e-Newsletter
Jul-Aug 2013 No. 73

Capacity Building Workshops in Tunisia

The International Budget Partnership (IBP) recently held its second capacity development workshop in Tunisia. Information on the first workshop is available in IBP Newsletter 72. The three-day budget analysis training gave participants the chance to delve into the budget documents available in Tunisia, including the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, the Enacted Budget, execution reports, and ministerial budgets. Participants learned what information is included in these documents, how that information is organized, what kind of analysis can be done with what’s available, and why analysis is important for advocacy purposes. The workshop ended with a presentation from a Ministry of Finance official, who also held a question and answer session about the Tunisian government’s results-based budgeting reforms. Because these reforms have been widely discussed and are starting to be implemented in a number of ministries, this was a great opportunity for participants to both hear from the official and to give feedback.

In an upcoming workshop, these same participants will come together with Egyptian activists and other IBP partners for a learning exchange workshop to share experiences, hear about the many challenges encountered in this field, and discuss advocacy strategies. This workshop is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen ties between our partners and encourage learning through horizontal exchanges.

The IBP’s Ravi Duggal Authors Chapter in Book on the Right to Health

The IBP’s Ravi Duggal has contributed a chapter in the recently published book Advancing the Right to Human Health. The book offers a prospective on the global response to the challenges of achieving the human right to health as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other legal instruments. Duggal’s chapter focuses on “Health and Development in India: Moving towards the Right to Health.” Don't forget to "Like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @OpenBudgets, and check out our Open Budgets Blog!

IN THIS ISSUE: PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING, CITIZEN BUDGET, TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE ENGAGEMENT, BUDGET RESEARCH, FROM THE IBP BLOG, INDIA ROAD PROJECT, SERVICE DELIVERY MONITORING, TRANSPARENCY DAY, COUNTRIES IN TRANSITION, IBP PUBLICATIONS, FROM THE FIELD, EVENTS AND JOBS

Participatory Budgeting Gains Global Traction

Participatory Budgeting Around the World

Civic Engagement Gets a Boost from Information Communications Technology

Citizen Budget: An Online Budget Simulator that Demonstrates a Commitment to Civic Engagement

Using Technology to Improve Transparency and Citizen Engagement

Civil Society Developments

Conducting Sector-Specific Budget Research: A Guide

From the IBP Blog: Constitutional Changes Present a Window of Opportunity for County Level Participatory Budgeting in Kenya

Come Together: Community Based Monitoring Helps Improve Service Delivery in India & Civil Society and African Governments Meet in Kenya

Monitoring Rural Roads in India Brings Improvements and Empowers Citizens

The Power of Community Based Monitoring to Ensure Service Delivery in India

“Transparency Day” at CABRI Meeting Brings Together Civil Society and Government to Discuss Budget Transparency and Public Engagement

From Our Annual Report: Lessons Learned on Budget Work in Difficult Environments

What Are We Learning About Promoting Budget Transparency and Accountability in Countries in Transition?

Publications

IBP Publications

Further Reading from the Field

Upcoming Events and Job Announcements

Join BTAP in a Day of Action to Promote Budget Transparency

Transparency Week Starts 24 October!

IBP Position Available: Program Officer (Asia) – Open Budget Initiative Program, International Budget Partnership

Participatory Budgeting Gains Global Traction

Participatory Budgeting Around the World, by Jay Colburn, the International Budget Partnership

Public participation in budget decision making can occur in many different forms. Participatory budgeting (PB) is an increasingly popular process in which the public is involved directly in making budgetary decisions, most often at the local level. The involvement of community members usually includes identifying and prioritizing the community’s needs and then voting on spending for specific projects.

PB was first developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 as an innovative reform to address the city’s severe inequality. Since then it has spread around the world. Though the specifics of how the PB process works varies depending on the context in which it is implemented, most PB processes have four basic similarities: 1) community members identify spending ideas; 2) delegates are selected to develop spending proposals based on those ideas; 3) residents vote on which proposals to fund; and 4) the government implements the chosen proposals.

