Viorel Girbu, Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova, NALAS – Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe
Relevance of the Practice
While achieving consensus on major policy areas between levels of government has proven quite challenging, yet, there are also cases where it is easier to find a common ground for both, central and local authorities to achieve a workable solution for local communities. In order to overcome difficulties at the strategical level, and to boost cooperation and communication between central and local constituencies, during 2019 the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova (CALM) has developed professional networks of local authorities. These networks are represented by professionals from both the urban and rural local administrations. This provides fertile ground for mutual cooperation and effort in order to achieve solutions, regardless the differences that exist between urban and rural local governments in terms of needs and priorities.
The professional networks of CALM play an important role in intergovernmental relations with regard to specific thematic areas such as local public finance management, local tax administration and land management. Also, being member of the network provides the opportunity to share experiences and gather new knowledge in a continuing changing environment. The functions of the network of professionals therefore include the preservation of collective experience, communication and mutual assistance among members as one of the major goals of the network.
Description of the Practice
To address technical issues that concern local public authorities (LPAs), CALM has established four professional networks covering the domain of public accounting, tax collection, land management and mayors’ secretaries. These professional networks were based upon experience accumulated by CALM in managing the network of women mayors and the network of cities that were previously developed. The issues addressed by the professional networks refer to domains like organization of the work of the respective professionals, legal regulation, IT solutions and systems etc. Identification of bottlenecks and malfunctions, and the final improvement of performance, through a joint cooperation across levels of government is the common goal of all the networks. From this perspective, the network addresses also issues related to the urban/rural divide, given specificity of mostly small rural communities in Moldova.
The members of the networks are professionals employed in the domain that concerns the respective network. Expertise in the thematic area is one of the key criteria for membership in the network, regardless of the size of the represented community. This proves to be an efficient way of organization to overcome the problematic realities of the urban-rural divide and interplay.
The networks are organized according to the statute of CALM. Each locality, which is a member of CALM, regardless of size, can decide on delegation of professionals from the local administration to take part in activities of the respective professional network. There are no additional requirements. Each network is entitled with the right to elect its leadership. The networks in this respect have full autonomy regarding their own organization and activity. Local authorities that are not represented in CALM can also delegate their representative professionals to be part of the network, although without the right to vote.
The professional networks are oriented to tackling specific challenges encountered by LPAs in the delivery of services to citizens. Once a problem is identified, a short survey is organized to gather the experience of other members of the network on the topic. Frequently, obstacles faced in daily activity can be solved by sharing the experience of the most versed members of the network. In the case of a systemic problem, members of the network, with the support of CALM’s secretariat, develop a detailed description of the problem which is then sent to the competent central authority in order to find a solution. This approach obtained a positive assessment also from the central authorities.
The major goals of the network relate to:
- promoting, defending and representing the general professional rights and interests of its members, in relations with public authorities and national and international organizations, through CALM;
- ensuring the protection of the rights and interests of its members; defending and promoting the specific professional rights and interests of its members in the decision-making process at national level;
- addressing issues of importance to local public administrations;
- submitting appropriate policy recommendations to CALM governing bodies, government decision-makers and service delivery institutions;
- ensuring the connection with the governing bodies of CALM, with reference to the subjects that affect the activity of its members;
- assisting its members in the planning and implementation of programs, which address important issues affecting their work in local communities;
- increasing the professional capacities of its members through the development of study and training programs, as well as professional development courses; establishing a mentoring system for its members with little experience and, in particular, providing the necessary training and assistance;
- establishing partnerships with other organizations and public institutions, for the promotion of professional rights and interests;
- organizing study visits and exchanges of experience, including at international level;
- fostering and facilitating the cooperation of its members with professionals from similar organizations at national and international level;
- establishing a communication network for its members, as a means of disseminating information and exchanging views, including at international level;
- ensuring regular information about the activities of the network, as well as contributing columns or interviews to CALM’s newspaper ‘Voice of Local Authorities’.
During 2020, the network of accountants and network of tax collectors organized two meetings bringing together about 100 professionals from each of the networks and representatives of the state organizations, including the Ministry of Finance, State Chancellery, Agency of Public Services and State Fiscal Service. The exchanges have proved very effective in providing an opportunity to both levels of government to speak about challenges faced by first-tier local governments and measures approved by the national government.
While the Ministry of Finance of Moldova has an established practice of institutional exchanges with second-tier local governments, there is no practice of coordination and exchange with first-tier local governments, which are in this way neglected and forced to resort to second-tier LPAs for coordination with the Ministry. From this perspective, CALM professional forum meetings provided an opportunity for first-tier LPAs to better present the situation in local communities, specifically in small, remote rural localities, to the central government authorities.
Assessment of the Practice
There are already a few events organized by each of the networks. This practice initiated during 2019 and continued since then. The usage of the common online and virtual communication platforms by the members of the network is encouraging. The participants of the platforms share their opinion, experiences and provide advice on the questions raised by its members. The platform is used almost on a daily basis proving its utility as a tool for exchanging experiences and communicating deficiencies in its domain. Some of the problems that emerged through discussions on the communication platform have already found a solution, as it is for example improving functionality of the ‘E-DOCPLAT’ program that is mandatory in the activity of accountants within the LPAs in Moldova.
The experience of communication based on the virtual platforms proved efficient during the current epidemiological crisis. Throughout 2020, there have been several virtual meetings between the members of the network and representatives of the central authorities. Following these meetings professionals from the local administration found guidance on how to find a proper solution on current issues that emerged as a result of the crisis. Similarly, central authorities used these platforms in order to get better understanding on the challenges faced by local communities and thereby inform decisions at the national level.
References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications
Website of the CALM Accountants Network, <https://www.calm.md/categorie/reteaua-contabililor-din-cadrul-calm/>
Website of the Professional Network of Specialists in Tax Collection, <https://www.calm.md/categorie/reteaua-profesionala-a-specialistilor-in-percepere-fiscala/>
Website of the Professional Network of Specialists in the Field of Land Ownership Regulation within CALM, <https://www.calm.md/categorie/reteaua-profesionala-a-specialistilor-in-domeniul-reglementarii-proprietatii-funciare-din-cadrul-calm/>
Website of CALM Secretaries, <https://www.calm.md/categorie/reteaua-secretarilor-din-cadrul-calm/>