Alternating Reality of Decentralization
or where to get information on the progress of territorial communities’ amalgamation in Ukraine?
Head of the Board, Ukrainian Center for Social Data
In any process of changes, the precise and timely information on its progress is an important factor, if not the decisive one. Amalgamation of territorial communities – as part of power decentralization campaign in Ukraine – is not an exception. However, the way it is being informed about leaves an impression that decentralization may imply lack of coordination when some governmental structures have no idea of what others are doing.
When updating “Local elections in territorial communities” website (info-vybory.in.ua) I had to collect data on amalgamated territorial communities. There are several websites that publish or are intended to publish information on administrative and territorial division of Ukraine as well as alterations thereof, but each of them has failed to provide full and up-to-date information.
“Decentralization of power” website
One of top search results listed by Google to the request on amalgamated territorial communities is “Decentralization of power” website launched by the initiative of the Ministry of regional development (Minregion), which gives and account of administrative and territorial reform implementation process. The structure of the website sections claims to the comprehensive coverage of the reform progress. However, “Amalgamation of communities” section offers incomplete and faulty information:
- Information on community amalgamation is published with substantial delays. For instance, as of 7 September 2016 Vinnytska oblast featured only two amalgamated communities – Kalynivka and Studena – while at that moment the procedure of amalgamation has been completed for two more amalgamated communities – Vapniarka and Illintsi. First elections there took place on 28 August. Logically the information should have been published at the website as early as the stage of election scheduling.
- Information on local communities comprising the amalgamated community at the page http://decentralization.gov.ua/region/approved is sometimes incomplete or lacking. For example, if you do not proceed to the community passport page it appears that the community of Artemivsk (Poltavska oblast) has never been amalgamated anywhere. And the passport does not make it more clear how many local communities it amalgamated as well.
- Quite inconvenient is the lack of information on the type of community – village, town, city. Only the presence of two cognominal councils in Khmelnytska oblast has impelled the website operators to specify: Dunaievtsi (city) and Dunaievtsi (town).
- Beyond comprehension is the ignoring of rayons as governance organization level. The website conveys lingering impression that rayon organization level does not exist: communities are arranged solely by oblasts. To find out what rayon a community belongs to one should visit its page, then go to “Contacts” tab (not always available at every community page), and still the required information may not be present there – sometimes the section features only the council head’s name.
- Information of “COMMUNITY PASSPORT” section is not conventionally arranged for all communities, and is simply absent sometimes.
Website “Geoportal of administrative-territorial system of Ukraine”
The progress of administrative-territorial reform is also covered by another Minregion website – Geoportal of administrative-territorial system of Ukraine (atu.minregion.gov.ua). Its distinctive feature is that together with the decisions of councils and statistics it contains spatial data – the map with boundaries of administrative units.
Supposedly it is the “beta-testing” mode the website currently operates under, as the statement in the right upper corner of the page says, that could explain existing drawbacks, for instance:
- Same as with “Decentralization of power”, the list of amalgamated communities is out of date.
- Errors in definition of territories. In particular, the map shows that Trostianets village territorial community of Mykolaivskyi rayon of Lviv oblast has within its territory the Lypivka village council and the enclave of the town of Mykolaiv – the village of Zaklad, which according to the website description are not amalgamated with the community. Yet subject to the decision of Lviv oblast state administration of 04.09.2015 №483/0/5-15 these settlements and the respective territories have been included into amalgamated community and it has no territorial “gaps” left so far. Same error in the description of Trostianets community is present at “Decentralization of power” initiative website.
There are cases when the description of amalgamated community’s territory is correct but the map itself has errors. For instance, the boundaries of Kalynivka city territorial community does not coincide with the borders of the comprising councils. The map also fails to include therein the town of , which however is present in the description.
Website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
Up-to-date information on the territorial system of Ukraine and changes thereof should be available at the website of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine (rada.gov.ua) in the sub-section “Ukraine. ADMIN.TER.SYSTEM” of “Resources” section. However same as at Minregion websites this information is incomplete and faulty.
- The website lacks information on amalgamated territorial communities created without participation of oblast councils. Consequently, amalgamated councils are still featured by the website as independent. For example, Khodoriv city territorial community (Zhydachivskyi rayon, Lviv oblast), which by the decision dated 08.09.2015 has included 13 councils with first elections held on 27.03.2016 at the Parliament’s website is indicated as consisting of only one city.
- Amalgamated communities are excluded from community lists by status (village, town and city). Like Starosaltiv town amalgamated community is absent in its rayon’s list of town councils.
- However, when opening the full composition of rayon, it may be found down the list of all councils and the respective settlements. Same situation takes place with the rest of amalgamated territorial communities allocated therein.
- In some cases, the negligent attitude to the website content is evident. In particular, the record card of the abovementioned Starosaltiv town amalgamated community is incomplete and contains incorrect foundation date. The card states that it took place on 23 July 2015 while further in the text of the decision of Kharkivska oblast council, it appears that “the date of foundation of the territorial community is amended to “7 September 2015”, VRU Bulletin, 2016, № 14, p. 14”. But there again, the hyperlink with wording “Starosaltiv town council TC” leads to the record card of Morshyn city council.
Administrative-territorial system of Ukraine objects classifier (КОАТУУ)
All units of the administrative-territorial system of Ukraine (Autonomous Republic of Crimea, oblasts, rayons, cities, municipal districts, towns, village councils and villages) are assigned respective codes under COATSU (Classifier of objects of administrative and territorial system of Ukraine — КОАТУУ). This code is intended to ensure credibility, compatibility, integrity and automated processing of information from the territorial perspective. Whereas any settlement or council changes its status – a village becomes town or separates out into an individual council, should a city change its status from rayon to oblast significance, the respective COATSU code should be altered or created.
The process of COATSU codes assigning and alteration is performed by the Department of Statistic Infrastructure of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine. However, as far as this agency did not receive any respective instructions, it completely ignores territorial communities’ amalgamation process. No new codes are assigned to these communities and all amalgamated councils remain in the list of COATSU codes as before – separated, which impedes automated processing of information from the territorial perspective.
What can be done about it?
Therefore, someone who needs precise data on which councils has amalgamated and into which ones (with the list of settlements) should download all decisions of the Central Elections Commission (cvk.gov.ua) on scheduling of first elections. Annexes thereto indicate oblast and rayon where such amalgamation took place and what councils (with the list of settlements) have been amalgamated. If only the list of settlements comprising amalgamated territorial communities is needed, such information is available at the website of the State electoral register in «Communities information» section.
This solution can not be called an easy one, still a more reliable way of obtaining up-to-date information on amalgamation of territorial communities does not appear to be available.
However, apart from a clearly practical conclusion this brief analysis brings up another issue.
Negligence, varying relevancy or sabotage?
It would be preferable to associate the aforementioned issues of relevancy, accuracy and consistency of information on communities’ amalgamation with the sluggish response of inert bureaucratic structures. It is interesting and trendy to attempt viewing it as a demonstration of varying relevancy in different layers of information environment – from immediately running out-of-date events in twitter through the slower timing of facebook and blogs to several months lag between the event and reaction to it at “Decentralization of power” website. However, the case of COATSU codes forces to look at the reality through less rose-colored glasses.
The state in the process of ongoing reforms does not act as a single organism. It does not form the holistic picture of what happens to itself. And no alternative to collection, systematization and dissemination of information being parallel to, or sometimes bypassing governmental structures, is currently available or may be anticipated.