During the 1990s PB spread throughout Brazil and across Latin America. Examples of participatory budgeting can now be found in every region of the world, including Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. As the use of PB has expanded, it has been adapted in many ways. One example is to incorporate new information and communication technologies as a way to broaden opportunities for participation (see Using Technology to Improve Transparency and Citizen Engagement in this newsletter for more on this topic.)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo local governments in the South Kivu province implemented participatory budgeting in 2010. The rural terrain of South Kivu and poor infrastructure made in-person participation a challenge for many residents. But the prevalence of mobile phones provided the means for people to vote in the PB process. Text messages were used to inform people of upcoming PB meetings, to announce PB results, and as a way for residents to monitor and provide feedback on PB projects.

Not only does participatory budgeting look different in these diverse contexts, it can also have different functions. In Brazil and much of Latin America it was a means of bringing legitimacy to weak political regimes, institutionalizing democratic practices, and alleviating inequality. But PB can also support already strong political institutions and reinvigorate a sense of civic duty and agency, as in the case of New York City’s recent experiment with PB. In two towns near Milan, Italy, PB contributed to fundamental political changes and pushing out corruption.

There are also a number of different models of PB that have been developed, each with slightly different rules and processes. Using the different models and methods has expanded our knowledge on the potential impacts of PB. In addition to having demonstrable and measurable results on mobilizing public funds for services for the poor, participatory budgeting has also been linked to greater tax compliance, increased demands for transparency, and greater access to budget information and oversight.

However, not all instances of PB are equally successful; there are many variables to consider when weighing the impact of different cases. These can include the level and mechanisms of participation, information accessibility, knowledge of opportunities to participate, political context, and prevailing socioeconomic factors. There is a large and growing literature on the benefits and challenges of PB. The IBP Open Budgets Blog recently featured posts on participatory budgeting initiatives in Peru, Kyrgyzstan, and Kenya. While there are still many lessons to be learned about how PB can be used in different contexts, it is certainly a positive step toward increased citizen engagement in the budget process and influence over how public funds are spent.

For more information and resources on PB, visit the participatory budgeting Facebook group or email [email protected].

 


 

Civic Engagement Gets a Boost from Information Communications Technology

Citizen Budget: An Online Budget Simulator that Demonstrates a Commitment to Civic Engagement, by Ellie Marshall, Open North

Open North is a Canadian nonprofit organization that creates online tools and services to increase access to government information and improve civic engagement. “Open government” requires that citizens have access to the decision-making processes of government and the knowledge necessary to make informed choices to address the issues their communities face. It is with this understanding that Open North developed Citizen Budget, an online budget simulator that puts residents in the shoes of elected officials and public administrators to create their own balanced and realistic budget proposals.

Developed in 2011, Citizen Budget serves eight North American municipalities as both a budget consultation platform and communications tool. Each Citizen Budget consultation begins with an introductory message from the municipality’s council or mayor, followed by succinct details and infographics on how tax dollars are allocated within the city budget. Residents are then given the opportunity to play with the budget themselves to express their priorities and to further their understanding. Participants are given the opportunity to add, remove, increase, or decrease the budgets of 10-30 programs and services. The result of their choices are reflected in the budget’s balance in real time, indicating whether they are operating with a deficit or a surplus.

citizen budgetThe exercise gives residents a better appreciation for the difficult tradeoffs that administrators face each year, a perspective that is more difficult to convey at a traditional presentation or public hearing. Although, unlike participatory budgeting, the results of a Citizen Budget consultation are not binding, each municipality has thus far used the insights from the responses in forming the next year’s budget. For example, in 2012, with the input of over 700 residents, the Plateau Mont-Royal borough of Montreal, Quebec, learned a strategy for increasing revenues without losing political support. When given the option to impose a general local tax, only 31 percent of respondents agreed. However, when asked whether to create a local tax for specific projects, support doubled to 62 percent.

