Fiscal Data for Emergency Response: Guide for COVID-19

By Lorena Rivero del Paso and Juan Pablo Guerrero

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many governments to launch emergency spending and tax policy measures to mitigate the potentially catastrophic impact on the health of their people and economies. The speed of these adjustments has challenged traditional approaches to managing risks, inefficiencies, budgetary allocations and corruption. At the same time, fiscal rules have been put on hold. Budget balances, debt obligations and revenue adjustments in many countries exceed any level that would have been deemed acceptable before March 2020.

In a context in which rapid decision-making has become the norm, traditional mechanisms for providing information to the public have fragmented or broken down. Some governments have succeeded in disclosing information on emergency responses transparently, but many have not had the political will or the tools to do so.

This has required the public finance community to reflect on the preparedness of current reporting instruments and internal data architecture of governments to monitor rapid adjustments and their impact to inform time-sensitive decision-making, coordination and monitoring. Equally important is the type, disaggregation and format in which such information is required by the public and other external stakeholders to facilitate policy discussion, assist implementation and enforce accountability.

The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) network, with support of the OGP Multi-Donor Trust Fund, has created a practical guide to help practitioners identify the datasets and data fields that are required for informed internal decision-making and transparent disclosure of information related to emergency responses. GIFT is a global network integrated by stewards and partners from ministries of finance—or equivalent—, civil society organizations, expert agencies and international financial institutions. As part of the dialogue, peer-learning and knowledge exchange within the network, this guide has been developed as the product of global consultations and collective work with experts in the fiscal, open data and open government arenas. Its structure observes a user-centered and purpose-oriented approach and results from the engagement of representatives from nine ministries of finance, 16 civil society expert organizations and 12 international organizations in co-creation workshops.

The guide includes 15 datasets and 13 time series grouped into four dimensions as follows:

  • Emergency and countercyclical spending (including budget adjustments, extra-budgetary funds, performance indicators, investments, payroll and procurement);
  • Tax relief measures and deferrals;
  • Revenue adjustments and additional funding sources (covering revenue adjustments, contingent tax collections, loans and other debt instruments, and external development and humanitarian resource flows); and
  • The macroeconomic impact of the emergency fiscal measures.

Each dataset is further disaggregated into more than 370 relevant data fields. The guide also includes examples of how the data can be used by governments and other stakeholders for various purposes of management, monitoring and evaluation.

Bearing in mind that data quality and availability is an important limitation in many countries—particularly for such an extensive list of data fields, as the guide lists all of the relevant data sets, not country specific—and that the measures taken and administration specificities vary from country to country, the Guide includes a section with a method to prioritize and customize the tool for application in different national contexts, and key prerequisites for publication, including data availability and quality. This method will also allow identifying data gaps that administrations would like to fill, to build a more integrated and comprehensive fiscal data architecture for internal decision making and transparency.

This guide is for:

  •   Ministries of finance (or equivalent)– to support the development of a stronger data architecture, as well as to assist the process of identifying what data to publish to enable transparency and oversight.
  •   Civil society/advocacy groups– to simplify the process of prioritizing data needs for monitoring, analysis, and participation.
  •   Oversight institutions– to contribute to the task of identifying the data sources required to develop diverse analysis, oversight and auditing.

Reality check:  Unfortunately, we need to recognize that this is not the only emergency that the world faces nowadays or will face in the future—especially considering the effects of climate change— therefore we need to work on building the data architecture that will allow us to react fast with efficiency and transparency, and not compromising the sustainable development and equality gains.

The impact of COVID19 on fiscal transparency and public participation

In the book titled Open Budgets: The political economy of fiscal transparency, participation, and accountability around the world, (S. Khagram, P. De Renzio, A. Fung), the authors analyse how and why improvements in fiscal transparency and participation have transpired. They conclude that four main factors contribute to improvements in fiscal transparency and public participation in fiscal policies across countries:

  1. Political transitions, from an autocratic rule to systems where political contestation and alternation are allowed, and oversight bodies have greater powers;
  2. Fiscal and economic crises that force governments to tighten controls over public funds and put in place mechanisms and incentives for fiscal discipline and independent scrutiny;
  3. Widely publicized cases of corruption that compel governments to enhance the public’s access to fiscal information; and
  4. External influences that promote global norms and thereby empower domestic reformers and civil society actors, improving both the public’s right to access information and fiscal transparency.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, the last three of these factors have become even more dominant. Fiscal and economic crises are widespread, with their depth and duration still largely unknown. Risks of corruption, with many cases already confirmed, are huge in every corner of the world, for example in the procurement of hospital supplies, and have been widely denounced by investigative media and civil society organizations (CSOs). External influences are also prevalent in many developing countries, as countries are heavily dependent on external aid to provide emergency relief and funding. The case for increasing fiscal transparency is unarguable.

