The Government of Colombia has developed the Economic Transparency Portal, www.pte.gov.co, a web-based initiative to make visible to the citizens the national and regional public budgets and all public contracting. A strategy was designed with the objective of inviting citizens to carry out social control and oversight of public resources based on the data published on the Portal. Hackathons, rallies and other contests have been held in 2018 in order to achieve feedback and public participation.
This innovation is about a citizen control strategy through the Economic Transparency Portal of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.
In the OECD Study of Integrity in Colombia (27 Oct 2017), it is established that after a long war period of more than 50 years has ended in Colombia, it is necessary to change the mentality of citizens and institutional strengthening to focus efforts in overcoming an old enemy that was present in all the years of conflict: corruption. Although the study establishes that the country has gradually strengthened institutionally in the last decade with the adoption of several management standards, it still takes a lot of work at the local and national level in which citizens will definitely have to play a key role.
Therefore, the study establishes that citizen participation initiatives should be promoted in a way that help national and local governments in the efficient administration of public resources and budgets. In the next paragraphs, some of those initiatives that have been carried out since the beginning of 2018 will be described. Those initiatives seek to fulfill the objective of empowering the civilian population in the oversight of public money and in the generation of proposals for the solution of sensitive social problems.
The Government of Colombia, specifically the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, has developed the Portal of Economic Transparency, www.pte.gov.co, a web-based initiative to make visible to the citizens the fiscal figures, the national and regional public budgets, the public contracting all in the form of lists, maps, infographics and indicators.
A strategy was then designed with the objective of inviting Colombian citizens to carry out social control of public resources based on the data published on the Portal. The strategy includes several actions of which two have already been carried out in the first semester of this year 2018: a rally-like race of visits to public works and infrastructure projects throughout the country, inviting citizens to upload photos and videos to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, thus giving an account of the progress of said works; also a hackathon for the development of collaborative computer applications in order to solve some problems presented in the state student feeding program - PAE, initiative of the Ministry of Education.
The response of the citizens was about 70 teams of Colombians from all over the country for the rally and about 10 student teams of programmers who developed applications or computer models in the hackathon. The winning teams were connected with the responsible state entities in order to achieve feedback on the respective processes.
The objective of these efforts is to advance the principles of open government in Colombian society as a way to fight against corruption and encourage the public to collaborate in the control of public resources.
It is proposed within the National Open State Committee, of which the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit is a member, that a strategy related to Transparency, Open government and the culture of accountability and public participation will be included in the National Development Plan 2019-2022, which is established every four years as the roadmap of the Presidency of the Republic. It is expected to continue strengthening tools such as the Portal of Economic Transparency with a greater number of reports, the improvement of the language of dissemination to the citizen and the programming of similar events to invite citizens to oversight public money using the Portal data, at least twice a year. The above with a view to strengthening the participation of the Colombian citizens in the management of public resources and, on the other hand, continue to advance in the rankings of transparency and Open Government.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
This project is innovative because:
1) It engage citizens through prizes in order to invite them to raise their interest about public money and the efficiency on the contracting processes.
2) It encourages the three main principles of open government in just one project: transparency, accountability and effective public participation, as well as simplicity and collaboration through open data.
3) It uses social media and mobile phones as a way of easy access for citizens to participate.
What is the current status of your innovation?
As of this date of submission in 2018, this project is completing its first part. We are now at the stage of designing the next step which is the engagement of citizens in not only the execution of budgets but also the programming of budgets.
Also the national government is now planning in issuing a decree that institutionalizes rallies and hackatons end events alike with defined features and with a periodicity of at least twice a year in order to attract public interest in budget spending.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The organization of the event was in charge of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, the Secretary of Transparency of the Presidency of the Republic, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications and the Crystal Urn, the agency in charge of the synergy in communications among the government bodies.
Also the project has the support of international organisms like Open Contracting Partnership - OCP, Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency - GIFT and Open Knowledge Foundation.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Of course, in a project of this nature, the citizens are very important because one of the main goals is the citizen engagement in budget processes, contracting processes and procurement. Also, the main beneficiaries are the entire colombian society because of the better and more efficient use o public money.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The race had an important reception considering that it is its first version: 70 teams of citizens across the country visited 53 infrastructure projects. More than 345 photos and videos were shared on Facebook and Twitter social networks among other resources. Government press reports were published to publicize the results of citizen follow-up. The national government is now interested in issuing a decree that institutionalizes the race with defined features and with a periodicity of twice a year.
The Ministry of Education, responsible for the PAE program was contacted to organize working groups in order to study not only the winning proposal but all 10 submitted in the contest in order to analyze the relevance of each one and adapt the solutions to help in the solution of the program problems. This adoption is in process.
Challenges and Failures
As said, the project has the challenge to engage citizens in the design process of public budgets. We have a lot of ideas to put in practice in the next half a year.
Conditions for Success
Support from senior management and high direction level with this project was essential. As well the legal framework with the laws of transparency, the right access to information and open contracting was very important.
The power of robust information systems in budget processes, contracting and procurement is also very important for the project.
We are very open to share these experiences with other local or national governments. We tend to think that the process is easy to achieve if a government has the will to put these ideas in practice and the appropriate legal framework in terms of budget information systems, public contracting and procurement systems and transparency systems.
We now know that people are really very interested in what governments do with tax money. And the challenge is to achieve the engagement through innovative and easy ways. We have to explore the interest in designing the public budgets.
- Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
9 February 2018