Budget simulators are not only useful to governments seeking to consult constituents. Newspapers like The New York Times and nonprofits like Next 10 have created educational simulators challenging Americans to fix the deficit in 2010 or rebalance the California budget. Environmental groups may use a simulator that also takes into account the impacts of budget decisions on greenhouse gas emissions. Open North developed Citizen Budget as an open source platform so that it could be easily translated and reused by groups operating in other countries, whether to offer it as a service to their governments or to reuse it in an educational context in their work. Open North is eager to speak to organizations interested in reusing this open source project and keen to provide technical and strategic assistance to ensure a successful launch.

For more information about Citizen Budget and Open North visit www.citizenbudget.com and www.opennorth.ca.

 


 

Using Technology to Improve Transparency and Citizen Engagement, by Alec Simantov, the International Budget Partnership

Despite great strides in democratic development in Latin America over the last 20 years, democratic institutions continue to face challenges in the region. This was most evident in Brazil, where protests in July over rising public transportation fares morphed into a massive popular protest movement involving some two million Brazilians across 100 cities.

In Rio Grande do Sul state, where 50,000 people took to the streets of Porto Alegre, the state governor responded by initiating a Google hangout whereby protesters could interact online with state and local officials. The initiative garnered 500,000 participants, far exceeding street protest participation. The successful initiative highlights the power of information and communication technology (ICT) to boost citizen engagement and government transparency.

Brazil is the birthplace of participatory budgeting and the power of technology to boost citizen participation in that process was highlighted recently at “Smart Governance in Latin America: How Technology Can Boost Transparency and Citizen Engagement” an event in Washington, D.C., at the International Republican Institute — a nonprofit organization that works on developing political parties, civic institutions, open elections, democratic governance, and the rule of law.  Tiago Peixoto, an open government specialist at the World Bank, discussed the cases of Brazilian cities Ipatinga, Belo Horizonte, and Rio Grande do Sul, where ICT has helped increase citizen participation, particularly among the poor.

Mobilizing citizens in the participatory budgeting process is crucial, and in Ipatinga the use of SMS (or text messages) and telephone calls elicited a 30 percent rise in participation among residents. In a follow-up survey, 55 percent of respondents said they were more motivated by the SMS and calling campaign over the traditional mail survey method. In Belo Horizonte the city government coordinated an e-participatory budget campaign with e-voting. The city increased Internet access points throughout the city utilizing churches, community centers, and private partners creating 178 e-voting centers with trained personnel. The government also dispatched buses with mobile Internet connections (or WiFi) to areas with little to no Internet connectivity. As a result, 173,000 people participated in the initiative, representing 10 percent of the city’s citizens and 18 percent of eligible voters. The highest turnout rates were in the poorest areas. The total cost of the budget campaign was US $11 million. In comparison, a previous traditional budget campaign that used paper mail surveys with no digital technology had cost US $43 million and garnered participation from only 1.5 percent of citizens.

In Rio Grande do Sul a statewide campaign utilizing SMS and telephone technology along with WiFi-equipped buses and traditional paper ballots garnered 1.2 million participants in 36 hours. The campaign also surveyed residents on whether or not they would have participated without an Internet voting option. An astounding 63 percent stated that they would not have participated without Internet voting, and 66 percent said they had shared information about the campaign on social networks inviting others to participate.

Employing ICT in participatory budgeting campaigns does make a difference. Such technologies can lower the burden and cost of participation for citizens, especially for the poor. Additionally, ICT motivates people to utilize the power of the Internet and social networking to increase the reach of participatory campaigns. However, smart governance is ultimately about good governance. Establishing the pillars of good governance: transparency, participation, accountability, efficiency, and the rule of law are paramount before ICT can be used effectively.

For more information on the event, and to watch it on YouTube, click here.

