Where are we and where are we heading in the Americas?
GIFT made the most of the Open Government Partnership Americas Regional Meeting in Buenos Aires, with the organization of four activities aimed at a rich exchange experiences in the promotion of fiscal transparency and public participation among the network partners and stewards, as well as providing technical assistance through peer-to-peer learning. On the day prior to the official OGP meeting (November 20), there was the one-day GIFT fiscal transparency workshop, which included representatives of seven country ministries from the region that are in charge of the fiscal transparency agenda, and are promoting the kinds of transparency processes that GIFT is pushing (Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay).
Moreover, the workshop provided the space for an in-depth discussion with the first GIFT Award for public participation in fiscal policy winners: the Participatory Budget by Municipality of Cascais in Portugal, the Budget Monitor (BM) by the State Audit Office of Georgia, and the Farm Subsidies (Subsidios al Campo) coalition in Mexico.
These experiences all provide an example of public participation that has transformed the relationship between the government and citizens. In the case of Mexico, a civil society-led coalition managed to influence the public debate and ultimately to change a national policy. The BM developed by the SAI of Georgia is a tool that might help the population to discover and report problems such as those of the farm subsidies in Mexico. In Cascais, innovative mechanisms were applied to engage all sectors of the population. These presentations were followed by group discussions on public participation.
The second half of the workshop was devoted to budget transparency portals and open data. The GIFT coordination team introduced an afternoon of presentations on transparency portals in the region and framed the discussion through an overview of tendencies and key challenges facing countries in the region. Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay, El Salvador and Dominican Republic presented their advances, followed by a second group discussion covering questions such as current country work in terms of transparency; advice for overcoming political and institutional resistance, especially from higher up in the hierarchy; and how can GIFT continue supporting these processes.
In the OGP meeting agenda, the network had three sessions: the GIFT Working Group session, the presentation of the GIFT Award for public participation in fiscal policy, and a fiscal transparency panel discussion, where panelists discussed questions concerning the end users of information published; who gets affected, and who opposes or imposes resistance on budget transparency efforts; the role of budget and fiscal transparency in countries’ open government efforts; what has been planned for ensuring sustainability of transparency innovations; and how to make these reforms transcend and be sustainable for the benefit of citizens.
GIFT stewards and partners (IBP, IFAC, World Bank, Finance Ministry representatives from Mexico, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, among others) were hosting and animating the fiscal openness working group, as usual. And this will continue in the future, in the framework of the collaboration with OGP support unit and the OGP countries. That said, the OGP support unit formally announced the new strategic thematic partnerships model, which is replacing the former working groups model. When OGP was founded, the Working Groups were created as a primary vehicle for providing technical support and peer learning in specific open government areas. The GIFT network led the way with the FOWG, which provided support in drafting commitments, reviewing action plans, and facilitating learning between government and civil society reformers, and was driving the advance global norms, such as the GIFT High Level Principles on Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Participation and the Principles on Public Participation in Fiscal Policies. In the new phase, GIFT will continue to lead fiscal transparency and participation efforts and activity in the OGP Community. A Memorandum of Understanding is being drafted with OGP, which will be more specific and result oriented and will allow our network to deepen and enhance the work we have been doing until now.
Several GIFT stewards and the network director were part of the group of 200 people from over 37 countries, coming from different sectors and diverse backgrounds across government, civil society, business and technology, who were in Amsterdam on December 6 for the #OCGlobal17, Open Contracting Partnership´s annual global gathering of innovators and champions.
One of the main messages from the meeting was the coincidence in putting “people at the heart of this movement”. For “making open contracting the norm for governments everywhere depends on the conviction, willpower, determination and ingenuity of individuals to drive change and see it through – from Nigerian computer engineers creating user-friendly tools, to Paraguayan regulators setting better policies, Filipino journalists asking questions about contracting processes, British e-procurement experts recommending open contracting to clients, and Indonesian local government leaders meeting regularly with citizens to hear their feedback.”
