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					                        Communication
         between government and citizens
                             in Slovenia


                            A report & recommendations
             prepared by Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D.,
                                       with Alenka Ažman



                                under the auspices of the
                United Nations Development Programme
         Regional Bureau for Eastern Europe and the CIS
    UNDP RBEC sub-regional project RER/01/003/A08/13
“Improving Communication from Government to Societies”




                                  Ljubljana, 28 June 2002
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations




                           Communication
             between government and citizens in Slovenia:
                     A report & recommendations

                                          Table of Contents

Executive Summary…………………………………………………………………… 2
Background……………………………………………………………………………                                                   4
The Project & Methodology…………………………………………………………… 5
Findings & Conclusions………………………………………………………………. 6
       Democracy is about communication………………………………………….. 6
       Communication is often more efficient than other instruments………………. 7
       Communication has also managerial and not only technical aspects…………. 8
Strategic Issues………………………………………………………………………… 9
       Political environment……………………………………………………..…… 9
       Institutional environment……………………………………………………… 10
       Operational challenges………………………………………………………… 11
Recommendations…………………………………………………………………...… 14
       Building commitment by creating understanding……………………………... 14
       Building a solid communication structure…………………………………….. 14
               Separate and define the role of political and civil service communication staff
               Role of civil service communication advisors
               Role of political communication advisors
               Public Relations and Media Office
       Planning……………………………………………………………………….. 16
               Cross-government communication plans
               Annual ministry plans
               Communication assessments for all government proposals
               Evaluation of communication
       Communication coordination…………………………………………………. 17
               Civil service manager of the Public Relations and Media Office
               Council of government communication officers
               Government communication policy, strategy and standards
       Professional development……………………………………………………… 18
               Education and training for communication staff
               Basic education for public administration
Next Steps……………………………………………………………………………… 19
       Appendix 1: Organisations met during the interview phase…………………. 20
       Appendix 2: Republic of Slovenia, Communication function in government.. 21




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                             1
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia
A report & recommendations

prepared by Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman

under the auspices of the
United Nations Development Programme
Regional Bureau for Eastern Europe and the CIS
UNDP RBEC sub-regional project RER/01/003/A08/13
“Improving Communication from Government to Societies”

Ljubljana, 28 June 2002



Executive summary

Project & methodology

This report presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations of a project designed to
assist the Government of Slovenia to strengthen its communication competencies. The report
is based on document review and extensive structured interviews with people in and outside
government.

Findings & conclusions

There is a consensus in and between government, media and CSOs that government
communication has improved in the past decade, but that it still needs a substantial upgrade to
enable accountability, transparency and openness in government. Communication is not yet
recognised as a character of new public management (based on information, consolation and
participation), as a support service activity it is understaffed, underfunded and undermanaged,
and it is rarely used as a policy instrument (in line with legal and economic instruments).
Government communication structure in Slovenia is underinstitutionalised; but also change in
political culture is needed.

Strategic issues

Communication is in top political and civil service circles understood as a promotional tool to
be used when convenient. The lack of understanding of the role of communication in
democratic government leads to frustration on the side of government and to cynicism on the
side of media and the public. There is insufficient guidance and coordination of
communication within the government and between government and citizens. Government
employs many competent civil service communication experts that provide the core around
which a new government communication system could be build.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                          2
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Recommendations

Based on the findings and strategic issues, the report proposes measures to increase
institutional capacity and competence in the field of communication within the government
and between government and citizens.

Building commitment by creating understanding
The government and public administration need to understand and buy into good governance
principle of accountability, transparency and openness. These principles guide government
communication policy.

Building a solid communication structure
Roles of political and civil service communication staff need to be clearly defined and
separated. The Public Relations and Media Office needs a clear mandate to claim
responsibility over government communication. People already performing communication
tasks need to identified and educated for the role. At the moment, only the minority of civil
servants working in communication is perceived as being involved in communication function
(primarily those working with media).

Planning
At both the government and ministerial levels the overall, annual and project communication
plans are clearly needed. All government proposals need communication assessment and plan.
Communication plans include evaluation procedures to determine their effectiveness and
efficiency when completed. Plans need to include total communication effort and not only
media relations.

Communication coordination
The Public Relations and Media Office needs a civil service manager to enable proper
management and continuity. The Director of the Office, who is also the spokesperson for the
government, is a political appointee who can neither strategically nor operationally manage
the Office. A council of government communication officers is needed to ensure proper
coordination across the government. Government communication policy, strategy and
standards must be explicated and written.

Professional development
Communication staff in government and public administration needs continuous professional
education and training. This must be ensured within the Administration Academy and within
the public educational system. The Administration Academy must educate and train all civil
servants in basics of communication principles and skill.