The role of these factors can be demonstrated by considering the significant increases in budget transparency, over the years, in some of the countries analysed by the IBP’s Open Budget Survey (OBS). South Africa, Mexico, Georgia and Brazil have managed to become top OBS performers by disclosing extensive budget information to the public. Key factors explain their good results: a political transition to a democratic government, corruption scandals, and teams of government reformers that have led budget transparency improvements in a constructive and sustained dialogue with civil society organizations, in line with globally publicized norms and standards.

Similarly, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Ukraine and Croatia, all rapidly improved their fiscal transparency levels within relatively short periods (reaching sufficient levels of budget transparency with scores above 61 out of 100 in the OBS 2019). Corruption scandals, economic crises, external pressure or incentives (such as those provided by open government agendas and bolstered access to financial markets) are also present in these examples.

Returning to the COVID-19 crises, it needs to be stated upfront that the first responses to the health emergency have generally not been as transparent as desired. Exceptional responses to the pandemic have challenged the traditional processes used to ensure fiscal transparency and maintain accountability. For instance, there are examples where national legislatures were by-passed in a rush to reallocate budget, at least in respect of the initial responses to the emergency; the public’s opinion has also rarely been sought and/or thoroughly considered. More than 40 countries have established special extra-budgetary funds for crisis response, often neglecting however to install sound governance arrangements and without appropriate checks and balances being put in place to ensure that the funds reach their intended beneficiaries and are transparently reported. Consequently, COVID-19 related emergency fiscal measures will also likely prove hard to track as countries tend to be less transparent regarding budget execution than they are regarding their budget plans. Even in cases where finance’s ministries have detailed information on the fiscal measures announced and implemented, they may struggle to track the use of emergency funds given that they are spent in chaotic environments often to get funds out the door quickly without necessarily having all the checks and balances to ensure they reach their intended beneficiaries and ultimately achieve the aims of the relief efforts.

That said, there are good examples of fiscal transparency during the COVID-19 crises. In some cases, civil society organizations and citizen engagements have played key roles in the design and implementation of support packages. These examples are, however, scarce.

To assist in this, the GIFT network has produced a guide to help governments clearly identify the datasets and data fields that should be integrated and disclosed to ensure that transparency is embedded in their COVID-19 policy responses. The goal of the Guide is to ensure that emergency responses, economic recovery packages and financial rescue plans include, from the outset, transparency requirements and that the datasets of such measures set in place, are open by design. It is, however, acknowledged that overall, fiscal transparency will inevitably suffer in 2020 as governments scramble to shift priorities and realign tax and spending policies to preserve the health of their populations and economies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented global recession, forcing governments to respond with enormous fiscal packages and budgetary measures not seen in a generation. Fiscal rules have been put on hold: deficits, debt, adjustments, reallocations are beyond any realm that would have been deemed acceptable before March 2020. Overwhelming and painful social and economic costs has been paid and will continue to be paid for many years to come. Given these high fiscal costs, many of the current measures should actually be embedded in medium-term fiscal frameworks, while measures that are not included in revenue or expense, such as government guarantees of business loans, should be transparently managed and recorded to mitigate potential fiscal risks. Crises, however, also open up opportunities, including the chance to reassess the true essence of current goals and to consequently review and realign priorities, especially in those areas in which the impact has been more salient and adverse.

After the emergency, the incentives for governments to enhance transparency are going to be related to the need to tighten controls over expenditure, and to put in place mechanisms for budget efficiency and independent scrutiny. External influences will press for more transparency as preconditions for investment and support. In such scenarios, the need for: efficient and effective spending avoiding misallocations and waste; to access financial markets; and to discuss significant tax reforms will undoubtedly favour fiscal transparency.

As such, and despite the drastic and painful costs of COVID-19, there will likely be opportunities for fiscal transparency in its aftermath. If this push towards enhanced fiscal transparency transpires, the conditions will also be set for enhancing accountability and participation from non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. Given that the pandemic so negatively affects inclusiveness, poverty, health and education, to name but a few areas, the scene might also be propitious for advocating for political debates and increased accountability, a key pre-requisite for budgets to start systematically including the Sustainable Development Goals. CSOs can be expected to engage in public debates on how to better follow the money, and communities will want to participate in the execution of public resources that directly affect their lives.

The challenges are immense, though. According to World Bank calculations, the pandemic could push close to 50 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. COVID-19 will have dramatic implications on the pursuit of the 2030 development agenda, and the need to re-engage all stakeholders in this effort. According to the Paper prepared by the Committee of Experts on Public Administration for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to enable SDG budgeting, a country must align the SDG framework with its national context and priorities. It must actively involve the Ministry of Finance as the lead of an SDG-based negotiation on resource allocations and coherence within the overall national budget. It is also essential that the tools and processes developed to integrate the SDGs into national budgets are adopted by stakeholders, such as non-government organizations, parliamentarians and supreme audit institutions, as these actors are crucial in holding governments to account regarding their commitments to the 2030 Agenda.