 


 

Civil Society Developments

Conducting Sector-Specific Budget Research: A Guide, by Erica Coetzee, Accountability & Transparency for Human Rights (AT4HR) Foundation

The recently released guide, Conducting a Survey on Budget Transparency and Human Rights, explores how to design and conduct survey-based research on budget transparency in a chosen sector or pertaining to a specific human rights issue. Jointly published by Swedish civil society organization the Accountability & Transparency for Human Rights Foundation, Save the Children, and the IBP, the guide uses the experiences of AT4HR in completing a study of budget transparency for child nutrition as a springboard to discuss some of the practical considerations for undertaking research of this kind.

Many civil society organizations (CSOs) focus their budget work on particular sectors or the implementation of public initiatives to realize specific human rights. One common struggle they face is accessing budget information that is detailed and current enough to monitor their chosen areas effectively. Advocating for public access to more useful sector-specific budget information comes with its own challenges, including the need for CSOs to be clear about exactly what kind of information they need, what kind of information is already available, and where the most important transparency gaps lie. If these challenges are relevant to you or your organization, this guide could be helpful for designing your own budget transparency research project, and provides variations to consider in your own context, as well.

Visit the AT4HR website for more information about the Guide and study on child nutrition.

 


 

From the IBP Blog: Constitutional Changes Present a Window of Opportunity for County Level Participatory Budgeting in Kenya

An IBP Open Budgets Blog post focuses on a pilot participatory budgeting project led by IBP civil society partner the National Taxpayers Association in IBP - NTA Project ReportKenya. The aim of the project is to improve upon an earlier government plan to increase citizen participation in service delivery monitoring and implementation. The post examines the methodology, outcomes, and next steps of the project.

 

 


 

Come Together: Using Community-Based Monitoring to Improve Service Delivery in India & Civil Society and African Governments Meet in Kenya

Monitoring Rural Roads in India Brings Improvements and Empowers Citizens, by Bibhu Prasad Sahu, Youth for Social Development

In an effort to promote economic growth in rural areas, the government of India has made significant investments in infrastructure development projects, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garm Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), a national program that expands the road network to rural villages. In the state of Odisha, the PMGSY has encountered many problems, including corruption in the bidding process, substandard building materials, and improper road maintenance, as well as poor citizen engagement and public disclosure. This has resulted in inefficient spending and reduced road durability.

YSDYouth for Social Development (YSD), a local civil society organization based in Berhampur, Odisha, has worked with communities to organize Citizen Monitoring and Audit Teams (CMATs), which provide local oversight to PMGSY projects. These teams undergo two days of classroom and field training, and have three main focuses:

  1. monitoring ongoing construction;
  2. auditing completed roads using specialized equipment and field measurements; and
  3. reviewing contracts to ensure that contractors meet deliverables and cost estimates.

Each team was given a standard tool kit, which included the equipment needed to measure roadways under construction as well as those completed. The roads were then evaluated by the teams and graded using a standardized scoring chart.

The surveys conducted by the CMATs found that a majority of the rural roads fail to reach even the midpoint quality score. These findings were shared with public officials, elected representatives at the local and state levels, other civil society groups, and the media, which helped to create an environment of transparency and accountability. This encouraged citizen engagement and increased government oversight of the projects, which resulted in an improvement of the quality of materials used, reduced corruption, improved transparency of the bidding and contracting process, and led to better road maintenance.

This method of road monitoring, which relies only on simple field monitoring tools and training, empowers citizens, giving them ownership of the roads and other public utilities that serve and benefit their communities. Increased citizen vigilance improves public-private partnerships, promotes the efficient
use of public funds, and creates a sense of shared responsibility between stakeholders, such as communities, construction companies, and local elected
representatives. Community-based monitoring of rural roads is also more cost efficient compared to the expensive system used by the Ministry of Rural
Development.