Next steps
The report ends by suggesting immediate actions toward these recommendations: translate
this report into Slovenian language, circulate it in the government, public administration and
civil society organizations for the purpose of consultation, prepare the draft Guidelines of
Government Communication Policy and the Government Communication Structure
Implementation project, include specialist and general communication subject into
programmes of Administration Academy.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                         3
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia
A report & recommendations

prepared by Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman

under the auspices of the
United Nations Development Programme
Regional Bureau for Eastern Europe and the CIS
UNDP RBEC sub-regional project RER/01/003/A08/13
“Improving Communication from Government to Societies”

Ljubljana, 28 June 2002




Background

The Government of Slovenia is determined to implement the good governance principles
defined in Citizens as Partners sourcebook and handbook (see www.oecd.org/puma):

        accountability (possibility to identify officials and hold them accountable),
        transparency (availability of information about government activities) and
        openness (listening and responsiveness).

This determination of the government is based on constitutional and legal provisions of the
Republic of Slovenia. After the parliamentary elections in 2000, it was explicitly incorporated
into the coalition agreement between the political parties forming the present government,
which among its objectives defines information society for all and reform of public
administration in accordance with the above principles. In 2001, the Standing Order of the
Government of the Republic of Slovenia defined in a chapter that government work is public
and that this openness is actively provided. Responsibility for that is located into the office
responsible for government information and to the public relations representative of the
government. Currently, they are the Government Public Relations and Media Office and its
Director (who is also Spokesperson of the Government).

Further strengthening of the three dimensions of government-citizens relations, information
(both passive and active), consultation (two-way communication) and participation (with a
real impact on the policy process), demands changes in political culture and institutional
structures. These needed changes are not unique to Slovenia or any region. They are
fundamental to the whole democratic world at the beginning of the new millennium.

A lot has been done in Slovenia to upgrade its communication capacities and competences:
many people entered the function, normative frameworks have been improved and more funds
are available today than they were ever before. Yet, more needs to be done to close the gap
between the needed and the achieved levels of scope, quality and quantity of communication
between government and citizens. This document is to stimulate thoughts, debates and actions
in that direction.



Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                          4
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Project & methodology

After extensive consultations held with the UNDP Country Offices in the sub-region,
governmental counterparts, international experts, including the Institute On Governance
(Canada), Public Administration International, international organisations, including
UNESCO, OECD and OSI, UNDP organized a workshop on creating effective
communications policies for governments in Central Europe and the Baltic States, in Riga,
Latvia from 19 to 20 November 2001 (UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS, Sub-
regional project RER/01/003/A/08/13, “Improving Communication from Governments to
Societies in Central Europe and the Baltic States”). The workshop was organized within the
framework of the UNDP RBEC sub-regional project aimed at improving communication from
governments to societies in Central Europe and the Baltic States. The purpose of the
workshop was to start up the first phase of the project and to provide communication officials
from participating countries with an overview of best practices from within and outside the
region in terms of development and implementation of communication policies, approaches
and best practices.

Officials from government media/public relations offices and national experts from Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia participated in the workshop. In addition,
representatives of OECD/PUMA, OSI, UNDP RBEC and the UNDP country office in Riga,
as well as international experts participated in the workshop.

The second workshop was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia from 21 to 22 May 2002, with
participation from Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Albania and Croatia also attended.

This report was prepared in the above context and presents an assessment of the present
capacities and experiences of government communication with citizens in Slovenia. Its aim is
to facilitate drafting and implementation of national communication policy and strategy,
resulting in institutionalization, rationalization and sustainability of communication processes.

The assessment and recommendations are based on intensive study of documents and
extensive interviews with over 25 organisations, involving more than 50 individuals over a
two-month period. A complete list of organizations is given in the Appendix 1. The
interviews included ministers, their cabinet staff, government communication specialists at
ministries and at the Public Relations and Media Office, journalists and editors,
representatives of civil society organisations, academics, etc. In addition, we participated at a
couple of meetings between government representatives, civil society organisations, media
and communication professionals dealing with the newly proposed freedom on information
act (“The Law on Access to Information of Public Nature”). We were also acquainted with
several analyses of the current organisation of the communication function in the government
and proposals for its reorganisations that were prepared in the Government Public Relations
and Media Office in the past.

The report was prepared by Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., as the national expert
contracted by the UNDP (special service agreement No. 014/2002), with the assistance of
Alenka Ažman. Although the report is based on information obtained in contacts with many
professionals and organisations, its findings and conclusions present the views of the authors.
Limitations of space and style require condensation. However, we hope to provide enough
evidence and reason to trigger inter-action.