For many countries, the emergency has marked a forced adjustment with unimaginable reconsiderations and reallocations in the budget process. Post-crisis, countries may therefore have an opportunity to realign their priorities towards the SDG objectives, especially in those areas in which the impact has been more salient or negative. In such context, engaging in a more open dialogue with civil society partners and invite public participation for achieving the development goals will be indispensable for success. Of course, high-level political support will be an important condition for success, since ultimately the entire process of SDG budgeting is political.

The role of Civil Society Organizations in ensuring transparency and accountability in emergency policy responses

 

The context

Fiscal and budgetary responses effected to provide immediate resources to control the pandemic as well as to minimise its direct negative impact on economic growth, whilst simultaneously forming the platform for future economic growth and development, encompass an unprecedented myriad of dimensions.

Substantial economic support packages targeting people and businesses have been launched worldwide in record time, challenging approaches traditionally used to ensure fiscal transparency, public accountability, and democratic legitimacy. The importance of these elements, however, remain paramount. These support packages utilise public resources, thereby placing huge burdens on future generations that will ultimately carry their costs. The immediate costs of inappropriate policies or policies implemented incorrectly, with leakages through waste and corruption, are also enormous, potentially leading to the loss of lives, poverty and inequality levels escalating, and associated increased levels of marginalization, helplessness and social polarization. Inequality challenges have been exacerbated under COVID-19, hitting the poor and vulnerable the hardest, in terms of the possibility for isolation, job ad food security, as well as access to healthcare. The effects of inequality will span though generations and will have a differentiated impact among genders.

Fiscal transparency is of the utmost importance when responding to the pandemic, as explained in a recent note by the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund, which stressed the importance of proactive disclosure, accountability and democratic legitimacy. In the following pages, I suggest that public participation is also indispensable for successful policy implementation and better use of public resources. Institutional checks and balances, democratic mechanisms and a free press, must be nurtured and strengthened through transparency and people empowerment. The public should be able to participate in the development and implementation of policies.

This note illustrates the important role that civil society organizations (CSOs) have been playing in contributing and supporting emergency policy responses. Despite uncertainty regarding the appropriateness of policy responses owing to the nature and constant evolution of the pandemic, it is evident that public participation and civic engagement have already driven some very positive developments. As a check on public authorities; independent media reports, citizen engagement and CSO intervention; fulfilling the roles of advocacy, contestation, adversarial journalism, and bottom-up leadership can generate collective knowledge and press public authorities to serve better (Archon Fung, Boston Review, April 23, 2020).

In many cases, the role of public participation and citizen engagement has complemented and increased the effectiveness of existing governance and accountability systems. Following the GIFT Principles of public participation in fiscal policies, public participation is an essential element of open government, strong governance, and a crucial element of a fiscal accountability ecosystem. There is strong evidence that public participation in fiscal policies can strengthen and improve fiscal performance and outcomes by increasing efficiency, equity, effectiveness, predictability, legitimacy and the sustainability of fiscal management.

Below are examples of how CSOs have performed critical roles in ensuring transparency and accountability in emergency policy response design, implementation and oversight. Finally, this note presents options to use digital tools enable participation and increase the potential and benefits generated from public engagement.

 

 

  1. Designing the support package

To be successful, radical and extraordinary fiscal policy responses to the pandemic must be tailored considering relevant stakeholders, responding effectively to their needs while balancing the need for fiscal sustainability. Drafting policies in isolation without considering stakeholders is not only likely to lead to implementation difficulty but also undesirable consequences. Policy responses, including those targeting specific economic sectors, introducing subsidies, bailout or stimulus packages, corporate welfare, and public-private partnerships, all stem from ideas and proposals that lead to significant fiscal effects. Although the fast-paced nature of the COVID-19 pandemic does not lend itself to long consultation processes, effectively responding to it requires input from the representatives of the social sectors concerned. For the sake of expediency, there are organizations representing directly concerned sectors, as well as experts and reputable CSOs that have the necessary expertise and footprint to rapidly provide inputs to improve the design of fiscal measures and/or help target them to specific constituencies. The following are examples of diverse organizations that have been able to do so:

 

Argentina– the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ) published a document containing the recommendations of international human rights protection bodies and specialists in fiscal policy; responding to the emergency from a rights perspective. In light of these recommendations, ACIJ then analysed the first actions implemented by the government, identifying their impact on the budget. Additionally, ACIJ assessed the differentiated impact of schooling from home in poor sectors and minorities.

