Serbia Separation of Powers Program
The Separation of Powers Program (SPP) in Serbia, funded by USAID and implemented by EWMI was designed to ease accession to European Union accession by strengthening the division of power and authority among Serbia’s three branches of government.
EWMI’s work with the Serbian judiciary to increase its capacity to allocate, acquire and manage its own budgetary resources successfully moved the judicial branch closer to financial independence. With EWMI assistance, the High Court Council (HCC) officially adopted a three-year strategic plan and developed a systematized staffing plan for its Material and Financial Affairs Sector. This initiative stands to fundamentally change the way the courts in Serbia devise their budgets. Previously, courts simply marked up the prior year’s budget but clerks have found that using an automated system based on actual needs has produced significant increases in funds allocated to the courts. SPP also provided guidance and assistance that resulted in the collaboration of judicial leaders and the budget and finance office to prepare an integrated budget for all courts, a key component in achieving judicial branch financial independence
SPP intiatives have also made the Serbian judiciary more efficient, transparent, and responsive to the needs of its citizens. EWMI developed a backlog reduction and prevention program for 10 courts across Serbia, which dramatically reduced their backlogs by 50% from 2010 to 2014, and greatly increased their case processing rate. Based on the success of these partner courts, EWMI developed a Best Practices Guide for Backlog Prevention & Reduction Measures for Courts in Serbia. The Guide provides practical techniques and guidance for improving case and court management, and chronicles the lessons learned and successes achieved by SPP’s partner courts in their backlog reduction efforts. These techniques can be used by other courts to tackle their backlogs as well. Another important achievement was the establishment of a court manager position (court administrator). Working with the HCC, EWMI fought to include the position in the Book of Court Rules, helped to recruit candidates, advocated for funding the positions, and designed and delivered training programs on court and case management.
In an effort to help the legislative branch become more transparent and independent, EWMI worked to build the financial capacity of Serbia’s National Assembly and improve its public relation initiatives. EWMI provided the Assembly with a set of administrative policies and procedures required for effective and transparent financial operations; procured budgeting, accounting, and human resources software for the Assembly; and helped the Assembly improve its budgeting methodology. EWMI worked with the Assembly to draft and adopt a Communications Strategy that addresses internal, external, and crisis communications and helped the Assembly develop a list of priorities for improving the transparency of operations. Most significantly, SPP helped the create and maintain a website providing access to information about operations and access to a schedule of events and the text of pending and newly enacted laws. Based on these initiatives, the Assembly has been honored three straight years by the Commissioner for Free Access to Information of Public Interest as the most transparent national institution.