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                            5
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Findings & conclusion

Democracy is about communication

The Government of Slovenia is committed to the good governance principles of
accountability, transparency and openness. To ensure information society for all and reform of
public administration, it founded a Ministry for Information Society to facilitate the first and a
position of a Ministerial Counsellor in the Office of the Prime Minister to coordinate the
second. The government, all its ministries and many subordinate agencies have their Websites
(see http://www.gov.si/ and http://www.gov.si/vrs/ang/index-ang.html for general entries, and
http://e-gov.gov.si/e-uprava/english/index.jsp for e-Government). To listen to its constituency,
the government not only regularly purchases public opinion surveys at the Faculty of Social
Science, University of Ljubljana; it publishes them promptly on the Internet
(http://www.uvi.si/slo/aktualno/javnomnenjske-raziskave/pdf/aktualno.pdf). At the centre of
the government communication structure is the Public Relations and Media Office with 15
professionals – members of the civil service and a Director (who is also the spokesperson for
the government) who it nominally a civil servant, yet so far changed with each consecutive
government. The Office is divided into three departments: domestic, international and one
managing the Communication Programme on Slovenia‟s Accession to the European Union.
Every ministry employs a communication professional, with the Ministry of Interior with 5
communication officers having the largest department (plus the Police with 8 communication
officers at its HQ and a well organised structure covering the whole country). The Office of
the Prime Minister has three communication officers (see Appendix 2: Communication
function in government).

Although there is a clearly stated political will and although there is a visible improvement in
the organisational communication structure, people, tools and practices, our respondents were
highly critical of the actual implementation of the spirit of the good governance principles.
We identified three root causes for that: technocratic mentality, a lack of knowledge on
communication as an instrument and the low position of the communication function in the
government.

Many people in government and public administration see themselves as technocrats. Even
several members of the government prefer to think about themselves as „experts‟ on a
temporary duty in government and not as politicians. As “technocrats” on a temporary duty in
government they have problems with understanding why they should spend time on
communication. They are ministers because they know how “to make” and not how “to sell”
things. Even when they take time to communicate, they become frustrated by the ignorance of
laymen in general and of journalists in particular. In our interview, two ministers identified
journalists as the major obstacle to quality of government/citizen communication.
Technocratic attitude is even stronger in public administration. Many people in public
administration identify themselves as “specialist” or explicitly as “technocrats”. They openly
say that they were not elected, but selected. It is on those who were elected, to respond to the
media and to the public. Civil service is there “only to prepare things” and therefore can not
be held accountable for any decision. The technocratic attitude produces democratic deficit.
As a journalist expressed it: “They have no sense of responsibility toward the public and the
taxpayers.” This is clearly a problem of political culture.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                             6
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Based on experience gained in change management in large organisations, it is possible to
predict that the time needed for such a change is between 10 and 15 years. This problem of
timing needs to be taken in consideration realistically.


Communication is often more efficient than other instruments

Different ministries often use communication as a supplement to economic and legal
instruments. If subsidiary agencies are taken into account as well, it would be hard for a
citizen to walk a city or use the media and not to encounter some government induced
communication campaign. Themes can range from AIDS, child abuse, consumer protection,
domestic tourism promotion, drugs, eating habits, energy consumption, equal opportunity,
European Union, NATO, parking habits, recreation, road traffic safety, sexual abuse, skiing
accidents, swimming accidents, tax evasion, water protection… Although these programs
abound, they are seen by their sponsoring ministries and their subsidiary agencies as
“promotional” to their “core” or “substantive” programmes and not as programmes on their
own. This misunderstanding of communication as an instrument of policy has several adverse
consequences.

Since communication is not seen as an instrument of policy in itself, public
information/communication campaigns paid from public funds are not planned and
coordinated at the level of the government. This was clearly expressed by a minister who
responded to our question on quality of government communication that “there is no such
thing as government communication. Only ministries, their agencies and offices, can
communicate. The government as such never communicates.” This lack of planning and
coordination with the corresponding undervaluation of communication leads to a high number
of underfunded public information/communication campaigns that are produced well bellow
the standards common not only in commercial communication, but also in civil society, that
are placed in media contrary to every rule of media planning and buying/placement, and that
should have never even be initiated since it was clear at their very beginnings that they have
zero chance to make any impact. Many of these campaigns only make government
communication professionals look amateurish, and their superiors lavish (to order campaigns
only as showcases that they care).

Inadequate treatment of communication as policy instrument precludes specialisation and
therefore learning. There are no specialists for media buying, so media space is bought
individually by different organisations at different points in time at different (often retail)
prices. (And sometimes it is literally begged.) The majority of external services are negotiated
individually. This leads to the simplest tasks becoming incredibly complex (like preserving
the agreed corporate identity of the government being used uniformly across the government).
There are many civil servants that are performing exclusively or primarily communication
tasks (like working on the Internet presentations, preparing commentaries and explanations of
various government actions and initiatives) but are not identified as communication
specialists, have no education and training in communication and are not even mentally a part
of the civil service communication community.

When used properly, public information/communication campaigns can be very effective and
cost-efficient. But they need to be prepared and executed properly. To ensure that, some
central coordination is needed. (At the moment, nobody has information even on which
campaigns are currently going now.) This should be provided by the Public Relations and


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                           7
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Media Office where some of the needed specialties could be provided for the government as a
whole.

