The debate on “Public policies in Bulgaria – between transparency and conspiracy ” struck a sore spot after a series of scandals in the state related to salaries in the state administration under the low-wage formula – a lot of extra pay, and with dubious quality of work. You hardly need to be a political scientist in order to put the diagnose of the public condition: a crisis of trust in power, in the way public money is managed and distributed. It comes from a lack of transparency and imitation of accountability – a fact that the Center for Independent Living and its partner organizations – the Institute for Modern Politics, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law- have been saying for a long time in the Cripple System campaign. We showed how government subsidies are being spent on the claim that social policies are being made.
We have unveiled the work of the National Council for the Integration of People with Disabilities (NCIPD), which is devoid of transparency and effectiveness. And we have come to the end, namely to propose a discussion methodology for the NCIPD, which would also be applicable to other advisory councils and public institutions.
The hall of the accessible Crystal Palace Hotel was full. People with disabilities from different cities in the country have been visibly intrigued by the question of how policies are “made for them” (the European motto “Nothing for us without us” is the main argument for the role of nationally representative organizations of people with disabilities ), and their environment remains inaccessible, their wheelchairs are old, they have no personal assistance … A good sign of recognition for the work done was the presence of advocates for good public administration from the Access to Information Program, from the Institute for Public Environment Development, from the European Society for Human Rights – all organizations without direct involvement in disability. To our surprise, the event was also honored by NCIPD representatives, though without notice. Apparently the illumination of their “legitimate” activity had made them nervous. The discussion was opened by Kapa Panayotova from the Center for Independent Living. She emphasized that the “Cripple system” is not only in the field of disability and that the trust in the public contract between the government and the citizens in Bulgaria is running low. “It turns out that the law is not always legitimate,” Kapka said of the bonuses, which scandalized the public. In this way, the topic “Public policies – right or wraith” becomes especially relevant for the traceability of the work of all state institutions and related structures. Kapka expressed her joy that there were representatives of many institutions and civil organizations that were not directly involved with people with disabilities.
The first topic discussed was “Publicity vs. The Audience.” It was led by Emil Georgiev of the Institute for Modern Politics, and was contributed to by the lawyer Atanas Slavov of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law and Iliya Dzhambazova, a representative of the Pazardzhik civil movement. The main focus here was on the question of legitimacy – who is actually representative – one who has a certain number of members, or one who has ideas about important policies at the moment. Atanas Slavov challenged the content of the word representation: “Where to put the emphasis on” arithmetic or substantive understanding of the word?” he asked. “Expertise and legitimacy have nothing to do with numbers,” the lawyer concluded. Iliya Dzhambazova – a representative of a regional civil organization cited facts that indicate that there are no mechanisms for controlling the administration in Pazardzhik. “The only way to control the work of mayors and municipal councils is once every four years – through elections,” he said, stressing that the opportunity for local referendums given by the law has never been used.
The second part of the discussion was entitled “Good Governance, Better Governance, Best Governance”, led by Stanimir Kiskinov and Ivilina Aleksieva of IMP. The idea of the interactive module was to trace the mechanism of good governance and the need for specific budgets for individual advisory bodies. If the four components of each management are a resource – activity – product – result, how is the relationship between them made? In fact, all three components have an impact on the result, starting with the resource, which proves the need for it. Exactly in connection with this topic, a heated discussion began in the room, which was raised by the question “Does the activity of the NCIPD lead to results?”. Mr. Dolapchiev from the Union of the Blind and Mr. Velchev from the Union of War Veterans vigorously defended the thesis that their unions were representative and legitimate. Atanas Slavov replicated that once the evidence of representation, rather than results, is removed again, the substance of the dispute is shifted. While the NCIPD does not produce clear and definitive results in the form of policies and quality work, its activities remain spooky. MLSP representative – Mrs. Harizanova – defended the Council, explaining that all important documents related to disability policies were being passed through for coordination. The question, “Why are politics so crappy then?” hung even harder in the air?
The discussion continued with the topic “About Money and Pirates”, led by Ralitsa Velichkova of BCNL with main panelist Kapka Panayotova. Ralitsa presented facts related to the ever-diminishing funding for NGOs, which the government distributes through competition for the benefit of those who receive direct subsidies. This percentage drops to 0 in the 2012 budget – a fact that further obliges nonprofit legal entities to have a clear and meaningful money-spending strategy and even clearer accountability. Kapka Panyotova, said that there was a sense of distribution of some money through “conspiracy” in the society. “After the organizations that are part of the NCIPD are subsidized with BGN 5 million and there is no result – the feeling is exactly that,” she stressed and called “not to look at the money as a face value, but as a result.” Kapka gave as an example the chief of NHIF who was taking big bonuses and this would be normal if this structure had a good result. Instead, it has become an example of mismanagement and abuse, which is why the bonuses are scandalous. The sum of BGN 5 million given for the integration of people with disabilities might be sufficient if spent wisely and unacceptably large if they are simply wasted money. “Stop the Piracy,” she called out at the end of her talk.
The finale of the discussion was interesting and provocative thanks to the lecturers – Venelin Stoychev of IMP and lawyer Marin Bozhkov. They began a masterfully illustrated discussion of who should “evaluate the evaluators”. Venelin told the story of the creation of the football field and how its parameters were “invented”. According to this legend, the peasants from the North and those from the South of the United Kingdom had to find a common criterion for the size of a football field. The northerners were big, tall and strong and wanted a bigger playground. The Southerners, by contrast, were agile and mobile, but very small, and sought shorter terrain. Finally, they found a common point of contact in the dimensions, so that for some it would not be short and for others it would not be long. The conclusion in the context of public policies is that a working formula of participation must be found so that everyone can score goals. According to Venelin, the methodology for evaluating the work of the NCIPD can only help the Council to do better and prove its benefits. The lawyer Marin Bozhkov gave many interesting examples from his own practice of how a certain opaque procedure or policy could be “manifested” to the public. “Public surveillance”, in his view, is the way in which any institutional work could be objectively evaluated and this “diagnosis” served in court. In this way, the work of the NCIPD could also be monitored, and those civic organizations that are not members of the advisory body and have no voting rights could monitor. In this way, everyone will be able to score goals on the field of public disability policy. The meeting concluded with the promise of continued dialogue and creative discussion of the methodology of the NCIPD assessment. We also attach the document here so that you can comment on it, too – we want everyone to have a chance and score goals. We are waiting for your suggestions on the blog “Cripple system” www.blog.cil.bg and on the Facebook page with the same name.