Anti-corruption measures and civic monitoring of public institutionsOpen Society Fund Prague is a long-term supporter of attempts by citizens' initiatives to reduce corruption and increase transparency within Czech society. The foundation believes that a healthy democratic society requires that citizens keep an eye on public institutions, put pressure on these institutions to improve the way their work, and call attention to instances when government offices fail to respect the public interest.
With this program, OSF supports the following four areas in particular:
Measures against corruption
In 2010, OSF provided support to several important non-governmental organizations, including Environmental Law Service, Transparency International ČR, Oživení and Open Society, who work to uncover corruption and fraud, cooperate with whistleblowers, and operate legal advisory centers for citizens who have encountered corruption. These four large organizations are among OSF's long-term strategic partners, and are important watchdogs that keep an eye on the Czech government. For instance, in 2008 Transparency International began monitoring the planned large-scale environmental contract for the removal of old environmental burdens – when TI discovered that procurement of this project could result in the funneling of tens of billions of crowns from the national budget, it informed the Office for the Protection of Economic Competition and fought for the cancellation of the government contract.
Increased governmental transparency and personal accountability for public officials
This area includes attempts at increasing the transparency of public contracts, changing the manner in which political parties and campaigns are financed, and limiting conflicts of interest and special-interest groups. For instance, OSF helped the Oživení (Revitalization) civic association prepare ten anti-corruption rules that town councilors then pledged to uphold. OSF's partners are also engaged in the process of writing new laws on government employees and for regulating lobbying, and operate legal advisory centers for the public.
Involving citizens in decision-making and offering them insight into the work of public institutions and representatives
For OSF Prague, an active and engaged citizenry is an important precondition for a stable democracy. In the run-up to local elections and parliamentary elections in 2010, the foundation thus issued two rounds of grants aimed at promoting an active civil society capable of quickly responding to current events and reflecting Czech political culture. Projects receiving funding from these grants include one by the Trojmezí civic association, which succeeded in blocking construction on a large greenfield site in Prague, as well as a watchdog organization that monitors local government in numerous cities and municipalities (Čelákovice, Ostrava, Trhové Sviny, Brno, Prague, and Teplice, among others). In all cases, the objective of these activities is to change the political climate in favor of greater transparency and openness, to help voters make informed decisions during elections, and to increase public interest in politics in general.
Free access to information
OSF is a long-term supporter of the public's access to information. The foundation cooperates with, among others, Open Society, whose "Open Up" program focuses on the implementation of Act no. 106/1999 on free access to information. This law requires public officials and institutions to publish information on their activities online and in person, if so requested. As part of its efforts at improving the public's access to information, OSF also supports projects that provide citizens with information about the political scene (e.g., KohoVolit.eu, Našipolitici.cz). In this regard, the foundation also promotes the use of new media.
We supported: Adoption of the Conflict of Interest Act
In 2003, with support from OSF, Transparency International ČR (TIC) began to push for a more effective and enforceable conflict of interest law, and prepared its own proposal for such a law. After several years of lobbying, campaigning, and many political twists and turns, this goal was finally achieved when parliament passed a new law in 2006. The law introduced a requirement that politicians and other public officials publicize their assets. Without support from OSF and pressure from TIC, this law would never have been passed.