As in other fields of activity, the government needs to organise its use of communication as an
instrument of policy. At the present this seems hard to do as there is no institution within
government that would calculate costs and benefits of the use of different instruments
themselves, in comparison and in combination. The Public Relations and Media Office should
consider an intra-government information/communication campaign to enlighten the senior
members of public administration on the nature and benefits of communication as a policy
instrument.


Communication has also managerial and not only technical aspects

Government communication functions normatively by the Standing Order of the Government
in order to implement the good governance principles of accountability, transparency and
openness. Descriptively, the communication function in the majority of the ministries and
their subordinate agencies serves as a media relations outlet for the top people of the
organisation. In reality, that means that communication function in many cases means simply
a spokesperson. He or she is, normatively again, a member of civil service, yet, descriptively,
since there is no political communication adviser to the minister, forced to perform activities
that would normally be considered beyond the boundaries of civil service. They are supposed
to be communication officers of the ministry and of the minister at the same time. Some of
them see this as a major problem, while others don‟t understand the difference.

One person doing media relations for the minister and the ministry means that a whole day is
spent of writing press releases, organising interviews and press conferences, responding to
media inquiries. There is no time to think about what and why needs to be done. There is no
time for proper planning or evaluation. Due to lack of people, those in job can not spend time
on education or training. At the same time, there are several other people in each ministry that
exclusively or primarily perform communication tasks without themselves or anybody else
recognising this as a fact.

Under such constraints it is impossible to develop counselling and managerial competencies
in communication function in the government. This, in return, limits government competence
and capability to perform in accordance with the good governance principles of
accountability, transparency and openness. Few communication officers can offer their
superiors a good advice or prevent them from making communication mistakes. Practically no
government activity is proactively analysed from a communication perspective. Furthermore,
although some ministries employ hundreds of people, internal communication function is not
served. (At least not explicitly.)

Spokespeople present the views of their employers. As such, they are primarily responsible
for informational and persuational, one-way, broadcasting communication. This, however, is
only a part of the communication function needed in democratic government. Spokespeople
need to be complemented with specialist for two-way communication, consultation and
interactive policy-making. These and people responsible for direct responses to citizens‟
inquiries, people working on internal communication, public information/communication
campaign specialists and other needed profiles form a group of people that itself need to be
managed. People capable of performing managerial tasks are clearly needed. Yet, in the


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                           8
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



government there are no communication positions of managerial rank. Only four
communication professionals at the Public Relations and Media Office were promoted into
the status of state undersecretary in 2002. We consider this position as a necessary condition
for communication to be able to perform at every single ministry.

An often quoted reason for why it is impossible to place communication high enough in a
ministry is lack of people of the appropriate rank in the civil service. This is a circular
argument, since it is circulating around now for more than ten years. Those communication
officers that could in the meantime become state undersecretaries have left civil service. The
danger is that as new generations of communication officers are progressing through the
ranks, they will reach the ceiling too soon and be forced to leave when they could become the
most useful.


Strategic issues

Political environment

Slovenia has a proportional electoral system that produces coalition governments. The prime
minister is first elected in the national assembly and than nominates a list of candidates for
ministers. These are individually presented to the relevant working bodies of the national
assembly. The national assembly votes for the ministers by voting for the proposed list as a
whole, but if it fails to elect the government in two rounds, the prime minister can in the third
round propose that there should be a ballot for each individual candidate. These electoral
procedures make individual ministers relatively independent from the prime minister. The
consequence is that individual ministers can represent first themselves, then their party and
only thirdly the government. This often leaves the prime minister alone in communicating the
government as a whole.

A strong and professional pubic administration could compensate some of the fractal features
of government communication – if properly designed.

Agenda

Slovenia is adjusting its social, economic and political systems to the European Union and
NATO. Becoming an independent country and a democracy only a decade ago, this places an
enormous burden on the shoulders of the government and of the national assembly. In April
2002, the parliamentary opposition calculated that there are 182 substantial pieces of
legislation proposed by the government waiting in the national assembly for consideration.
This enormity of work makes the need for clear definition of priorities and their organised
communication urgent.


Blurred roles

The majority of ministries employs one or two communication officers. They are at the same
time spokespersons for the minister and the ministry. Communication officers are effectually
employed by the ministries (in often cases by ministers) and can hardly develop any sense of
public administration communication community. (Yet there are many other people within
ministries who work in communication but are not identified with their communication role.


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                            9
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



That means that there are unused resources readily available, needing organisation and
training more than new employments.)

The director of the Public Relations and Media Office is nominally a civil servant, yet so far it
always changed with every consecutive (thus giving an impression of a political
appointment). At the same time the director combines a political role of the spokesperson of
the government and a managerial position within the Office – with the first of these two roles
taking the majority of his or her time. There is no designate manager of the Office from the
civil service that would ensure managerial continuity. Furthermore, the prime minister is
without a spokesperson in this government.


