Improved Public Finance Management in Serbia
September 20, 2022
Belgrade, 20 September 2022 – Today, at the “Responsible Management of Public Finances in the Times of Crisis” conference, the most important results of a triennial initiative to support reforms in the management of public finances have been presented. The focus of this initiative, implemented by the UNDP with the financial support by the Government of Sweden, was to increase the transparency of budget spending and effectiveness of financial control, as well as strengthening of external supervision of public finances.
The event was officially opened by Karin McDonald, chief of the Development Cooperation Group of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia.
“Responsible public administration is crucial in any country for the rule of law and creation of a system in which rights of the citizens are fully respected. Relevant mechanisms of internal and external supervision need to be established and function properly in order to realise the right of the citizens to effective public administration and secure just and equal treatment for the citizens, civil society and private sector,” said Karin McDonald, chief of the Development Cooperation Group of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
“Efficient and transparent management of public finances increases the trust in institutions and benefits citizens and economy. It contributes to citizens having better healthcare, social and other public services, as well as to a higher standard of living. Moreover, companies become more competitive in the market, while economy may grow. Improved public financial management is also a necessary step on Serbia’s path to joining the European Union,” emphasised Yakup Berish, Resident Representative of UNDP in Serbia.
In the last three years, UNDP, with the support by Swedish Government, implemented a number of activities in partnership with national and local institutions, independent bodies, civil society and media, which contributed to the improved transparency and responsibility, as well as to the more efficient control of public spending.
Through these joint efforts, the legislative framework was improved and new digital solutions introduced, including Tax Alarm (Poreski alarm) app for reporting of tax related irregularities, a software which helps in the discovery, prevention and suppression of tax related crimes, as well as a software solution which has automatized the entire auditing process. These new digital solutions have increased the efficiency and improved the transparency of work by the Tax Administration and State Audit Institution.
Furthermore, 21 cities and municipalities in Serbia had budget portals introduced, enabling councillors in the local assemblies, as well as citizens, to monitor the preparation and spending of the budgets throughout the year, and to actively participate in these processes.
In addition to the digital solutions, this triennial initiative also focused on the people working in relevant institutions: state officers improved their knowledge and skills, strengthened the cooperation with their colleagues in the country and exchanged experiences and good practices with their colleagues from the EU.
Due to the improved cooperation between civil society organisations and local self-government units, activities were implemented that more than 5000 citizens directly benefited from.
In order for media to be able to provide a better coverage of public spending, journalists were trained to use open-source data and investigative journalism methodology in reporting on potential misuse cases. This resulted in more than 60 stories being published about public financial management on the local level.
The conference also included a discussion about current challenges in the field of public finances, participated in by Dr Duško Pejović, President of the State Audit Institution, Spomenka Vircburger, Assistant to the Minister of Finance, Snežana Veličković, Assistant to the Director of the Tax Administration, Nikola Tarbuk, Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and Aleksandar Prica, Chairman of the Managing Board of non-governmental Association DUGA from Šabac.
This event officially marked the conclusion of a project titled “Platform for Responsible Public Finance Management”, which was, with the support by the Government of Sweden, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, Tax Administration, State Audit Institution, Public Procurement Office, Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, local self-governments, and representatives of the civil society and media.