Public reports: best practice

 

Public annual reports: modelling good
practice

 

25
April saw the start of the seventh National Annual Reports Competition for
NGOs. These competitions are aimed at inculcating standards of transparency and
public accountability as widely as possible amongst NGOs. The organisers are
the Charity and Volunteering Development Committee of the Russian Federationā€™s
Public Chamber, and the Federal Ministries of Economic Development and Justice.
The Donorsā€™ Forum is administering the competition, receiving and summarising
applications, and co-ordinating the work of juries. ASI has interviewed the
executive secretary of the Donorsā€™ Forum, Natalya Kaminarskaya. The salient
points she made are set out below.

 

ā€˜Transparencyā€™,
she explained, meant that there are no questions left unanswered. Annual
reports should explain what an NGO does and what it has achieved, how it deals
with problems that arise, who supports it and what its raison dā€™?tre is. At
present formal reports to the authorities are required. However, it is
essential that NGOs prepare annual reports designed for public consumption.
NGOs will not survive unless they make an effort to attract public support by
explaining their aims and what they do to achieve them.

 

Responding
to a question about possible involvement of the public prosecutorā€™s office in
the competition Ms Karminskaya said that it might participate in a jury or
contribute in the same way as the ministries do.

 

In
2007 42 NGOs from nine regions had taken part in the inaugural event. This year
150 were expected to participate. It was to be hoped that efforts to publicise
the competition as well as the ā€˜foreign agentsā€™ mass inspections would result
in greater interest being demonstrated. Most participants were from Moscow or
central Russia so public chambers, NGOsā€™ associations and business supporters
in the regions were to be contacted with a view to disseminating information
about the competition and encouraging participation.

 

As to
feedback from previous events, careful attention had been paid to
recommendations made by both juries and participants, and efforts had been made
to  take these on board as regards both
effectiveness and transparency. Some changes had been made to the nominations
and application process. Now nominations were divided into three groups: one
was related to the size of an organisationā€™s budget, another was thematic (e.g.
support for vulnerable groups, child protection, and health care) and a third
specialist ( e.g. best presentation of information about monitoring practice,
sources of finance and working with volunteers). The way in which the winners
were selected had also changed. Instead of choosing them in special sessions,
each report would be evaluated by four specialists in order to arrive at a league
table. The results would be refined by reference to budgets and other features.
There would still be feedback to enable NGOs to understand what the good points
about their reports were and where there was room for improvement. The NGO
Centre in St Petersburg, which provides methodological help, was currently
working up a special dossier of best annual reports, accompanied by an analysis
of why they were judged to be such. It is to be displayed on the centreā€™s
website by 1 July.

 

The
main point was that NGOs had become accustomed to preparing public reports.
This was now a mark of good practice. Moreover relations with the ministries
concerned had improved. Their representatives participated in the juries and
took an ongoing interest in how the accountability of NGOs is seen from the
outside. When the ministry of justice was working up mandatory report forms, it
took into account some of the recommendations and comments that had been made
in the course of the competitions.

 

Organisations
that had taken part in the competitions for four years and more would from now
on be awarded a special diploma testifying to the fact that they been
accounting for their work for a significant period. Ms Karminskaya went on to
say that she would like to see every NGO produce an annual report in electronic
form. Each one that took part in the competition would receive a certificate to
the effect that its annual report was up to the mark so far as providing
information to a wide range of interested people was concerned. This document
would help NGOs, especially regional ones, to show that they were performing
properly and producing a worthwhile result.

 

The
practice of producing public reports would help in working with the public and
donors. Annual reports constituted a vital element of accountability. Ms
Karminskaya wanted all organisations to prepare reports and make them
accessible, inviting as many of their clients as possible to become involved in
their work.

 

http://www.asi.org.ru/ASI3/rws_asi.nsf/va_WebPages/C4DE4F6EF2F6C16C44257B64003DD59FRus

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