Brazil– the Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (INESC), is showing the implications of austerity measures and constitutional amendments (spending caps) on social policies, and analysing ways to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the population are supported. INESC also led a CSO campaign advocating that the Brazilian Parliament approve a three-month basic-income guarantee for informal workers. More than 150 CSOs and social movements were mobilized, alongside a few politicians and political parties. The petition was used to press parliamentarians to prioritize and vote for the bill, which was then quickly approved.

China– a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report has assessed the impact of COVID-19 on large private-owned enterprises and small and medium enterprises and their ability to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report provides recommendations on crisis response and recovery so that companies can receive effective support and achieve a return to steady growth through sustainable solutions.

Colombia– DeJusticia, is working with rural subsistence organizations to develop proposals to respond to the pandemic, including specific implementation actions related to health, water, education, women, security and monetary support, as well as to provide tools for monitoring their implementation.

Croatia– the Institute of Public Finance analyses ways to enhance the set of measures responding to the emergency. The analysis acknowledges some positive actions, and stresses relevant additional work required to address key structural reforms –related to the health and pension systems, territorial reorganization, public administration and public procurement.

India– the Center for Budget and Governance Accountability has published an analysis and calls for action on COVID-19’s implications for farming, as the harvest times will affect both supply-side and demand-side management

Mexico– the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Presupuestarios (CIEP) has produced a set of policy recommendations on the various policy alternatives to reallocate budget resources and provide economic stimulus. CIEP is also advocating the need for more information regarding the COVID-19 Emerging Program to calculate the budgetary impact of the measures announced accurately.

South Africa– a group of CSOs sent recommendations outlining how parliament could still proceed with online sessions and participation, despite it being in lockdown. Simultaneously, the Budget Justice Coalition also emphasized the need for clear standards for the disclosure of information regarding the COVID-19 responses.

United Kingdom– the Resolution Foundation examines the economic and fiscal implications of three different length of time scenarios for social distancing measures. It also discusses how the government can mitigate and manage the possible tensions between health, economic, and fiscal policy objectives.

United States of America– the Tax Policy Center has recommended four basic economic policy steps to address the effects of the COVID-19 –accept the health and economic costs of the epidemiological crisis, help individuals to overcome a sudden financial shock, assist entrepreneurs to maintain their production capacities and encourage domestic demand–. Another example is the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, which published that while providing needed support to small businesses and hospitals, the new US COVID-19 package fell short even as an interim measure, by failing to deliver crucial state and local fiscal relief and food assistance

International– the Resolution Foundation presents a set of recommendations on extraordinary steps to safeguard the financial health of countries through the protracted period of economic disruption that may be required to contain and eradicate the virus. The recommendations explore what policymakers can learn from how governments dealt with the financial and fiscal stresses associated with past viral outbreaks over the last century.

Gender responsive budgeting–  Gender groups have highlighted the differentiated effects of stay at home measures, which could affect the design of measures, for example Apolitical at the international level, INESC in Brazil and the Mexican National University (UNAM).

 

  1. Implementing the support package

Following and tracking the implementation of policy measures can be enhanced through the provision of sufficient relevant information and opportunities for public engagement. Examples of this are provided below:

 

Argentina– ACIJ, is working with allies to ensure that homeless people in Buenos Aires are protected during the pandemic, as these “invisible people” tend to fall outside of support packages. They have also adapted their IT tool for mapping the necessary basic services (e.g., food, hygiene, health, and basic services such as water) in informal settlements during the emergency.  Regarding procurement, ACIJ is assessing the level of information on emergency public procurement publicized at the national government level and in some provinces and puts forward recommendations on transparency policies for public procurement identifying over-prices in food purchases.

Chile– Fundación Observatorio Fiscal has analysed controversial procurement decisions taken in response to the pandemic.

Guatemala– the Instituto Centroamericano De Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI) urged the government to speed up the formalities related to the implementation of the two recently approved budget extensions and, above all, the administrative procedures for implementing them in the budget. These budgetary modifications are required to enable the government to implement the approved emergency responses.

Nigeria & Pan-African– through iFollowTheMoney, individuals will be provided with online tools to monitor, drive conversation to spark actions and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach, urging government stakeholders to publicize all funds released to mitigate against COVID-19 as well as the accompanying implementation plans. In addition, the International Budget Partnership (IBP)-Nigeria and partners organizations are producing basic health and sanitary information on the prevention of COVID-19 in various local languages, helping national and local authorities to disseminate vital information to communities.

South Africa– the International Budget Partnership-South Africa is providing data to the residents of informal settlements in the major metropolitan centres so that they can provide real-time feedback about government services during the pandemic. This information allows government officials to understand community needs and to assess the quality of services rendered. It also assists communities in holding government accountable.

