Is it possible to follow the budget money in Slovenia with open data?

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Slovenia is making a good progress in opening its data. The only area that is left behind is the data about the budget. But recently things are starting to develop rapidly also at the Ministry of Finance. Two years ago, the citizens budget was introduced. And in early 2019, activities started to open as much data as possible in a timely and user attractive and friendly manner. Decisively, coordination between the MoF, the Ministry of Public Administration (in charge of the IT cloud), Governmental PR services and the Court of Audit, has begun. As these institutions started to work on the project, promising outcomes are on the horizon.

1. Slovenia, as a member of the European Union, is obliged to develop a strategy on open data (EU regulation is behind that).

2. Slovenia reports to the EU and public institutions are evaluated about open data. Last report shown improvements, making Slovenia move from the 2nd group »Fast trackers« to the top #1 group of »Trendsetters« (as shown on the graphic, Slovenia holds the 7th position within the whole list).

3. We have many portals where info about open data (and also the very data sets themselves) is to be found:

– OPSi (Odprti Podatki Slovenije – Open Data Slovenia)

Manual on how to open the data.

Register of the entities that are bound by the Public Information Act, not just when being asked but also to be proactively transparent.

Publication of public sector transactions by the Public Payments Administration of the Republic of Slovenia.

– The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption’s public sector financial transactions records ERRAR, formerly known as Supervizor.

Publication of contracts.

Publication of metadata on public procurement for reuse.

Data on election campaigns.

Annual reports of political parties (within JOLP – Javna Objava Letnih Poročil – Public Publication of Yearly Reports).

– All papers of governmental sections
(http://www.vlada.si/delo_vlade/gradiva_v_obravnavi/ ; http://www.vlada.si/delo_vlade/dnevni_redi/ ; http://www.vlada.si/delo_vlade/seje_delovnih_teles/ )

Transparency and open data – info by MPA.

Looks like a significant amount of information, but only experts could make a complete assessment and I am not one of them in this field of open data. But I do know about budgets and I can say that other countries have more on budgets. Maybe after all the MPA website might not be at the top address for fiscal data? Sure some useful links are to be found there (ERRAR and OPEN DATA SLOVENIA) but in my opinion they lack direct link to the budget data! Through the presentations and discussions I have witnessed and been part of at GIFT meetings, I know there is a great room for improvement. I believe that, because I know that the evaluation I was presented (before mentioned EU – Open data maturity …) is only one of many. Just last week, OECD has published a new Open Government Data Report and in that case, Slovenia is below average – way behind South Korea, France, Japan, Great Britain and Mexico.

But I do not want to leave you without fiscal information. Let me just briefly take you to the webpage of the MoF. There, among other things, one can also find the following information:

Citizens budget.     All budgets in detail.     Where does your money go?

Midyear reports.

End-year reports.

The Tax office gives once a month information on collected taxes.

So, there is valuable information. But that is basically it. Some data can be found at the Statistical office (SURS). But statistics is, as it should be, aggregated information that does not allow to trace budgets…  (https://www.stat.si/StatWeb/Field/Index/1).

As you can see, Slovenia has data available, but we are still not even halfway compared to where some countries already are.

I think that »Where does your money go« could be a good point to start. But it should be the base to build up a system to provide online, up to date, budget data – both on income (tax office) and expenditure data (MoF – directorate of budget and directorate of public accounting). Transactions should get direct links to the documentation (data provider through ERRAR and Public Information Act), which could be achieved by using GIFT´s Open Fiscal Data Package, for instance. All data about transactions that result in assets should be presented with the data of those assets (parcel ledger data, geo location, etc.) We already have all the data – since otherwise linear ministries would not be able to function. I also believe that we have all the necessary legislation (Public Information Act, etc.). We only need a person at MoF (like Lorena Rivero del Paso in Mexico) to organize all the pieces of the puzzle in the proper way – and of course political support for that. Another option would be to work closely with the GIFT network, as it provides technical support for these type of challenges.

Short info about participatory budgeting in Slovenia

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On participatory budgeting, we have started small in Slovenia a few year ago, but we have come pretty far in less than 5 years. There is a substantial interest among local communities and the Parliament has helped with legislation promoting participation.

The idea of participatory budgeting is not completely new in Slovenia. It has been around for some years. First »experiments« in this field started in city of Maribor in 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, the project ended since there was not enough political will for full implementation.

A similar initiative started in local community of Ajdovščina in 2016 and it has been a success ever since. The same case is observed with the neighboring municipality of Komen.

In May 2017, the GIFT network and Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia organized a regional seminar on participatory budgeting which gave a new push to the movement. Addressing the GIFT public participation principles and having access to international experts and experiences, combined with discussions on the Slovenian mechanisms to engage communities in budgeting,  big organizations of local communities (i. e. SOS Skupnost občin Slovenije – Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia) took part and started to promote the idea strongly.

By 2018, such promising idea had reached the high politics. The Government had prepared additional articles for the Law on Local Communities and among them was also the article on participatory budgeting.

In March and April 2018, the articles were already on the desks of the member of the parliament. The whole procedure in the Parliament is to be found here.

A Bill was signed into Law on the 25th of April 2018 and published a day later (https://www.uradni-list.si/_pdf/2018/Ur/u2018030.pdf Page 4491). The new article 48.b states:

»In the process of preparing the draft budget, the municipality may determine the amount of funds intended for financing projects proposed by citizens. On the proposed projects, the municipality conducts consultations with citizens no later than the submission of the budget to the municipal council for reception.«

In October 2018, local elections took place in Slovenia. The debate about participatory budgeting went on high gears. Many candidates for mayors and many politicians campaigning for the local councils stated participatory budgeting as one of their priorities in their political programs. »Danes je nov dan« reports, that 57 candidates, that have promised to support participatory budgeting have entered local councils (https://danesjenovdan.si/participativni-proracun/).

In 2019, we are starting to see the first results. Nova Gorica, Ankaran, Renče Vogrsko, Hrpelje Kozina, Šentilj and Razkrižje have already started with the participatory budgeting. And it looks like that Krško, Benedikt, Koper and Divača are going to start the procedures of participatory budgeting for the budget year 2020.

As such, and with the little help from the GIFT network and other international experts, and the decisive support from the Court of Audit and the National Parliament, some Slovenians are starting to be more engaged in the decisions and implementation about their budgets. The process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of the budget, enabling taxpayers to work with local governments to make the budget decisions that affect their lives, is taking place in Slovenia, which is a very meaningful happening for our democratic live.

Local communities

Maribor, 2014.     Ajdovščina, 2016.     Komen, 2016.     Logatec, 2018.     Nova Gorica, 2019.     Ankaran, 2019.     Renče Vogrsko, 2019.     Hrpelje Kozina, 2019.     Šentilj, 2019.     Razkrižje, 2019.     Krško, for budget of 2020.     Benedikt, for budget of 2020.     Koper, for budget of 2020.     Divača, for budget of 2020.     Kranjska Gora (just for young peple), 2018: https://obcina.kranjska-gora.si/dogodek/165559 & http://www.sodeluj.es/

 

Seminars

September 2015.     May 2017.     April 2018.     October 2018.

 

Literature

2015 and 2016.

 

Articles in newspapers

Delo, 2013.     Dolenski list, 2016.     Dnevnik, 2018.     Večer, 2018.     Primorske novice, 2018.     Novice, 2018.     Delo, 2018.     Mladina, 2018.     EKoper, 2018.