When community members learn and use the knowledge, techniques, and tools needed to inspect roads, it helps to create sustainable social accountability, as monitors can use the training and toolkit in the future. Roads linking rural communities provide additional social benefits, including improved access to health and education services and new economic opportunities.

For more information on Youth for Social Development’s work, visit their website. The full report on YSD’s findings is available here.

 


 

The Power of Community Based Monitoring to Ensure Service Delivery in India, by Dr. Nitin Jadhav, SATHI, Maharashtra, India

A recent case involving a doctor who was diverting pregnant women from a public rural hospital (RH) to his private practice and charging them illegally demonstrates how civil society monitoring methodologies can be used to ensure proper service in the absence of administrative action to address malfeasance. In this instance, a Community Based Monitoring and Planning (CBMP) process allowed citizens to actively and regularly monitor health services and ensure that services reach those for whom they are intended, especially the poor in rural areas.

In India there are two types of health systems: public and private. While the public health system is  in bad shape (e.g., poor infrastructure, lack of human resources, etc.), most of the population of rural communities in large parts of India — especially those who cannot afford health care, nor have access to private hospitals — depend upon it. Each public institution is expected to provide free or low-cost health care to patients.

In an area approximately 40 km outside Pune City, a well-known doctor worked at a rural hospital and also ran his own private hospital in another nearby town. A government resolution prohibits doctors who are appointed to RH and higher-level public health facilities from having private practices in order for the doctors to be able to provide effective service and devote quality time to patients. However, many government doctors continue to run private practices. In an attempt to stop this illegal action, a list of doctors in CBMP areas who continue to hold private practices was given to the state government, but no action was taken against them. In the case of Pune City, the local monitoring committee decided to collect concrete evidence in order to take definitive action against the doctor.

CMBPThe Block level Monitoring and Planning Committee (BMPC), which formed under the CBMP process, has a mandate to monitor and resolve issues related to the functioning of public health institutions. After an investigation conducted by the BMPC, it was discovered that the doctor had been diverting pregnant women who had registered at the RH to his private hospital where he was illegally charging Rs. 5,000 (approximately US $75) for normal deliveries and Rs. 18,000 for caesarians (approximately US $271). The doctor’s illegal practice was identified by the BMPC during data collection as part of the CBMP process. Subsequently, the BMPC confronted the doctor, who promised to cease the illegal diversions and fees. However, it was later discovered that he had continued running his private practice and was still illegally charging patients.

In order to take further action to force the doctor to stop running his private practice, BMPC members decided to visit villages and meet with those who had made payments to the doctor. In total, 55 cases were identified and 12 villagers were interviewed. Based on this, the issue was brought to the district-level Jan-Sunwai. Jan-Sunwai is a platform for citizens to give direct feedback to health care providers, present cases of denial of health services, and to try to resolve outstanding issues. As part of the follow up of Jan-Sunwai, the BMPC concluded that despite continuous dialogue with the doctor, he had continued illegally charging patients. The committee decided that the doctor should reimburse the money, to which he agreed. So far, he has returned Rs. 38,000 (approximately US $573). It was decided that the money be given directly to the patients to help them become aware of their rights. The doctor also has stated that he will no longer take any illegal fees and will only work in RH.

While this action exemplifies the efficacy of monitoring and planning committees, particularly the proactive role of elected representatives on those committees, it also underlines the ongoing failure of the public health system in the state of Maharashtra to control illegal private practices by public health system doctors. However, this case is a powerful example of how the local community was empowered to act and bring about positive change when the government could, or would, not.

 


 

“Transparency Day” at CABRI Meeting Brings Together Civil Society and Government to Discuss Budget Transparency and Public Engagement, by Elena Mondo, the International Budget Partnership

In late August civil society and government representatives from across the African continent gathered for the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) annual meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting provided a forum for discussions on “Missing Links in PFM Reforms.”  As part of this meeting, the IBP co-hosted a day-long discussion on “Budget Transparency and Citizen Engagement on the African Continent: Challenges, Incentives, and Emerging Good Practice.” The meeting was a chance to present the Open Budget Survey 2012 results, discuss key incentives and challenges for governments to improve budget transparency, and share innovative and good practices in budget transparency and public engagement.