Favourable climate for change

There seems to be a wide consensus among the prime minister, the ministers and the public
administration on the need to strengthen the government communication system in
accordance with the good governance principles of accountability, transparency and openness.
As there is a reform of public administration in progress, the reform of its communication
structure must be included.


Institutional environment

There is no document explicating government communication policy, strategy, principles and
standards. There is also no common model for organisation of the communication function at
ministries and their subsidiary agencies. In some ministries there are communication offices,
in some ministries there is only a single spokesperson. (That is nominally. In reality there are
probably dozens of civil servants doing primarily communication tasks without proper
management and organisation of this part of their work. This shows that communication
function is not perceived as important enough to be explicitly managed yet.)

A common institutional structure for government communication needs to be developed and
common templates are needed for synchronised work.


A lack of community

Communication officers in the Government come from different educational and professional
backgrounds. Some of them used to meet weekly on coordination meeting organised by the
Public Relations and Media Office, but those meetings died away. There were also several
attempts to organise a section for communication officers in public sector within the Public
Relations Society of Slovenia, but none ever succeeded. Communication professionals
working in the Government are left each on his or her own. This prevents the development of
collective memory and learning.

Because there is no permanent institutional structure, a lack of community means a complete
fragmentation of communication function in the government. May people explicitly working
in communication are not identified in this function and remain completely uninvolved in any
initiative in this field.



Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                           10
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations




Duplicated effort and hidden resources

It is common to find the same type of work being done as a part of communication in
different parts of the government without any coordination or even consultation. Even a quick
look at the Websites demonstrates that they are produced by different logics and looks for
different clients. A visitor gets a clear message that each ministry is an entity in its own (visit
http://www.gov.si/vrs/ang/government/povezave.html and go to the Websites of different
ministries – they have different graphics and different navigation). This is just an illustration
of a common feature.

This will be a problem to change, because many see any suggestions for shared activities as
intrusions into their turfs. These may be small, but they are not shared.


Opportunities for improved coordination

The majority of people in government and civil service say that they are not satisfied with the
present operation of the communication function in the government, but that they are at least
satisfied with its development. That means that they are critical and see further opportunities
for substantial improvement.

During the interviews we felt that there is the political will and operational readiness to
change they ways in which communication is treated in the government and in the public
administration. This readiness is to be exploited.


Operational challenges

Strategic planning

There is a critical lack of strategic communication planning at the level of the government.
Such coordination exists only around two communication campaigns (pro-EU and pro-
NATO) and at rare special occasions (e.g. during the Bush-Putin meeting in Slovenia).

Although many communication officers at the Ministries say that they have written
communication plans, these plans are not thematic and are not focused on the major
initiatives.

Pre-positioning of initiatives, identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
threats, adjustment of programs for communicative reasons and similar types of behaviour
common in the commercial sector are absent.

Documents submitted to the government for deliberation and decision contain a section on
their potential financial, but not communication consequences.

There is a need for organised strengthening of the planning (and evaluation) competence in
government communication.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                             11
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Issues management

Anticipation of and preparation for major communication crises is rare. When critical
situations occur, there are no operational procedures to provide information to media and to
the public. This is a problem specifically identifies in our interviews by journalists: when they
want to check some information that is perceived as negative, it is impossible for them to get
in touch with anybody of any decision-making importance. It is precisely in these situations
that communication officers at ministries are seen as blocking and not facilitating
communication flow between the government and public administration on one side and the
media and the public on the other side.

Lack of issues management can be attributed to both lack of people in communication
function (who are completely consumed by day-to-day technical activities) and lack of
knowledge (there was not opportunity to gain it). That makes the non-existence of issues
management a structural problem.


Communication coordination

There is no coordination of communication within the government and public administration.
There is even no coordination of communication within ministries between their subordinate
agencies and offices. A simple explanation for that seems to be in an incomplete
understanding of the communication function in government and public administration: as the
majority of communication officers serve as spokespersons for their employers (ministers and
directors of agencies and offices), there is not much to coordinate (except scheduling of their
public appearances, so that they don‟t overlap). This demonstrates that the lack of
coordination is both a cause and a consequence of the underdeveloped understanding of the
role of communication in democratic government. Changes of the present situation can occur
only through coordination across the government and public administration and such changes
must produce also higher levels of coordination on substantive matters.

A special problem for designing coordination will be conflicting definitions of “public
bodies” with special responsibilities in the field of information and communication – thus
being covered by the good governance principles of accountability, transparency and
openness. A clear definition of government, civil service, public administration and public
sector will be needed for that purpose.