Ukraine– the IT civil society platform for data analysis (Dozorro) provides a CSO perspective and independent analysis on the e-procurement system Prozorro, a platform for transparency procurement, enabling independent civil society to detect possible irregularities through machine learning algorithms

Parliaments role in Latin-America– the Directorio Legislativo CSO and ParlAmericas have developed a guide to support the adaption and strengthen the role of parliaments in the face of the pandemic. The guide explains how the parliaments of the Americas and the Caribbean are currently operating and adapting to the pandemic, and also provides a set of open parliament recommendations.

Procurement in Latin America– Transparency International has convened a taskforce from 13 countries to identify risks in emergency public procurement in response to COVID-19 and measures to mitigate them, including those related to opacity, hidden contracts, overpricing, collusion, and lack of competition. The coalition appeals to the private sector to avoid practices that affect the supply of goods and services necessary to face the health emergency.

 

  1. Oversight of the support package

There are not as many examples related to the role of CSOs in the ex-post oversight phase of the emergency response – probably since we are still at an early stage in the crisis. However, past experience from other crises shows that CSOs can usefully supplement oversight mechanisms such as the Supreme Audit Institution (SAIs) by providing a “grass-roots vision”. The role of CSOs in this respect can be facilitated if SAIs take a proactive approach, using mobile tech to provide information to citizens and setting up additional hotlines for receiving tips from the public and for sharing information and photos that support complaints. Such welcome developments have notably been observed in the pre-COVID-19 period in Georgia, where the so-called “budget monitor” allows citizens to request online the State Audit Office intervention in case of possible wrongdoing of funds or abuse in public service delivery. Other examples show that CSOs can supplement the limited capacity within SAIs and other existing control mechanisms (GIFT examples of CSOs working with Supreme Audit Institutions -SAIs). CSOs have been asked in some countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, to help provide information to citizens about the disease and prevention measures, with accompanying discussions of how this can be leveraged to keep citizens informed about policies and how to monitor them.

 

The role of digital tools

In times of social distancing and home confinement, it is crucial to inform the public about the preventive and response measures instituted, together with their rationale and their role in the implementation, as well as the array of relief measures available and how they can be accessed. This is key in ensuring that measures are effectively undertaken, reach all possible beneficiaries, and that buy-in from stakeholders is garnered. Many digital tools can be used to disseminate this information, such as dedicated websites like https://sacoronavirus.co.za/ in South Africa and mobile messenger application systems. In respect to disseminating information on support measures, a dedicated portal that includes the precise eligibility criteria for accessing benefits, is recommended, such as the Australian portal where each financial support measure has a dedicated description. It is crucial that access to open detailed data is provided, such that aggregate information can be sufficiently disaggregated to allow tracing from design to implementation, and further to reporting, monitoring and evaluation.

Many governments are making efforts in this regard, at varying potential participation levels. While some governments have embedded restricted access to information regimes, or are limiting access to information available online (see a recount on the matter here), there are also numerous inspiring examples of how open government tools have been used to create collaborative efforts with civil society and address some of the challenges of the pandemic.

The Digital Government and Data Unit of the OECD, in collaboration with the NYU’s The GovLab, have been collecting evidence on the release and use of Open Government Data in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They have gathered a rich set of evidence on how different actors (such as entrepreneurs, media, researchers, CSOs, and the public sector) are innovating to support countries’ policies and actions. The OECD’s compilation of data, information, analysis and recommendations regarding the health, economic, financial and societal challenges posed by the impact of Coronavirus are here.

The Open Government Partnership has compiled a chart of various open government approaches to COVID-19 (here). As an example, Brazil has a very informative platform that publishes collated up-to-date COVID-19 budget information. Open Knowledge Brazil has developed a COVID-19 transparency index to motivate local governments to enhance their transparency.

In France, over 60 members of Parliament (lejourdapres) launched a platform to collect citizen inputs related to the post-COVID-19 world, in order to start setting the reform agenda. Focusing on some of the long-term changes introduced by the pandemic, the public consultation addresses topics such as public health systems; labour challenges including in respect of universal income and working from home; consumption; education; democracy; and the digital world.

The South African National Treasury has set up an email address where members of the public can send suggestions on how best the National Treasury can deal with the COVID-19. This is in support of efforts by the rest of government to ensure interaction with members of the public on the virus.

The Australian Government has requested the public to download a COVIDSafe app to assist health officials in contract tracing by automating and thereby speeding up the manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. The app was downloaded more than 1 million times within hours of its launch.

