By Umida Tukhtasheva
The referendum held in Uzbekistan on 30 April 2023 led to the adoption of the new Constitution. Strengthening the right to seek, receive and impart information is among the major new changes to the Constitution.
In turn, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Openness of State Government and Administration Bodies’ Activity” strictly establishes that all public authorities and administrations must ensure the openness of their activities.
Today, the development of information and communication technologies is of particular importance for the realization of these rights of the population. This process allows countries to carry out consistent reforms aimed at reducing the human factor in all aspects of the civil service and ensuring the openness of the activities of government bodies and organizations.
In recent years, by the initiative of the head of the state a number of reforms have been implemented in Uzbekistan aimed at ensuring openness, transparency and accountability of the government bodies, as well as strengthening public control, which led to improving the legal environment in this area.
In particular, a strict List of socially significant information to be posted as open data by government bodies and organizations was approved, as well as a clearly defined resource on which the data should be posted, the update period, and responsible executors.
Along with this, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan ‘On measures to introduce a system to increase and assess the level of openness in the activities of government bodies and organizations’ introduced the Openness Index, aimed at assessing the effectiveness of ongoing work to ensure openness in government bodies and organizations.
Also, the Administrative Responsibility Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan was amended and supplemented by the Law, which established the liability for violation of the legislation on the openness of the activities of public authorities and administration.
Another important aspect is that nowadays, the capabilities of online platforms are widely used in all areas to ensure the openness of government bodies. Those include:
- Introduction of a system of public discussion of draft legal acts (regulation.gov.uz);
- Launch of online platforms (openbudget.uz, xarid.uzex.uz, etender.uzex.uz), allowing to view and track information on the state budget and debt, as well as public procurement in real time;
- the Open Data Portal (data.egov.uz) started operating in a qualitatively new level, by the publication an information on public procurement, patents, registration of medicines and medical devices, public transport, land use and other similar public statistics on the Open Data Portal online;
- Launch of the Single Interactive State Services Portal (my.gov.uz) to provide public services to the population, and today more than 400 public services are provided to the population online;
- Launch of the Public Services Portal (my.soliq.uz) of the state tax authorities;
- Operation of a set of information systems ‘License’ (licence.gov.uz) to provide interactive services in the field of licensing and obtaining permits;
- Launch of ‘Mening Fikrim’ Portal of collective appeals (meningfikrim.uz);
- Sale of state property, sale of real estate, vehicles, obtaining the right to use land plots and a number of other issues are carried out through online auctions (e-ijro.auksion.uz);
- Launch of the single electronic system for the development, coordination and registration of decisions taken by local government bodies (e-qaror.gov.uz);
- Court documents on cases considered in courts can be found online (decisions.esud.uz);
- Establishment of the practice of live broadcasting of sessions of the Oliy Majlis of the Senate and the Legislative Chamber, councils of people’s representatives of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions and Tashkent city, as well as district and city councils of people’s representatives;
- Establishment of the practice of live streaming of entrance examination processes in higher educational institutions and presidential educational institutions.
In all these examples, we see a sharp decrease in the corruption risks in the relevant public relations.
In 2022, the President of Uzbekistan in his Address to the Oliy Majlis expressed the following thoughts: “Openness, legal order, efficiency and quality will be the priority in the activities of ministries.”
Another important aspect of the ongoing reforms to ensure the openness of government bodies and organizations is that the Anti-Corruption Agency has been entrusted with the coordination of the activities of government bodies, constant monitoring and tracking their obligations established by law.
Based on the tasks assigned to the Agency, comprehensive measures are being implemented in the following areas:
First, scaled awareness-raising events were held to improve the skills of employees of government bodies and organizations responsible for ensuring openness. In 2022, about 40 meetings and training workshops were organized for district, city and regional government employees in almost all regions, during which more than 300 government employees improved their knowledge and skills.
The Anti-Corruption Agency in cooperation with OSCE has developed the Open Data training platform (data.anticorruption.uz) meant for online training of government employees responsible for ensuring openness. To date, work is underway to upload training modules to the platform.
