Making the Most of Citizens Budgets

By Elena Mondo, International Budget Partnership— Jan 10, 2017

Government budget documents are hardly page-flipping bestsellers. They usually consist of hundreds of pages of numbers and charts accompanied by technical jargon that even readers with advanced degrees find difficult to decipher. No wonder then that most citizens have hard time understanding what government budgets are about, despite the huge impact that they can have on their livelihoods. In many countries civil society and the media play an important role in “translating” budget information for a general audience. But governments should also lead on informing the public about budget processes and policies. One way to do so is to publish Citizens Budgets — shorter, simpler documents aimed at a general audience.

Balancing Act: An Online Tool for Capturing Budget Priorities Among the Public

by the International Budget Partnership— Dec 13, 2016

Engaged Public is a consulting firm based in the U.S. that specializes in promoting citizen engagement in public policy, including government budgets. Their online tool Balancing Act was developed to help teach U.S. citizens how budgets work and to capture citizen input on budget priorities. Recently Engaged Public began working with governments and civil society outside the U.S. to trial the tool. While IBP doesn’t endorse any particular tool or approach, we are always interested in understanding new ways of making budgets more open and accessible. We recently talked with Brenda Morrison from Engaged Public about Balancing Act and their work in adapting the tool to different country contexts.

A group of students using Balancing Act. Credit: Engaged Public

Kenya’s Equity Week: The Discussion on Fairness Just Started

by John Kinuthia, Program Officer, IBP Kenya— Oct 18, 2016

When Kenyans decided to adopt devolution as part of the country’s 2010 constitutional reforms, many believed that the way public resources were being distributed was set to radically change. So how is Kenya doing in practice? To encourage public discussion on the meaning of equity in resource allocation and on how Kenya could more fairly distribute resources across and within counties, the International Budget Partnership Kenya and its partners recently hosted Equity Week, a series of events aimed to widen discussions on equity beyond policymakers.

Kenya Equity Week International Budget Partnership

Budget Advocacy in Action: Social Justice Coalition Campaign to Improve Sanitation Results in 3,000 Submissions to the City of Cape Town’s Budget

by Rebecca Warner, International Budget Partnership— Aug 18, 2016

Safe, clean, and adequate sanitation services are essential to basic quality of life. The provision of such sanitation services by the City of Cape Town in South Africa has long been a huge concern for residents of Khayelitsha and other informal settlements surrounding the city. The Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi used budget analysis to rally residents to tackle the issue of inadequate sanitation facilities through the City of Cape Town’s budget process. Their successful budget advocacy campaign involved educating residents on how the City manages water and sanitation services, analyzing the budget, and a layered training of trainers, which allowed the campaign to extend the reach of its limited resources.

How to Bridge the “Participation Gap” in Government Budgets

By Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership— May 17, 2016

Government budget transparency has historically received a lot more attention than citizen participation in the budget process. Yet budget transparency alone is not sufficient to bring about positive change. Civil society organizations need to be able to use fiscal information to put pressure on governments, which often happens through institutionalized participation channels. If there are few avenues for participation, budget transparency may end up being irrelevant. On the other hand, participation without transparency risks being ineffective if demands and debates around budgets are based on limited information. What can governments do to improve this “participation gap”?

budget transparency and participation

Beyond Wish Lists: Budget Deliberation, not Empty Participation

by Jason Lakin, IBP Kenya— Apr 27, 2016

The term public participation has lost meaning in the context of budget making and a higher standard is needed if public participation is to deliver on its promises. Should public deliberation, a concept rooted in theories of deliberative democracy and moral philosophy, be the new standard? IBP Kenya’s Jason Lakin explains how public deliberation can help instill confidence in government decisions and engender an informed public.

Ugandan Government Commits to Civil Society Participation in the Latest Budget

By Carol Namagembe, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG)— Mar 24, 2016

The Government of Uganda has promised to incorporate proposals from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) into the 2016/17 National Budget. This was revealed by the State Minister for Finance, Fred Omach, during a pre-budget dialogue with CSOs in Kampala on March 18, 2016. “We shall pick the highlights and the best you have,” Omach said after acknowledging the critical role CSOs play in influencing government policies.

Social Audits in South Africa: Can They Deliver?

By Albert van Zyl, International Budget Partnership— Mar 07, 2016

In contrast to campaigns that are more inherently confrontational, social audits invest heavily in unpacking and decoding government budget policy and processes. They often start by examining official documents to understand what service delivery commitments the government has made and what viable counter proposals might look like. This is not to say that social audits can’t form part of larger campaigns that use a variety of tactics to get the government to respond. But this engagement is firmly rooted in the facts and figures that the government itself releases in official documents.

social audits in south africa

Open Budgets for the Sustainable Development Goals

By Claire Schouten, International Budget Partnership— Sep 23, 2015

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set an ambitious development agenda for the next fifteen years. The SDGs comprise 17 goals and aim to address the three aspects of sustainable development – economic prosperity, social development, and environmental protection. They present a clear opportunity for governments to deliver in critical sectors, such as health and education, and make an impact on people’s lives.

Findings from the Open Budget Survey 2015: Are Governments Equipped to Manage Public Resources?

By Delaine McCullough, International Budget Partnership— Sep 09, 2015

The latest round of the Open Budget Survey — the world’s only independent, comparative assessment of budget transparency, participation, and formal oversight — reveals the vast majority of countries surveyed have inadequate systems for ensuring that public funds are used efficiently and effectively. Of the 102 countries assessed, 98 fall short on at least one of the three core pillars of budget accountability: transparency, participation, or oversight. A concerning 32 countries fall short on all three pillars. This lack of strong budget accountability systems pose a threat to the implementation of critical international agreements such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the international agreement expected to come from the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

The Open Budget Survey 2015