As a major cross-cutting issue, open contracting is much more than opening data, it entails opening systems and processes behind public spending and into long-term change in power structures. Thus, it soon gets into opening up beneficial ownership, company registers and asset declarations, to transparency in budgets and spending. Following the Mexican example, participants were interested in the potential of linking the open contracting standard data with the Open Fiscal Data Package as a way of linking budget information with the way it is spent at facility level in procurement activities. More to come in the near future on this topic!
On December 7, the GIFT Network director, Juan Pablo Guerrero, joined fellow colleagues from the World Bank, Jim Brumby, Harika Masud, Andrei Lushin, Maya Gusarova, and Anna Valkova from the Russian Ministry of Finance on an online presentation of the study International Practices to Promote Budget Literacy undertaken by the World Bank with financial support from the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. The study revealed that elements of budget literacy are included in school curricula of at least 34 countries (mainly members of OECD and the BRICS). However, unlike financial literacy and citizenship education, to date no international standards or guidelines have been established for budget literacy education.
Juan Pablo underlined that governments around the world increasingly recognize that publishing budget information is not enough to ensure citizens’ engagement, hence the importance of having not only more educated teachers and citizens on budget topics, but more institutional arrangements that allow citizen engagement and public participation channels on budget decisions
Read about how the State Audit Office of Georgia built the Budget Monitor, a unique analytical web-platform with comprehensive information about public finances, designed from an auditor’s perspective via different data visualization tools, such as interactive and user-friendly diagrams, info-graphics and tables, that engages the public constructively throughout the audit cycle, by providing a channel through which citizens can send audit requests, suggestions, and proposals, inform the SAOG about the deficiencies in the PFM system, and suggest the priority spheres for future audit(s). Also, read how the Municipality of Caiscais, with a population of 206,000, has managed to engage 150,000 citizens implementing 88 projects (works) worth 15.820.000€, through the Participatory Budget in the last 6 years. Finally, find out how the Farm Subsidies (Subsidios al Campo) coalition, led by a public interest group, a peasant organization, and a group of academics managed to push for reforms in the allocation of the subsidy programs, by generating evidence based in the analysis of budget data.
Insights at GIFT Fabrizio Scrollini, Executive Director of the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA): Key elements for an effective collaboration among civil society and government. Versión en español
GIFT experience on peer to peer learning
Facilitating peer-to-peer learning is an activity in which the GIFT network has invested significant time and resources since 2014. Please find here the final version of an assessment on GIFT’s work stream, aimed at documenting and systematizing these peer-to-peer learning experiences in order to extract lessons and contribute to improving the learning processes of the network.
The Fiscal Transparency Portal in South Africa is moving forward
The National Treasury, Open Up and IMALI YETHU (a collaboration of various civil society organizations) have launched the Open Budget Data Portal, which aims to make budget and public finance related information more accessible to the general public. This effort involves two GIFT stewards, the National Treasury and the Public Service Accountability Monitor. The GIFT Network will collaborate, involving soon other countries and good experiences, in line with the cooperation that the network has developed in Uruguay, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. Joint work with the network will include the use of the Open Fiscal Data Package.
Colombia takes a new step towards greater fiscal transparency
It is now it is possible to consult the contracts subscribed with public resources by the departmental and municipal governments and review the detail and the attached documents for each contract which are registered in the National Public Procurement System (Secop) in the Economic Transparency Portal. This information can be accessed by clicking on the new Contracts for Departments and Municipalities tab.
Unpublished budget datasets soon available in Chile
Following the Protocol to improve transparency and the usability of budget information signed by the Ministry of the Treasury and the National Congress, the Budget Office (Dipres) will make available unpublished budget datasets that include initial and current budget, monthly budget execution, and investment initiatives. The databases will be published in excel format for download and processing, to be accessed through the Open Data banner located on the Dipres website (www.dipres.cl) or directly at the site www.datos.gob.cl. These bases will be updated one month apart and within the first 5 days after the publication of the monthly and quarterly execution data. The Initial Law and Current Law information will be available from 2009, while Investment Initiatives, since 2014.
GIFT Lead Stewards Meeting, December 20, Washington D.C.
Lead Stewards will meet on December 20 to discuss and approve the Network’s 2018 Work plan, fundraising issues, and the admission of new members, among other topics.