Citizen-centred communication

Citizen-centred communication is limited partly due to technocratic mentality (which keeps a
“pedagogic” attitude towards citizens), partly due to misunderstanding (are the government
and public administration responsible for developing conditions enabling active citizenship?)
and partly due to structural reasons (lack of designated people and lack of funds). This is
clearly demonstrated in the abundance of public information/communication campaigns that
serve more their sponsors than nominal beneficiaries. This can be changed with public
administration wide education on the role of communication in democratic government and
by adopting management by objectives approaches to communication with formal evaluation
at fixed periods of time (e.g., annually) or at the end of a programme.



Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                           12
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations




Corporate government image

The Public Relations and Media Office is trying to develop the corporate identity system of
the national government. Yet, due to fragmentation of responsibilities and lack of
coordination, its efforts produce limited results. The present situation of vague and conflicting
competences and responsibilities can be changed with a clear and written government
communication policy.


Use of the Internet

The government is actively promoting the use of new communication technologies. It has
established a Ministry for Information Society and adopted eSlovenia Action Plan,
eGovernment Action Plan and the Strategy of Electronic Business and Public Administration
(see http://www2.gov.si/mid/mideng.nsf and http://e-gov.gov.si/e-uprava/english/index.jsp).
There are several projects to close the “digital divide” by introduction of public e-points (in
the same way as public telephones), e-schools, e-libraries, etc. A problem seems to be slow
deregulation and privatisation in the telecom sector with resulting high prices of the Internet
access.

From the communication point of view, the government and public administration early
adopted the Internet as a tool for information and communication with different stakeholders.
The effects of the investments are limited by a lack of planning, coordination and evaluation
at the level of the government.


Communication structure, capacity and resources

In the past decade, there has been a substantial increase in the number of people working in
and the level of funds spent on government communication. Yet, since there is no central
coordination of the effort, it is impossible to assess the total number of people working in
communication the government and public administration in Slovenia (for an overview of the
people working in communication in the government narrowly defined see Appendix 2:
Republic of Slovenia, Communication function in government), as well as the total amount of
money spent (it is definitely in millions of EUR, but the exact number is impossible to
calculate). There is a clear need for a better organisation and management of both people and
funds.

Although there have been substantial increases in the past decade, more people and funds will
be needed – not new people and funds: if only people who perform communication tasks
already now would be identified and designated to their proper role (i.e., communication),
educated, trained and managed properly including the funds they already use, the government
communication system probably increases substantially. With restrictions regarding new
employments in public administration, prequalifications within the public administration
provide the best way to develop communication function. But these can be done successfully
only if proper training and education are available. For that purpose, and for the purpose of
the on-the-job development of the present staff working in communication in government and
public administration, educational and training programs in public communication are needed
within the Administration Academy and both Universities in Slovenia.


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                           13
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations




A special group of professionals within the Public Relations and Media Office should
concentrate on competence and capacity development in the field of communication in the
government and public administration.

Changes from the present level of the provision of the good governance principles of
accountability, transparency and openness to the generally desired levels will take years,
probably more than a decade. A realistic planning and organisation of the change
management will be needed. As the project of the reform of public administration is in its
initial stages, it seems sensible to include the change of communication in the government and
public administration into the broader project.


Recommendations

Building commitment by creating understanding

The implementation of the good governance principles of accountability, transparency and
openness depends on awareness, understanding and acceptance of the underlying spirit. This
must be the first responsibility of the communication function in government and public
administration in Slovenia.

Structural changes, including introduction of communication subjects in the curriculum of the
Administration Academy, explication of the government communication policy, strategy, and
standards, serve equally to influence political culture and organisational structure itself.

Communication needs to be understood not only as passive and active provision of
information of public nature and importance, not only as promotion of programs and
personalities, but above all as a way of management of the government and public
administration.

Communication staff in the government and public administration needs to assume
managerial responsibilities, including planning, organising and evaluation. This needs to be
done both at the level of the government as a whole, organisational and programme levels.


Building a solid communication structure

Separate and define the roles of political and civil service communication staff
The separation of political and civil service communication staff is needed:
    to reinforce the non-partisan nature of the civil service, and underpinning of a
       democratic system of government;
    to allow the provision of non-partisan communication advice to senior civil service;
    to allow political staff to freely work for the partisan interests of their ministers
       without concern about conflict with their civil service colleagues; and
    to allow ministries to ensure continuity and longer term development of
       communication expertise because communication officials are not obliged to change
       when ministers change.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                        14
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Role of civil service communication advisors
Civil service staff would:
    carry out environmental research and analysis to assess public and stakeholder
        concerns and interests in the public policy arenas of concern to their ministry;
    recommend to ministers, in consultation with senior civil service managers, strategies
        and plans to communicate with citizens about current and anticipated policies,
        programs and activities of the government;
    implement approved communication activities, including media relations, advertising,
        publications, etc. based on approved plans;
    provide intelligence on horizontal, government-wide communication plans, issues and
        activities to senior managers and ministers‟ staff to ensure that their own ministries fit
        in where appropriate; and
    monitor and evaluate the impact of communication activities, and adjust them as
        required.