Second, the Agency promotes the implementation of effective public control over the activities of government bodies and organizations through the media. The main task in this track is to instill in citizens a culture of using open data through the media.
In 2022, more than 70 reports and 12 telecasts in the round table format were shown on local television covering the ongoing reforms in the field of ensuring openness. About 250 news and journalistic investigations were published by online publications based on information disclosed by government agencies and organizations.
Third, the Anti-Corruption Agency has established a permanent monitoring system for the timely placement of socially significant information to be placed as open data in designated resources. As a result, more than 950 socially significant open data sets related to the activities of government bodies have been placed in the designated resources, and a practice of constant updating has been established.
The introduction of the Openness Index in Uzbekistan has become one of the important steps towards raising the openness of the activities of government bodies and organizations to a qualitatively new level, further enhancing their culture of accountability to society.
The introduction of the Openness Index, along with the rating assessment of efficiency and effectiveness in the field based on specific target indicators, makes it possible to widely introduce modern mechanisms based on the following advanced international standards into the activities of government bodies and organizations. For to ensure greater transparency of index maintenance processes, a Commission has been established to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of ongoing work in the field of ensuring openness, the composition of which also includes representatives of NGOs.
The Openness Index 2022 was assessed for the period covering the second half of the previous year, and was implemented on the basis of 8 indicators, consisting of 84 assessment criteria specified in the Methodology.
Thanks to the complete digitization of the Index assessment system, the general public was given the opportunity to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the work carried out through “index.anticorruption.uz” platform in real time. The effectiveness of reforms aimed at ensuring the openness of government bodies in Uzbekistan is also recognized by the international community.
In particular, Uzbekistan has significantly improved its positions in a number of international rankings and indices, for most of which openness and transparency are among the main indicators. Uzbekistan ranked 40th in the world and 1st in Central Asia with an overall score of 66 in the Open Data Inventory 2022 by Open Data Watch. In 2020, the country ranked 44th with an overall score of 63.
For reference, the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) assesses the coverage and openness of official statistics to identify gaps, promote open data policies, improve access, and encourage dialogue between national statistical offices and data users. Between 2020 and 2022, Uzbekistan’s overall score increased from 52 to 56 in data coverage and from 72 to 74 in data openness. Also, in 2022, in the Global Data Barometer (GDB) ranking, Uzbekistan scored 32 points and ranked 58th in the world.
According to the Open Government Data Index 2022 Report, Uzbekistan joins the countries with Very High OGDI indicator. In 2022, Open Data Inception placed Uzbekistan fourth in the world in terms of the number of open data sources.
Also, in the updated ranking of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2022 by Transparency International, Uzbekistan rose by 14 positions compared to 2021 and took 126th place among 180 countries. One of the main reasons for the rise of Uzbekistan in this ranking is the measures aimed at ensuring openness.1
On May 17, the Anti-Corruption Agency organized in Bukhara the Central Asia Forum on Transparency of Government Bodies Activities aimed at exchanging experience and expanding areas of cooperation in ensuring the openness of government bodies.
This international event, organized for the first time, brought together representatives of the responsible government bodies of the Central Asian countries and leading experts from international and nongovernmental organizations.
Along with representatives of the countries of Central Asia, international experts from France, Germany, Slovenia and Argentina attended the Forum to share their best practices.
Following the Forum, the Recommendations of the Central Asia Forum on Transparency of Government Bodies Activities were adopted emerged from the proposals and recomendations of the participants. They also agreed to exchange views on the development of an effective policy to ensure transparency in the fight against corruption and its prevention, assess the effectiveness of measures in this area and improve their quality.
Work will further continue intensively to ensure transparency and accountability in the activities of government bodies and organizations, including instilling a culture of openness, transparency and accountability in employees of government bodies and organizations through the media, as well as improving the skills of members of the public in working with open data.
About the author:
Umida Tukhtasheva – Deputy Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Doctor of Sciences in Law, Professor.