Citizen relationships with public authorities were significantly different merely a decade ago. Today, citizens’ are generally online and able to access information quickly. Teleworking has multiplied exponentially in just a matter of days, family and friends now meet on virtual platforms, teachers and trainers are teaching online, and medical appointments are taking place with professionals through the internet. People are using digital platforms in all aspects of their lives, including in respect of how they access government information and track public services delivery. This has many advantages, including reducing the need and cost of physical mobilization, the ability to thereby expedite processes, and to broaden decentralized yet coordinated people and communities’ control on governments.

It however also poses several challenges, the most obvious related to the digital divide and the general lack of access by the already vulnerable members of society, effectively leaving them out of the conversation. On the other hand, for those who do have adequate access to the internet, surveillance presents a problem that is now significantly exacerbated, with alarming privacy considerations. In this context, the need to recognize internet access as a fundamental right becomes very clear, as it is, more than ever, a vehicle to access other rights, such as education, work, and health, thereby strengthening the right to access to public information and to participate in fiscal policies discussions. Simultaneously, who can access and manage the information contained on the web, and what it can be used for, becomes a crucial question. Putting the focus on a freer, more accessible internet, with less surveillance and more privacy, becomes fundamental. This is not only key in responding to COVID-19 but also in moving beyond it.

In the relationship between governments and citizens, digital tools can help to target new and specific groups, enhance the implementation of processes, scale up participation in processes, and lead to practices of openness by default, creating cultures of participation in every organization. Digitial tools can also be instrumental for participatory budgeting; citizen assemblies and other types of consultations; feedback, complaint mechanisms and engagement methods. Proactive data disclosure can provide timely, regular and broad access to larger important datasets. All these developments can become extremely useful governance tools for better public financial management.

 

Increasing the potential and benefits generated from public engagement

In this pandemic, as in other times, decision-makers in government can be inattentive or indifferent in attending to the needs of vulnerable workers and communities who bear the greatest burdens of COVID-19. As described, contentious mobilization by community organizations and vulnerable individuals can draw attention to these problems and press for more equitable policies. Even in developed countries, a great number of households have suddenly become vulnerable as layoffs mount and savings are drained. Calls for decisive central actions to stem the pandemic, local innovation and leadership from citizens, civic, and private organizations—sometimes in the face of centralized obstruction—have often led the response (Archon Fung).

In consultation with a broad community of stakeholders, initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Global Initiative for Fiscal transparency, are showing concrete and practical ways in which openness — through transparency, citizen engagement and oversight — can help tackle the three stages of the pandemic­­­ – response, recovery and longer-term reform. The OGP has put forward a call to action which includes advocating for the proactive and accurate disclosure of information, open platforms to mobilize community assistance for healthcare workers and the vulnerable, open emergency procurement of medical supplies, and integrating transparency inclusion and oversight in safety nets.

The GIFT network has called on civil society expert organizations and ministry of finance, and international organizations representatives, to together develop a practical guide depicting emergency response user-centered fiscal transparency data needs. The guide will include a consolidated list of the datasets needed to track emergency spending, stimulus plans and revenue sources. Finally, it will include examples of practices, tools and schemas. The goal is to ensure that emergency responses, economic recovery packages and financial rescue plans include, from the outset, transparency requirements and that the datasets of such measures are open by design. The main objective of the effort will be to inform and support ministries of finance in their processes of identifying what data to collect to trace design and implementation for decision making, and to identify what data needs to be published to enable effective transparency and oversight. For civil society and advocacy groups, the goal will be to simplify the process of prioritizing the data required to enable tracking, analysis and informed participation.

In summation, CSOs have the capacity to research, inform and mobilize citizens who can eventually demand the accountability of leaders in protecting basic needs, including public health. In the case of COVID-19, public judgment and pressure has moved some governments to take more vigorous action and respond, while also assisting them in identifying needs thereby providing them with the information required to respond appropriately. COVID-19 clearly demonstrates the need for enhanced transparency, accountability and democratic legitimacy, even in the times of emergency responses.

 

 

 

 

[1] With gratitude to Raquel Ferreira, Claude Wendling, Lorena Rivero and Tarick Gracida for their useful comments and suggestions.

Fiscal Transparency in Times of Emergency Response: Reflections for Covid-19

(Consult the full –Fiscal Data for Emergency Response: Guide for COVID-19-)

The health emergency we are experiencing at the beginning of 2020 is certainly not the first or last one the world will see. Yet, Covid-19 pushes us to reflect on the preparedness of our fiscal transparency instruments to account for public finance adjustments, as well as to provide useful information in a timely manner—to both government agencies for efficient coordination and decision-making, and the public for policy implementation and accountability. Governments are being faced with the need to make rapid decisions1 regarding different aspects of public finances, some even announcing what is being called a “blank check” to combat Coronavirus and its economic effects2. Generally speaking, these measures target emergency spending to prevent, detect, control, treat, and contain the virus, countercyclical actions to reactivate the economy and support affected people and sectors, and financing needs to ensure liquidity and cash requirements during the emergency and for the stimulus measures3.