As part of establishment of these new roles, a model communication unit should be
developed. Also, an inventory of current communication resources should be produced to
determine how many people currently work in the communication field in government
(including subordinate agencies and offices) and where they are located. This could help
reduce overlap and duplication.

Role of political communication advisors
Political staff would:
     advise their ministers on communication strategies and activities in support of their
        political and ministerial goals;
     act as spokespersons for ministers;
     interface with civil service communication officials on the planning and
        implementation of communication activities and issues management; and
     work with the prime minister‟s office and other ministers‟ staff to ensure that overall
        communication activities support the strategic plan and themes of the government.

Specialisation of communication function
Many more civil servants are exclusively or primarily performing communication tasks than
reflected in organisational structure. Than means that maybe even the majority of
communication function with the government and public administration stays without proper
management and quality control. Substantial upgrade of the communication system can be
achieved by only identifying people already working in communication function and
organising them and providing the proper training and management.

Public Relations and Media Office
The Public Relations and Media Office is currently responsible for:
    providing information to the Slovenian publics about the policies and work of the
       government;
    providing information to the Slovenian publics on Slovenia‟s accession to the EU;
    covering communication with international publics and promoting Slovenia abroad;
    monitoring and analysing reporting in the Slovenian media for the use of the
       government;
    co-ordinating the preparation and realisation of activities connected to the celebration
       of national holidays


Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                            15
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



(see http://www.uvi.si/eng/office/responsibilities/).
These, primarily technical, responsibilities need to be supplemented with managerial and
counselling responsibilities, including:
     support to the Office of the Prime Minister in the development of the annual
        government-wide strategic communication plan;
     coordination and integration of the key themes of the government strategic
        communication plan into the strategic communication plan of ministries;
     responsibility to ensure that all proposal sent for the consideration of the government
        include well thought out communication plans (including an assessment of
        communication implications of a proposal, human, technical and financial resources
        needed, etc.);
     coordination of the management of communication on crises and major issues;
     management of the section on the government Intranet system with an updated
        database of government “common strategic points” and “themes” and “positions”
        regarding key issues and announcements to ensure that they are synchronised and
        known to the parties involved;
     operation as the government communication “core competence centre” with
        responsibilities for research and development, planning, organising, education and
        training of communication professionals in public administration and all other
        activities that contribute to successful conceptualisation and implementation of the
        good governance principles in the context of communication.


Planning

Cross-government communication plans

The Public Relations and Media Office should in cooperation with the Office of the Prime
Minister and top communication officers at ministries produce an overall government
communication plan with regular annual plans and special plans as needed.

These plans would provide:
    an analysis of the current public environment and the factors which might affect the
       success or failure of communication objectives;
    communication objectives;
    major themes;
    key target groups;
    milestones for the launch of major initiatives over the course time which would call
       for horizontal communication coordination.


Annual ministry plans

Ministries should provide annual plans that should incorporate also activities planed by
subordinate agencies and offices.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                       16
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Communication assessments for all government proposals

All submissions to the government would also be required to include communication
assessment and plan. The Public Relations and Media Office would examine each plan to
ensure that it is complete, respect the overall themes of the government and takes into account
other planned activities of the government which might have an impact.


Evaluation of communication

Communication plans must include evaluation of its effectiveness and efficiency. Evidence on
what works and what doesn‟t need to be collected systematically and successes of individual
initiative and overall projects must be documented. Government and public administration
communication must improve through time (and thus innovation and learning must be
formally planned as well).


Communication Coordination

We recognise that coordination of government communication is a major challenge that
cannot be met overnight. Nevertheless, we believe some initiatives can be taken almost
immediately, while others may need to be phased.


Civil service manager of the Public Relations and Media Office

The Public Relations and Media Office is managed by the Director who is a civil servant and
acts also as a spokesperson for the government. All directors so far changed with consecutive
governments, giving an impression of political appointments. Such arrangement has two
fundamental flaws. Firstly, both responsibilities (managing the Office and being a
spokesperson) require a full person. For that reason it is impossible that one person could
invest enough time to both responsibilities. The experience of the past decade teaches that the
Director spends the vast majority of her time as the spokesperson. That leaves the Public
Relations and Media Office undermanaged.

Secondly, changing the Director of the Public Relations and Media Office with every
government precludes any continuity in management and any long-term planning.

The Public Relations and Media Office needs a civil service manager to provide for proper
management and continuity.


Council of government communication officers

Top communication officers at different ministries and the relevant communication staff at
the Public Relations and Media Office and at the Office of the Prime Minister should form the
Council of government communication that should provide the necessary coordination.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                         17
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Such council already existed informally and was meeting weekly. It died away. It needs to be
formalised and given proper guidance. Yet, this seems to be hard to implement until a proper
government communication policy is put in place.


