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Budget Monitor (BM) for Good Governance

Budget Monitor is a ICT tool of SAOG that promotes transparency,accountability,efficiency of public administration through increased citizen scrutiny. BM establishes two way communication with taxpayers:
1.provides sophisticated budgetary information by easy-to-interpret visualizations and dynamic graphs for free and
2.enables citizens to get involved in audit process by informing SAOG about deficiencies in public spending,providing recommendations and contribute to improved public service deliver.y

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

In recent years Georgia has experienced rapid progress in reforming its Public Financial management (PFM) sector and ensuring transparency of public finance in line with its European and international commitments, however, strengthening public participation in decision-making and public finance at both national and local levels remains a serious challenge. When it comes to direct public involvement in PFM oversight, the existing regulations and practice in Georgia is not yet advanced. Neither current policy frameworks provide clear guidance for improving the situation. Low public participation was revealed in Open Budget Survey 2017. Despite the fact that Georgia received 82 points out of 100 in Open Budget Index, it scored only 22 in public participation component reflecting lack of opportunities for citizens for participation. Among other things, some of the main reasons are:
Absence of aggregated budgetary information - public agencies publish basic budgetary information separately, so citizens cannot get a whole picture;
Budgetary information is not published in an user-friendly manner - citizens have difficulties to understand it;
Insufficient complaint mechanisms for taxpayers to participate in public administration.
All these reasons hinder transparency and accountability that might result in corruption and integrity breach.
Being aware of the flaws related to citizen participation and striving to improve transparency and accountability, seeking to provide opportunities to citizens to engage in the budget process, the SAOG has come up with an idea to develop an innovative ICT tool to increase taxpayers’ role and contribution in decision-making and monitoring processes of public finances. Thus, SAOG has elaborated Budget Monitor (BM) - an analytical and interactive web-platform that establishes two way communication with citizens. The distinguishing features of BM are as follow:
It empowers citizens to hold government accountable by providing comprehensive aggregated budgetary information in easily understandable manner from auditors’ perspective. BM intensively uses data visualizations, infographics and diagrams that allows regular users to drill down and examine data about state revenues,expenditures,public debt,administrative costs,public procurement,capital projects, in greater detail. Moreover, with this tool, citizens can choose, filter, sort, compare and export any information that increases taxpayers’ awareness about PFM issues and facilitates their oversight
to deliver audit findings and recommendations in one space, BM utilizes dynamic visual filters. These filters enable stakeholders to receive comprehensive information about existing shortcomings per public agency and to identify systemic problems on central and local levels
BM offers an opportunity to engage in the audit process. By sending audit requests and proposals through the citizen’s page, stakeholders (a) can express their interests in auditing particular fields and/or (b) inform SAOG about existing deficiencies and offer ways to improve public services (c) report potential corruption risks in public spending. SAOG applies predefined methodology to select and analyze suspected wrongdoing and issue relevant recommendations to responsible entities. In addition, citizens can track the status of their request. Thus, citizens can have profound impact on improving PFM through their participation in audit work.
Yet Budget Monitor has not been launched for a long time, it already achieved numerous tangible results: BM has gained more than 20,000 active users and annually SAOG conducts 10% of its audits based on citizens’ requests. The audit topics are addressing multiple social and economic problems different vulnerable groups are facing. For example:
• SAOG examined risks in public procurement in several public agencies
• SAOG identified deficiencies in Social rehabilitation and child care program
• SAOG checked how appropriate was spending of funds for victims of disaster

Considering comprehensiveness of information provided, via BM the gap between the citizens and budget spending is being bridged; this platform increases transparency, accountability, citizen participation that ultimately leads to good governance.
It is worth to mention, that BM is never in a static condition, SAOG team works to update and upgrade the platform continuously complying with citizens interests. For instance, recently BM was augmented by Sustainable Development Goals page, that represents the only national source that gives comprehensive information about SDGs to the citizens. In addition this page provides information about SDG related audits and corresponding deficiencies and recommendations.
In addition, SAOG intends to further expand the ICT tool and add more useful features for more ambitious results, like showing success stories of participation that actually resulted in better outcomes for the benefit of taxpayers.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

BM stands for unique two-way communication ICT tools that has ever been developed any Supreme Audit Institution worldwide.

BM is the first Georgian fiscal transparency Platform that presents complex analytical data with dynamic easy-to-interpret visualizations designed from auditors perspective to put all budgetary information together; this interactive ICT tool enables to filter, choose, compare, sort and export the data related to various public agencies across the years.

