Consultations with the public from the regions make public administration process more transparent, and the decisions made – better
Currently, the topic of public consultations is relevant for lawyers' professional community. There is a Draft Law "On Public Consultations" in the Parliament, drafting of which was coordinated by you in the Ministry of Justice. What will its adoption mean in practice?
Oleksandr Banchuk, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine: The Ministry of Justice did act as the platform where this draft Law was developed. And this also applies to documents, both of central and local authorities, not only legislation, but also any documents: action plans, concepts and so on. This draft Law, in fact, introduces a new philosophy of public administration and the functioning of state power. In fact, it proposes to provide for public consultations when adopting any document, both with ordinary citizens and with professional communities. The basic rule is to make consultation a mandatory step.
However, there are exceptions - they are listed in the draft Law. For example, when human rights or national security are at stake. In any case, if no consultations are held, a serious justification is needed - why so.
What important problems is the new law designed to solve?
O.B.: Transparency is important. It is expressed in the fact that through the procedure of public consultations the community learns in advance about all decisions being developed by the Ministry. It is possible to learn about important changes not on its eve or even in retrospect, but in advance. That is, knowing that a decision is being prepared, one can also join the development of an initiative. The second important thing is the predictability of public policy. After all, the procedure provides that the decision will be communicated and explained to the community. Everyone covered by such a decision will have the opportunity to understand what is changing, how and why. This will help to avoid discrepancies as well as unnecessary negativity and anxiety.
And the third important thing is to involve citizens in the process so that the citizens do not feel left out, so that they do not feel, "Everything for us is done without us." It applies to all areas where we shape and implement state and legal policy: enforcement officers, bankruptcy trustees, other legal professionals will understand that their voice is heard.
The draft law stipulates that the results of the consultations should be consolidated in a report which will display a list of observations raised and responses to them. This is also important for civil servants who from these consultations will understand how the initiative is perceived by the community. After all, we do not work for ourselves, but work in the interests of the community. The draft law also provides for such a type of consultations as targeted consultations. If we are talking about bankruptcy, then we will not do without the advice of the Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, just as when it comes to enforcement proceedings, we cannot do without enforcement officers.
There will be general consultations, so to speak, if desired, and targeted, which means that we address professional associations and unions in a particular area.
The main goal is to get better content of the decisions made. After all, as practice shows, hasty decisions very rarely turn out to be high quality ones. This bill is now in parliament, I hope it will be supported.
What influence does feedback from the regions have on the decision? How tangible is work of Regional Justice Reform Councils functioning in 6 regions at the central level of the Ministry of Justice?
O.B.: Involving representatives of the professional community in evaluation and discussion of initiatives being developed and promoted by the Ministry of Justice is one of the priorities. After all, it is very important to test everything in practice and all the important changes locally. This is the only way to have feedback: what works well and where adjustments may be needed.
To get a more or less objective picture of the problems in the legislation and to form concept for their solution, it is necessary to hear as many experts in this field as possible, people who work directly with the legislation.
Therefore, I follow projects implemented by partners of the Ministry of Justice, in particular, Regional Justice Reform Councils established with the support of EU Project "Pravo-Justice". I supervise Directorate of Justice and Criminal Justice which constantly analyses functioning and application of legislation in a particular area. It is on the basis of the identified problems that concepts of their solution or necessary changes are shaped. We need to get stakeholders' positions to carry out such an analysis. We do not aim to single out those who make proposals on a regional basis. Therefore, I am not ready to say for sure who and from which council submitted this or that proposal. However, interest in the topic and active position are very important. I am convinced that most of those who work in regional councils take an active part in surveys, online consultations, drafting recommendations.
When professionals come together to shape recommendations, it's a big plus. It is very important to achieve synergies within different legal professions that see the problem from different perspective and think about how to make, for example, justice sector or institutions related to justice, better. For sure, there is potential in this endeavour, but it is not yet fully unlocked and implemented, also due to the fact that it is a new tool for the Ministry.
The draft law "On Public Consultations" was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The draft law provides:
- standardization of authorities and stakeholders' rights and obligations in legal relations related to public consultations;
- functioning of a single web portal of public consultations;
- determining the specifics of holding electronic, targeted consultations and in that conducted in form of public discussion;
- setting deadlines for public consultations;
- determining the procedure for submitting proposals during electronic and public consultations;
- establishing the procedure for drafting a report based on the results of public consultations, monitoring and coordination of the process, etc.