous weaknesses, but also present examples of good practice, when PAR transparency in the region is in question, based on the findings of the last monitoring cycle in the Western Balkans region carried out in 2022.4 Starting with public policies that are still developed behind closed doors, through insufficiently transparent human resources management and limited proactivity in informing the public, all the way to the issue of providing services, reporting on the budget and public procurement, shortcomings in transparency were pointed out, which permeate each PAR area and represent the problem of all countries in the region.