The IBP’s Open Budget Survey is the biennial assessment of budget transparency, participation and accountability around the world. The Open Budget Index (OBI) uses the data from the Survey and assigns a score from 0-100 to each country based on the information it makes available to the public throughout the budget process. The event was a chance for participants to focus not only on the OBI 2012 scores but also on the elements of transparency and participation that the Survey uses as indicators of a country’s good performance. This allowed for an open dialogue between civil society and government officials. African country OBI 2012 scores varied, with countries like South Africa performing very well with a score of 90 (the average OBI 2012 score is 43), while other countries provided scant or no budget information and scored much lower. Attendees were encouraged to discuss good practices of transparency and participation, including changes that have taken place since the publication of the 2012 Survey (e.g., making key budget documents available, and creating spaces for the public’s engagement during the budget process). The representative from Chad gave an encouraging sign when he indicated that the country has already begun implementing reforms to improve their score in the next Survey.

Discussions at the meeting were lively as civil society and government representatives had a chance to interact both in plenary and individual country-specific sessions, to highlight emerging good practices, incentives, and challenges to improve fiscal transparency in their respective countries. Examples of collaboration between civil society and government officials in such countries as Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Mali were an encouraging sign of strong political will to take steps to improve budget transparency.

While there was some contentious debate about public engagement in the budget process, as well as a reluctance for those governments that are new to the Survey to open up their processes, these discussions were still productive. IBP representatives were encouraged by seeing that countries that have been included in previous rounds of the Survey were more open to working with civil society and to the idea of budget transparency in general. This seems to indicate that the Survey is more than just research — it is also a dialogue tool that allows governments and civil society to find spaces and opportunities to discuss, challenge each other, and think about constructive ways to move forward to improve transparency and public engagement. As the Liberian government representative said, “We still have a long way to go, but we will get there. We will get there by educating the people and making them understand that the budget and the government are for them.”

 


 

From Our Annual Report: Lessons Learned on Budget Work in Difficult Environments

What Are We Learning About Promoting Budget Transparency and Accountability in Countries in Transition?

The following article is the last of four Lessons Learned essays from the IBP’s 2012 Annual Report. Two of the essays appeared in the March-April issue and the third appeared in the May-June issue of this newsletter. Access the complete report here.

After the “Arab spring” revolutions in 2011, the IBP started working in Egypt and Tunisia with civil society, government, academics, and the media to establish a public dialogue on open budgeting. Below are some of the early lessons learned.

The IBP decided to prioritize work in Egypt and Tunisia because the foundations for budget transparency and accountability can be laid very early in a transition. Many political transitions begin to establish the fabric of a new budget system almost immediately. A new constitution, for example, is likely to address issues of access to information and the roles of various actors in the budget process. Similarly, a new financial management system may address the distribution of public revenues and establish responsibility for service delivery at different levels of government. It is vital to embed principles and practices of open budgeting in these foundational processes to establish the roots of an open and responsive system.

Despite the importance of beginning such work early in transitions, it is not an easy project to tackle.

Advancing budget work in transition countries requires a nuanced and flexible approach. Political transitions from autocracies to democracies are unpredictable and uneven. Although the major budget actors are similar across contexts, each transition follows a different path and requires a calibrated, flexible response.

Annual ReportAs we started out, we believed that civil society was much stronger in Egypt than in Tunisia. But, these differences have turned out to be smaller than originally anticipated — civil society in each country has different strengths and weaknesses. And, civil society has little experience of budget work in either country. It was also unclear whether the new governments would be more open than their predecessors to collaboration with civil society on budget issues. While the Egyptian government continues to publish budget documents online, we sense that the Tunisian Ministry of Finance is more open to engaging with civil society than their counterparts in Egypt. At the outset, we believed that the constitutional process in Egypt would become stuck, while a more inclusive process would sustain constitution building in Tunisia. But, today a much-criticized Egyptian Constitution has been passed, while the Tunisian process is disparaged as slow. The point is that the situations in both countries are complex and fluid, much more so than our original assessment was able to diagnose.

