Ukraine: Urban Public Transportation Improvement and Effective Local Government Programs
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukraine has struggled with its independence and is in the process of creating a society free of many of the constraints and the centralization that it experienced under the Soviet system. Steps in this direction have included the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the 1997 passage of the Law on Local Self-Government which mandated local authority and responsibility in most municipal affairs. An association has been established, the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), to support the municipalities.
Despite such legislation and constructive actions, reforms have been very slow, mainly due to the lingering influence of pre-independence thinking. The country has been further handicapped by difficult economic readjustments and an overall deterioration in service levels, most notably in the area of public transportation. As well, there remains a top-down policy of budgeting, with the state and Oblast controlling tariffs and tax collection measures and allocating funds to the cities in an unpredictable and unreliable manner. As a result, practices have emerged such as the lowering of municipal subsidies to communal services and the payment of services by industrial enterprises and governmental organizations through barter and offsets. Many communal enterprises have experienced negative cash flows in recent years in addition to regulatory overload due to company operations being controlled by different agencies and segments of the government.
Amidst this climate, MetaMetrics Inc, in conjunction with Abt Associates Inc, coordinated a participatory evaluation of two recent projects in the Ukraine that had been funded by USAID and implemented by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI). The goal was to encourage more effective and responsive local government in the Ukraine. The first of the projects, the Urban Public Transportation Improvement (UPTI) was undertaken to address the steady deterioration of bus service in Ukrainian cities where the majority of the population relied on such services. The UPTI project sought to restore bus service and capacity while also reducing operating costs and increasing fare revenues. Long term goals included developing plans for capital financing and instituting mixed motorized/electric systems. The second component of the project was the Effective Local Government Project (ELGP). The ELGP goal was to provide technical assistance and to formulate training activities in order to aid municipal administrations as they worked toward decentralization and local autonomy. This assistance was most notably in relation to budget preparation and transparency as well as municipal service enterprises, such as the water companies. The project ultimately aimed to improve the overall financial management of the Ukrainian cities involved in the project, to strengthen the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) "as a permanent and institutionalized voice for the municipalities," and to increase the level of citizen involvement in service decision making.
Participatory evaluation was chosen as the primary method of evaluation in order to enable key stakeholders to actively participate and to "define and address issues of their own, thereby ... to feel ownership of the findings and to facilitate their own follow-up actions." The core evaluation team included the Abt Associates/MetaMetrics coordination team of Leo Surla (Team Leader/Lead Facilitator), Ulrich Ernst (Economist), and Ruslan Nyzhnyk (Field Coordinator) with Anna Sweetser acting as the Washington, DC based participation evaluation consultant. The 19 participant evaluators included 12 stakeholders (municipal and utilities employees, AUC staff, and an official of the national government), 6 USAID staff, and one RTI representative (Irina Chaika). The USAID project officers were Judith Hansen and Michael Foster.
The evaluation began with one week of training during which time the participant-evaluators were able to conduct practice interviews, to refine their interviewing techniques, and to draft a series of interview questions. During the next two weeks, the actual fieldwork was conducted as the participant-evaluators were divided into three teams and then collected data in the selected cities that had participated in the UPTI or the ELGP or both. The first week of fieldwork was spent in the western Ukrainian cities of Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Rivne while the second week focused on the central and eastern regions of the country as participant-evaluators visited Sumy, Kirovohrad, and Kryvyi Rih. Following the fieldwork, there was a final one week workshop during which time the participant-evaluators discussed and reviewed their findings and prepared their own conclusions and recommendations for the AUC and other stakeholders.
As a result of their fieldwork, the participant-evaluators came to the conclusion that the UPTI program and the ELGP, though having fallen short of their initial goals, demonstrated that there was still the possibility of bringing about desired reforms in the future. To further demonstrate this possibility, the participant-evaluators formulated a number of recommendations intended to strengthen and develop the local governments in the Ukraine. Noting the climate of uncertainty about local government responsibilities and authorities, the evaluators believed, first and foremost, that considerable attention should be focused on reforming existing laws which would, in effect, clarify the role and responsibilities of the local governments as well as the relationship of local government to the oblast and the central government. Further recommendations included:
- Development of standard and clear procedures to govern the budget process, most notably concerning criteria for budget allocations
- Clarification of the legal terms under which the cities may generate revenue through the taxation of enterprises and individuals
- Expansion of training of city workers such as city council members and city financial officers
- Computerization of city and oblast departments
- Conversion of community enterprises to stockholding companies
- Diversification in transport and investments in capital
- Continuation and expansion of the AUC¼s activities in support of local government development
The participant-evaluators believed that the goals they had articulated could most likely be achieved if creative solutions were proposed and if intensive, sustained support could be made available, initially for a few selected cities. By focusing on these few cities that showed real interest in the projects and the potential for change, agencies such as the USAID and the AUC could help usher in the reforms in ways such as providing small grants on a matching basis and working to increase private sector participation. Assistance for additional cities would ultimately be considered as demand rose. Above all else, the participant-evaluators optimistically maintained the long-term opportunities to remedy the problems in Ukrainian society but stressed that the process must be approached in a gradual, calculated manner if the reforms were to truly have an impact.
This is the official homepage for Ukraine. It contains general information as well as information for tourists planning to visit the region.
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