While transparency expectations for risks management and contingencies are part of international standards4 and particular attention has also been given in post-disaster attention5, fiscal transparency in emergency situations is certainly intricate. Crisis response interactions generate complexity and confusion, which are exacerbated by fluid, chaotic processes governed by special rules, which often override ordinary processes and timings that may otherwise be well normed and documented. Therefore, specific data, presentation, disaggregation, and timeliness will require focalized and proactive publication measures that respond to the characteristics of the emergency. Gathering and publishing -quality and timely- information of the public financial measures taken and its implications is essential to mitigate the risks that can complicate internal and external monitoring and can be a culprit for mismanagement, corruption, and unforeseen fiscal risks.

Considering the challenges that compiling and consolidating the data might pose, especially if specific information systems are not in place, it is relevant to make strategic decisions regarding expected information needs in the short, medium and longer-term. In our recently released Fiscal Transparency Portals Tutorial: A User-Centered Development, we highlighted the importance of listening to the demand of information, reacting accordingly by providing information and understanding that demand is dynamic as the context and priorities evolve. This can certainly be applied to emergency response efforts, such as the one we are facing with the coronavirus pandemic, as I delve in the following.

 

 Who needs the information 

Saying that the “public” needs fiscal information about the emergency relief and post-emergency efforts is too abstract to actually dissect how to prioritize gathering and releasing the kinds of information that might be required or useful by different groups, such as those that are either: 

  • part of the response to the outbreak (e.g. different government agencies, aid organizations, international financial institutions), 
  • facing an emergency themselves (e.g. infected individuals and their families, businesses affected by bans, quarantines or similar restrictions), 
  • external actors with vested interests (e.g. investors, credit agencies) or
  • oversight of government decisions (e.g. audit institutions, civil society organizations).

 

 What information is required 

Considering the public finance measures that are being announced there are a number of essential questions for reflection that can guide disclosure. From each question, the publishers can generate a data mapping6 format with key fields to publish7:

Budget reallocations and reprioritization

  • Will the resources originally allocated to the health sector be enough to purchase tests, supplies and equipment, and to cover the human resources necessary to respond, contain and mitigate the outbreak? Are there other public services that come under stress due to the outbreak that might need additional funding (e.g. public transport, security forces, immigration services)?
    • How will additional budget needs be covered (contingency funds, transfers from other programs from the health sector or other sectors, geographical redistribution)? (i.e. Proposed Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 of the United States)
  • Which are the budget lines/programs affected by the cuts or reallocations? How are reallocations prioritized and what are the trade-offs?
  • How will emergency acquisitions/procurements be managed? (i.e. Ukraine has announced simplifying the procedures of procurement for the emergency, but with mandatory reporting in Prozorro System -the country’s e-procurement system-) 

Countercyclical measures and reactivating the economy

  • What changes are expected in the macroeconomic framework considering all measures taken?  (i.e. the Ministry of Finance of France estimated that public debt will exceed 100 percent of GDP this year, above the European Union’s guidelines of not more than 60 percent)
  • What financial and monetary measures will be established?
  • Will special tax expenditures be implemented as a relief for affected sectors or locations? 
    • If so, what form(s) will they take (exclusions, deductions, deferrals, credits)? What are their expected outcomes and timeframes? Do they have well-defined coverage that aligns with their goals? What is their projected effect on overall revenue? (i.e. the Government of Canada has unveiled specific measures of flexibility for taxpayers)

Additional financing needs for the emergency and stimulus measures 

  • Are there donor funds available to face the emergency
    • If so, are resources financial or non-financial? Are they entering the government treasury or being managed separately (extra-budgetary)? Finally, where and how will they be used to ensure complementarity and avoid overlap? (i.e. the government of South Africa has normed that donor funding received to assist with the national state of disaster must paid into the Reconstruction and Development Fund)
  • Will there be a greater deficit than projected and how will it be covered? (i.e. emergency credit toolkit set by the IMF that will be used in Bosnia)
    • If any additional debt is contracted, what are the conditions, term and future implications? 

 

 How to publish the information to make it useful 

Many of the topics above will be disclosed in press releases, as well as in financial reports with aggregated information, as tends to be the case. This can provide insights regarding financial stability and the general implications of the emergency response issued. However, only with granular and open data will we be able to trace the real implemented actions and decision-making process for accountability, and build resilience for emergency responses in the future.

Depending on the scope of the implications for Public Financial Management, which will vary from country to country, as well as the capacity of the government, focalized efforts including fiscal transparency platforms might be worth considering. As a manner of inspiration, it is worth looking at:

Recovery.gov (United States), a website that oversaw spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was implemented as a response to the economic crisis of 2008-2009 in order to reactivate the economy; or

Fuerza México (Mexico), a digital platform set up by the Ministry of Finance following the earthquakes that occurred on September 2017, as a means to disclose information and data from the different agencies and entities involved in emergency relief and reconstruction tasks8.