Our strategy has already shifted a few times and is likely to continue to shift. We found that a solid, in-depth country assessment is critical before plans are established, but this must be complemented with the capacity to assess and respond to changes in the environment. A good response is to balance medium-term strategy with opportunism, and to have knowledgeable local staff who can quickly read the evolving context.

Improving budget systems and the ability of stakeholders to engage in budget processes takes time. Evidence from South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere shows that transitions, while challenging, can catalyze major improvements in budget transparency, if there is political will. But, even with substantial political will, it took South Africa and Brazil 15-20 years to build strong, open budgeting systems (and a few major gaps remain).

Transitions to open budget systems in Egypt and Tunisia will take considerable time and effort. They will only succeed if those who support this process — and those who engage directly — have a lengthy time horizon. On the donor side, sustained impact is unlikely without long-term support to government and civil society. Outside actors need to maintain consistent priorities even as strategies change frequently.

On the civil society side, establishing technical expertise and credibility requires sustained efforts to build organizational capacity. There is an understandable tendency for local CSOs to rely on consultants to manage the escalating workload. While this may help the organization with its immediate needs, the strategy fails to build dedicated capacity within the organization, an essential condition for effective, long-term budget work in any environment.

Civil society and other actors face competing opportunities and priorities during transitions. Transitions are often times of great energy and expectation. There is much to be achieved, and it is not always clear that open budgeting should be the priority, for example, when personal safety is still an issue. As the transition process moves ahead unevenly, the enthusiasm of in-country actors for budget reform work will wax and wane. This can be frustrating for an external organization committed to supporting local capacity, but there really is no other effective option than to be sensitive to this process and set goals appropriately.

So, how to promote open budgeting in difficult transition environments?

  • The most important strategy is to listen to local partners. If there is strong local demand to engage on open budgeting questions, then there will likely be a way to begin establishing the foundation for effective budget work. Without local enthusiasm, external institutions’ best laid plans will likely crumble.
  • Working on budgets can seem an arcane pursuit in the context of a competitive transition. To gain traction, it is necessary to connect budget work with CSOs’ core work. Egypt and Tunisia are examples of countries where there was broad public dissatisfaction with basic services and corruption, both of which provide easy links to budgetary issues for early projects.
  • In terms of building skills, it can be most effective to identify a group’s goal in a specific area and design a project around it that includes budget work. Providing grants for small learning projects that are tightly connected to activists’ existing work helps them to learn by doing — a strategy that the IBP has seen work well in other contexts. Although the IBP prefers long-term core funding to build CSO capacity, and such funding is eventually required in transition countries, early transitions are one exception to this rule because of the need for flexibility and adaptation.
  • In transitions partnerships between CSOs and other public finance stakeholders are essential to establish dialogue across constituencies and to help overcome the mistrust that exists between governments and citizens and CSOs. Working across stakeholders might take longer initially but can establish the trust needed to sustain change.
  • Much of the above suggests that donors and intermediaries, like the IBP, need to be flexible about holding partners to strategies and outcomes as it is difficult to predict both the opportunities and challenges that will arise. This is not to say that strategic planning is unimportant, but there should be space for both opportunism and midcourse corrections when both donors and partners agree upon the need.

 


 

Publications

IBP Publications

The IBP’s Partnership Initiative developed an innovative package of comprehensive and sustained support for civil society budget work in 18 countries. A key component of the PI was its Learning Program, which sought to document the impact of CSO budget analysis and advocacy on budget policies and BNDES picimplementation. The Learning Program has conducted a number of in-depth case studies of past civil society budget campaigns, while at the same time embedding researchers within current campaigns. The results of these “real time” case studies are now out. By following the campaigns as they happened the IBP was able to  avoid cherry picking and to greatly expand our knowledge about what works, when, and under what conditions — and what doesn’t. The new impact case studies are available on the IBP website.