Government communication policy, strategy and standards

A Policy of Government Communication should be produced and approved by the
government. The policy would include basic principles (the principles of good governance),
define roles and responsibilities, and provide guidance on the way government communicates,
including accessibility of communication, corporate identity of the government,, use of media,
management of public events and announcements, etc. It would also establish coordination
mechanisms for activities like advertising and opinion research, and set out procurement
procedures for communication products and services.

The Government Communication Policy would be operationalised in the Government
Communication Strategy.

Minimal standards of communication are to be clearly set.


Professional development

Education and training for communication staff

Communication staff in the government and public administration needs continuous education
and training. Programs should be developed within the Administration Academy and both
Universities. Technical as well as managerial skills need to be included in these programmes.

Communication needs to be recognised as a profession and the government and public
administration should offer able professionals to personally and professionally grow within
the public administration. That means that education requirements not only on undergraduate,
but also on post graduate level need to be considered and appropriate jobs provided.


Basic education for public administration

Administration Academy should include the good government principles of accountability,
transparency and openness into its programs. The spirit of these principles should be taught to
every member of the civil service. Everybody working in public administration should also be
taught at least some basic communication skills, including media and public appearance
skills.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                         18
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Next steps

Recommendations outlined in the previous section will take several years to implement. In
order to provide an immediate action plan, we propose the following next steps to be taken by
the Government of Slovenia.

    a. Translate this report into Slovenian language.

    b. Circulate this report among the Office of the Prime Minister, the Public
       Relations and Media Office and communication professionals at the ministries.

    c. Publicize this report on the Website of the Public Relations and Media Office and
       make its existence known to interested parties.

    d. Instruct the Public Relations and Media Office to organise and implement a
       consultation within the government and between the government and civil society
       organisations and citizens on the findings, conclusions and recommendations of
       this report. The consultation process should start the latest in autumn 2002 and
       should last approximately six months. The findings, conclusions and
       recommendations of this report are to be adjusted accordingly and submitted to
       the government as draft Guidelines of Government Communication Policy and as
       draft Government Communication Structure Implementation Project no later
       than in spring 2003.

    e. Consider and approve the above Guidelines of Government Communication
       Policy and the Government Communication Structure Implementation Project.

    f. Instruct the Ministry of Interior to prepare the inclusion of the good governance
       principles defined in Citizens as Partners sourcebook and handbook (see
       www.oecd.org/puma) – accountability, transparency and openness – as an
       identifiable subject into general program of the Administration Academy. Every
       new entrant into civil service is to be aware of the role of communication in
       democratic government and understand his or her personal responsibility in that
       context. The Public Relations and Media Office is to be actively involved in the
       preparation and execution of this content. Active delivery of the program is to
       start in 2003. A program to deliver this content to the present members of the
       civil service is to be prepared at the same time.

    g. Instruct the Ministry of Interior to include a special program for government
       communication officers into the program of the Administration Academy to
       provide professional education and training to people working in this specialty.

    h. Immediately identify all civil servants already working exclusively or primarily
       in communication and provide proper organisation, training and management.




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                       19
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Appendix 1

Organizations met during the interview phase,
February – April 2002

AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) Slovenia
Delo daily
Dnevnik daily
Finance daily
Government Office for European Affairs
Human Rights Ombudsman
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Education, Science and Sport
Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Information Society
Ministry of the Interior
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs
Mladina weekly
National Assembly
Office of the Prime Minister
Police
POP TV
Press Office of Catholic Bishop's Conference
Public Relations and Media Office
Radio Slovenija
STA - Slovene Press Agency
University of Ljubljana, faculty of Social Sciences
Večer daily




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                    20
Communication between government and citizens in Slovenia: A report & recommendations



Appendix 2

Republic of Slovenia,
Communication function in government (plus the President and the National Assembly),
April 2002

         Institution                                                    People in communication

Office of the Prime Minister                                   3

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food                     2
Ministry of Culture                                            1
Ministry of Defence (with the Slovenian Army)                  5
Ministry of Economy                                            2
Ministry of Education, Science and Sport                       2
Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning               3
Ministry of Finance                                            1
Ministry of Foreign Affairs                                    4
Ministry of Health                                             1
Ministry of Information Society                                1
Ministry of the Interior                                       5
Police                                                         8
Ministry of Justice                                            1
Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs                  1
Ministry of Transport                                          2

Public Relations and Media Office                              15
Office of European Affairs                                     2                 = 59

Office of the President of the Republic                        2
National Assembly (parliament)                                 5                 +7

several government agencies and offices have their own communication staff, including
Agency for Agricultural Markets and Rural Development, Agency for Regional Development,
Environmental Agency, Government Centre for Informatics, Office for Drugs, Office of
Equal Opportunities, Office for Legislation, Office for Metrology, Statistical Office


 number of people working in government communication                            ≈ 75
(with a restrictive definition of both government
and communication; broadening their meanings
would probably at least double if not multiply the
estimation)




Assist. Prof. Dejan Verčič, Ph.D., with Alenka Ažman                                              21

				
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