Hosted by GIFT’s Steward MITRE Corporation, the network members held their second 2017 General Stewards Meeting. The meeting was very well attended, with participants coming from 20 countries. Representatives from 16 governments, 5 foundations, 2 IFIs and 21 CSOs –with 30 out of 37 stewards, including six lead stewards-- all came together for a two-day stewards meeting (October 10-11). The network started a discussion about transparency and public participation in tax policy and administration. Presentations by experts, and practitioners covered a range of issues: from the impact of corruption on total tax revenue and the impact of institutions, the importance of estimating the tax gap, the need to shed light on tax expenditures and their social cost, issues of privacy when attempting to provide greater transparency of tax information, including shedding light on disturbing wealth concentration and a regressive tax burden, among other topics.
The other topic discussed at length was open data, fiscal transparency portals and the communication of budget information. There was a presentation by the US Treasury on their experience of open data focused on the process of implementing the Open Data Act, which tracks almost $4 trillion in annual federal spending. In the process of effecting the law and creating the website to publish the data, they consulted citizens through several channels, in order to take into account the views of potential users. Other country representatives from Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Mexico, and Uruguay, among, others reflected on the US experience presenting their own initiatives and progress. Other areas of discussion were the granularity of spending on public service delivery, how to create and use an IT platform that promotes the development of this community of practice and enhances peer-learning; how to achieve stronger engagement in Africa; and communicating budget reforms to investors, among others.
The main conclusions of the meeting include the need to further work on public participation, including promoting and advancing practices that really incorporate the inclusiveness principle and the human rights perspective. The network should more clearly stress the need to speak with users, to engage governments on training for public participation, to use means and tools to connect interactively with citizens, such as social media, citizens’ budget at school levels, elaborate on examples that touch people’s lives and case studies in facility level budget information disclosure. Similarly, more work is needed on services delivery experiences where public participation and access to granular information become key factors for success in the implementation of the policies.
On peer learning, GIFT should continue engaging in a useful dialogue system, using more actively the community of practice and addressing the questions and suggestions provided during the discussion with the stewards, which were structured around the findings and recommendations of a recent report commissioned by GIFT.
Finally, taking advance of the high level and plural discussion on tax transparency and participation, the GIFT coordination team will provide a clear proposal on this new subject for the network, in order to have a proposal to discuss in the next stewards meeting.
The minutes, executive summary and materials of the meeting are here.
Linked with the Open Fiscal Data Package, Mexico launches the Open Contracting Data Standard
On November 8, the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit, the Secretariat of Public Function and the National Digital Strategy Coordination, in collaboration with the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data, Mexican Transparency, the World Bank, the Open Contracting Partnership and GIFT, launched the Platform for Open Contracts of the Government of the Republic, which includes data and visualizations of all stages of the procurement processes of the centralized public administration and is linked with the open data information of the federal budget (published in 2016 using the OFDP). Since 2016, the Federal Mexican government has collaborated with the World Bank and the Open Contracting Partnership, to adapt and implement the Open Contracting Data Standard (#EDCAmx) in the contracting processes of the federal public administration. Simultaneously, since 2016, the Finance Secretariat has worked with GIFT to disclose the federal budget in open data format. With this step, Mexico becomes the first country to link national budget information with procurement and contracting transaction level information on open data, an innovation that links international open data standards, in a way that allow users to track the budget down to implementation units contracts, in a way that puts the user of such information at the center.
GPSA Global Partners Forum 2017. Citizen action for open, accountable and inclusive societies
The Global Partners Forum of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) takes place annually at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. It convenes the GPSA’s Global Partners Network consisting of practitioners and thought leaders across civil society, governments, academia and business, alongside World Bank professionals. Stewards, partners and the GIFT team participated in the 2017 Forum (October 30-November 1), which was designed to align with Sustainable Development Goal 16 and focuses attention on the role of citizen action in building effective, accountable and inclusive societies.
Three key questions were addressed in the various workshop rounds and plenaries:
How does the changing governance landscape directly affect the field of social accountability for development and, more importantly, what responses have emerged to address these challenges? 2. In what manner and to what extent have state institutions embraced and incorporated citizen feedback and social accountability mechanisms, and what does this experience teach us? 3. What’s new in the field of social accountability? What roles are emerging innovative approaches, organizations, and funding mechanisms playing in the field, and to what extent are they delivering on their promise and aspirations? To what extent are innovative approaches taking root, vis-à-vis traditional models?
To learn more, check out meeting information and materials here.
Promoting the use of fiscal transparency portals & budget data communication strategies in the Dominican Republic
As part of a collaboration between two GIFT stewards, the United States Department of the Treasury and the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) to improve the communication of budget information, the GIFT team participated in a technical assistance mission, from October 16 to 20.
Different meetings were held with representatives from CSOs, MoF, Congressional commissions, AmCham Economic Committee and universities on how to prioritize MoF strategy of advancing the effective use of its Fiscal Transparency Portal, as well as of social media. To that end, successful experiences in promoting the visualization of fiscal transparency information were discussed. As a result of this visit, the Financial Integration Team of the MoF reiterated their commitment to advancing the fiscal transparency agenda, and to seek to accelerate this by learning from peers of the GIFT network.