 


 

Further Reading from the Field – Relevant coverage of budget issues and civil society’s engagement in public budgeting from academia and professional journals

A recent paper, “Citizen Participation and Local Democracy in Zimbabwean Local Government System,” published in the Journal of Humanitarian and Social Science explores the literature related to the dynamics of and avenues used by local governments in Zimbabwe to engage citizens and promote democracy.

The author of the paper “Improving Transparency and Accountability in the Budget Process: An Assessment of Recent Initiatives” reviews budget-related transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs) to assess their impact. The author finds a consistent set of factors that appear across successful TAIs, including building alliances between stakeholders, producing legitimate information, legal empowerment, and international support. The paper also highlights the vital work of the IBP on international budget work and the contributions of the Open Budget Index to greater transparency and access to information. The article is part of a special issue of the Development Policy Review titled, “The Impact and Effectiveness of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives.”

A recent article from the World Bank’s PREMnotes series, “Public Participation in the Budget Process in the Republic of Korea,” seeks to explain why South Korea scores so high on the participation measures in the IBP’s  Open Budget Survey 2012 and is a positive outlier in providing extensive opportunities for public engagement on budget issues when compared to other countries. The authors highlight South Korea’s unique public participation mechanisms stemming from the country’s democratization process in the 1980s, and how they contribute to the country’s budget process and fiscal policies.

The Effects of Participatory Budgeting on Municipal Expenditures and Infant Mortality in Brazil,” a study published in World Development investigates whether the use of participatory budgeting in Brazilian municipalities from 1990-2004 affected the pattern of municipal expenditures and had any impact on living conditions.

According to the authors of the paper, “Determinants of Central Government Budget Disclosure: An International Comparative Analysis,” Internet penetration, education levels, relative central government size, budget surplus, administrative culture, political competition, and incumbents’ ideology are the main determinants of central governments’ budget disclosure. The authors build budget disclosure indicators for 93 countries based on the IBP Open Budget Survey questionnaire.

 


 

Upcoming Events and Job Announcements

Join BTAP in a Day of Action to Promote Budget Transparency

The Global Movement for Budget Transparency, Accountability, and Participation (BTAP) is organizing a Day of Action on 28 September to raise awareness about the importance of advancing budget transparency, accountability, and participation. BTAP members will undertake different activities to promote these principles in their countries and across all levels of government on International Right to Know Day. Contact Rocio Moreno at [email protected] if you are interested in participating.

Transparency Week Starts 24 October!

Publish What You Fund, a global campaign for aid transparency, will release its 2013 Aid Transparency Index in Washington, D.C., on 24 October. The Index measures the level of transparency in donor funds of various aid organizations around the world. The launch will kick off a week of global events that focus on transparency, accountability, and good governance. The week will culminate with the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London on 31 October – 1 November. Visit the Publish What You Fund website for more information.

Program Officer (Asia) – Open Budget Initiative Program, International Budget Partnership

The IBP is seeking a program officer (Asia) to provide support to the Open Budget Initiative (OBI) Program, which is a research and advocacy program that seeks to increase public access to budget information and inclusive and accountable budget processes and practices.  The responsibilities of the program officer (Asia) include the following with a focus on Asia: providing project management support for the various research activities related to the biennial Open Budget Survey; designing and delivering training modules and presentations on budget transparency and accountable and inclusive budget processes and practices; providing technical assistance to a subset of research institutions that are part of a network of organizations in approximately 100 countries to collect and fact-check data on government budgets, and conducting qualitative and quantitative social science research on budget transparency reforms, among others. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. To read the full description and to apply here, click here.