BM through citizens page enables taxpayers to participate via various channels: they may report about the corruption risks and wrongdoings in public organizations; Express their interest in auditing particular agency/field; Offer potential improvements in existing policies via alternatively designed policies that could be reflected in SAOG’s recommendations. It should be noted, that BM provides information to the citizens about the results of their requests/petitions.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The concept of BM was originally developed by SAOG; its exact content and specific features were designed in close collaboration with multiple stakeholders. SAOG formed consulting working group, consisting of 14 CSOs working on PFM issues, and conducted a set of meetings with this working group, Parliament, municipalities, citizens and media, to receive their feedback on exact content of BM. As for financial assistance, SAOG obtained World Bank grant for the actual development of the platform.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

BM equips citizens, legislators, CSOs, media with a powerful investigative tool, which makes it easier to conduct well-informed examinations of state revenues and expenditures, other budgetary information, audit findings and recommendations to hold the government accountable and make contributions to service delivery by involving in audit process. Government itself is able to better recognize inefficiencies in PFM system and work for further improvements via making better informed decisions.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Budget Monitor has gained more than 20,000 active users and annually SAOG conducts more than 10% of its audits based on citizens’ requests; The audit topics are addressing multiple social and economic problems, like:
• SAOG examined risks in public procurement in several public agencies
• SAOG identified deficiencies in Social rehabilitation and child care program
• SAOG assessed how appropriate was spending of funds for victims of disaster
Recent interviews with stakeholders showed that awareness about budgetary issues and willingness/readiness to be involved in budget oversight has been significantly improved
BM was granted with multiple awards and recognitions:
• The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency Award, The World Summit Award, Georgia’s IT Innovation Award;
• Star Commitment of the OGP, The World Bank named the platform as one of the most reliable source of info, The British “Guardian” recognized its uniqueness and usefulness in regard with citizen engagement.

Challenges and Failures

Initially, when BM was launched, there was a lack of citizen participation due to lack of information about BM and its features. Thus, SAOG conducted awareness raising campaigns like presenting short films and meeting with stakeholders all over the country describing its usefulness and importance of BM for improved service delivery and integrity. As a result, BM experienced increased number of users and requests, but educating citizens about budgetary issues stays on-going challenge for SAOG. So, SAOG plans to further continue informing citizens about BM and increase number of users, with special focus on marginalized groups. In addition, there will be added a special module showing success stories of citizen participation that actually resulted in better outcomes for the benefit of taxpayers.

Conditions for Success

1. Willingness and drive to make changes – putting the idea into actual project requires dedication and belief that the project will make difference and the existing challenges need to be tackled by putting substantial efforts.
2. Clearly set objectives and predefined development action plan – holding vivid vision about the aim of the project and putting substantial efforts in planning the process contributes to achieving successful results.
3. Communication with the third parties and considering their interests – holding intensive communication with stakeholders in order to meet their needs and provide useful information in a way that motivates them to be involved is another must.
4. Institutional framework to ensure sustainability of the project – there should be established formal framework related to roles and responsibilities of SAOG’s staff in order to ensure timely analysis, examination and update of the data.

Replication

SAOG’s BM, being a part of OGP Commitment, enjoys high recognition among different Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) and other international partners, as the experience was shared in multiple occasions in different countries. SAIs acknowledged the value of this ICT tool and expressed their huge interest and desire to elaborate similar platform. As SAOG is always ready to assist all interested parties and share experience about the elaboration of BM, close collaboration with other SAIs is undergoing in regard with designing similar ICT tool.

Lessons Learned

One lesson SAOG learned is that without having solid experience in elaborating innovative ICT tools, success still could be achieved as a result of close collaboration with stakeholders and acknowledging their actual needs.
In addition, citizens involvement in public administration generally leads to better outcomes for the society. Particularly, they are primary beneficiaries of public services thus are better informed about existing deficiencies. So being aware of citizens’ concerns enables SAOG to be better informed about the flaws in public services, analyze root causes and provide corresponding recommendations.
A key lesson is that country context matters - citizen engagement is a new type of policy for public organizations in Georgia. That is why this requires the SAOG’s double efforts to (1) make citizen participation for public and civic sector attractive, and (2) provide evidence indicating successful collaborations with citizens and civil society groups to improve public accountability. Thus, as a result of awareness rising campaigns and actually conducting citizen driven audits to improve service delivery encourages citizen participation.
Another noteworthy lesson learned from the whole process is that context-tailored objectives, clear procedures and institutionalized approach is a must for the further success of initiative. Without (a) delineation roles and responsibilities within SAOG, (b) preparation detailed guideline for updating and disclosing the data successful operation of the platform cannot be assured.

Supporting Videos

Year: 2017
Organisation Type: Government
Level of Government: National/Federal government

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

5 March 2017

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