Working on a new version of the fiscal transparency portal of El Salvador
The GIFT team also engaged with the Ministry of Finance of El Salvador, a GIFT steward, to explore ways in which the fiscal transparency portal could be improved. The European Union is supporting El Salvador to ensure an updated and timely version of the portal with more accessible and meaningful information, responding to the users. Multiple meetings have been held between all relevant stakeholders in an effort that will continue in the coming months and that included the attendance of Ministry of Finance Representatives from El Salvador to a fiscal transparency workshop in Argentina, at the OGP regional meeting.
GIFT at the launch of Corruption: Its Path and Impact on Society and an Agenda to Combat It in the Northern Triangle of Central America, produced by the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (ICEFI)
On October 12, Ricardo Barrientos, senior economist with ICEFI, GIFT Steward, and a contributor to the study, presented the newly released report Corruption: Its Path and Impact on Society and an Agenda to Combat It in the Northern Triangle of Central America. The report is a comparative study of the relationship between corruption and democracy in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. While the challenges of corruption and impunity are widely understood to undermine confidence in public institutions, the rule of law, and democratic governance, ICEFI’s new report moves beyond generalities and highlights the main paths of corruption within each state. The report quantifies the social costs of corruption – for example, highlighting the percentage of different Ministries’ budgets lost to specific corruption cases or schemes, and its impact on public goods and services. The presentation was commented by Juan Pablo Guerrero, GIFT’s Network Director.
A new Budget Implementation Information Index at the State Level in Mexico was launched
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) in Mexico launched the index on information of the State Level budget implementation, which assesses the transparency of the information about budget implementation in the 32 States of Mexico. This is a relevant effort for those interested in knowing not only how transparency are the intentions of policy makers about how to spend public resources, but more particularly how transparent is the information about how the resources are actually spent in the implementation phase of the budget cycle.
The Index and information about the launching are here.
GIFT Team is happy to welcome David Abouem, our new Representative in Africa who will be permanently based in the Region
David joins the GIFT Team to strengthen our presence and work with many countries in the African continent. Based in Yaoundé, he is an active member of the civil society in Cameroon. A Senior Civil Administrator by training, he served in government many years in different capacities, serving as Permanent Secretary in Ministerial departments, inspector general, provincial governor, and member of government (Minister). He also worked as a consultant with Transparency International and contributed to the creation of the Cameroon Chapter. He also served with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a good governance program in West Africa. He is active in many programs and projects dealing with transparency, accountability and other related governance issues for many civil society organizations, international development and financial partners, as well as local governments and public administration in Cameroon. David will help the GIFT network in its currents efforts to engage more intensively with several countries in the region who are willing to advance fiscal transparency and participation in the budget process. Welcome David!
A series of OGP blogs on participatory budgeting
Authors Brian Wampler, Stephanie McNulty and Michael Touchton are releasing a series of three blogs on participatory budgeting. The first one focuses on how participatory budgeting was introduced and analyzes the causal chains producing social and political change. The second post discusses how PB has transformed over the past 20 years, as the rules and structures of many PB programs are now quite different from the founding Porto Alegre experience. In the third and final post, the focus is on impact to highlight what we know about PB’s impact as well as the unknowns.
In Bangladesh, Union Parishads (UP), the lowest level of the local government, are obliged to prepare and present their budgets to local people in an “open budget session”. The annual income and expenditure statements of the Union Parishad are generally presented at this open budget meeting along with the succeeding year’s income and expenditure plan. The respective UP chairman announces the budget of the UP in front of local people. People can raise questions, queries and make comments on any of the issues of the proposed budget and plan. This practice takes place at the local budget formulation stage of the fiscal policy cycle. In its present form, it can be labeled as a top down approach and always initiated by the executive Branch (the Union Parishad). A study reveals that around 80% of the Unions seem to hold the open budget meeting, although the quality of the budget document is not known.
This practice illustrates the principles of timeliness, respect for self-expression, inclusiveness, and depth; and to a lesser extent openness, sustainability and complementarity.
GIFT at the OGP Americas Meeting, Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 20-22
Within the framework of the Open Government Partnership Americas Regional Meeting, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) is organizing four activities of two types (see program of activities here (español acá)). During Monday, November 20, in a one-day workshop, we will have the opportunity to discuss in a small, more technical group, topics related to our agenda. On Tuesday, November 21 and Wednesday, November 22, the discussion will be open to a wider public that will be participating in the OGP days.
On Monday, November 20, we will seek to offer a space for technical assistance through peer-to-peer learning in the areas of budget information communication, in particular, the construction, maintenance and promotion of budget transparency portals and open data with a focus on the user of that information and the efforts in matters of public participation in fiscal and budgetary policy. The workshop will count with the participation of GIFT members and partners, authorities in charge of the fiscal transparency agenda, in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay; the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), as well as representatives of the winners of the GIFT Award for Public Participation in Fiscal Policies.
On November 21 (15:40-16:50) at the OGP Meeting, we will have a GIFT session on fiscal transparency (Fiscal Openness Working Group- see the event’s agenda: http://sched.co/CdGh) in which we will deal with our issues, but this time in a very executive way, to start a dialogue with more participants of the OGP meeting. On the same day, November 21, at 17:00 we will hold the present the GIFT Award for Public Participation in Fiscal Policy, where the Municipality of Cascais, Portugal, the State Audit Office of Georgia and Fundar, Center for Analysis and Research have been awarded. Finally, on Wednesday, November 22 from 10:20 to 11:30, GIFT will have asession panel on fiscal transparency with the presence of senior representatives of the governments of Argentina and Uruguay. Stay tuned!