Challenges in consolidating data and sustainability should be underscored, which takes us back to the importance of identifying objectives with defined audiences and prioritizing information.

 

 Space for public engagement 

As an immediate reaction, it might be difficult to think about how in times of emergency where decision-making is sped-up, the government can create spaces for public engagement. However, we live in a time of social innovation where high degrees of expertise from outside of the government can be readily available and two-way communication channels can improve decision-making for the public good. Governments can, therefore, set a mix of formal and informal public engagement mechanisms according to the stages of the emergency and post-emergency response.

For example, consider how during the emergency response open mapping could rapidly and more efficiently help identify the oversaturation or scarcity of resources amongst clinics and thus allow for their redistribution, and likewise, enable direct-aid and humanitarian foundations to deliver complementary, targeted supplies. Academia and specialized organizations could help model the repercussions of different budget reallocation scenarios and their implications for financial stability and sustainable development. Finally, civil society and academia could provide important insights into designing tax relief and stimulus measures, an example can be the recommendations made by the Budget Justice Coalition of South Africa for the Medium-Term Budget Framework of 2018. As Joel Friedman states in the Guide to Tax Work for NGOs, civil society groups could help broaden the debate to include a new focus on fairness and the needs of affected marginalized groups in the discussion, which might otherwise be dominated by businesses and wealthy individuals.

Finally, radical and extraordinary fiscal decisions regarding the emergency must also take into account relevant stakeholders, without whom implementation would be very hard. Helping economic sectors, new subsidies, bailouts, stimulus, public-private partnerships, corporate welfare, all of which have significant fiscal consequences, should be designed with the active participation of representatives of the social sectors concerned.

 

 

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Footnotes

1. Governments have announced measures that go from immediate changes in allocations to more comprehensive support packages. To reference some: China, Korea, Iran, Italy, France, Spain.
2. Germany has announced loans and credit guarantees of €460 billion that could be increased by €93 billion if necessary.
3. In line with this, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has shared a set of policy recommendations to help countries define fiscal and monetary measures and present the Fund’s flexible and rapid-disbursing emergency response toolkit. Additionally, the IMF’s Public Financial Management Blog has published two useful entries regarding public financial measures to tackle Covid-19 challenges: Fiscal Policies to Protect People During the Coronavirus Outbreak, by Vitor Gaspar and Paolo Mauro, and Preparing Public Financial Management Systems to Meet Covid-19 Challenges by Sandeep Saxena and Michelle Stone.
4. The Fiscal Transparency Code under Pillar III- Fiscal Risk Analysis and Management, which focuses on fiscal risks and budgetary contingencies that arise during budget execution.
5. The World Bank has recently published a new approach for a Post-Disaster Financial Management Review and Engagement Framework, which explains how to undertake a rapid assessment of Public Financial Management systems to determine their ability to respond effectively to natural disasters whilst maintaining accountabilityWhile important comparisons and lessons can be extracted from examples of crisis management in natural disasters, a major difference between a natural disaster and a disease outbreak is the uncertainty of when the tide will turn. For example, in the case of an earthquake, the immediate aftermath is when the damage is biggest so governments and private entities can calculate the damage costs and plan ahead. With a disease outbreak, such as Covid-19, we can only project the spread rate, but the peak is still hard to predict and consequently, the emergency spending overlaps with financing and countercyclical measures.
6. For more information on mapping data consult module 5 of the Fiscal Transparency Portals Tutorial: A User-Centered Development
7. For each data field it is important to identify if it is available in internal systems or it might need to be gathered specifically for this purpose.
8. The platform was recognized as part of the Champions in the WSIS 2018 conference.

Budget literacy cases as part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen dialogue between government and population

To achieve a truly informed dialogue between government and society, based on the supply of budget information published online, whether it is public reports in closed formats, budget transparency portals, platforms that address the specific needs of the population, or open data publication, it is necessary to enable a certain level of understanding on the matter and its complexity on the demand side; the users of the information.

As we mentioned in the Fiscal Transparency Portals Tutorial launched in January 2020 (Spanish version), budget literacy is an effective tool, not only for identifying the information needs and goals of different audiences, but as a mechanism that allows generating capacities for users who would like to engage, but do not have the necessary knowledge to do so.

Starting 2019, from GIFT, as a global network that facilitates dialogue between its stewards and partners, we have implemented an interactive dashboard that allows having clarity on the current plans and next steps of its members. In it, one of the topics that we see most frequently reflected is budget literacy. We note that more and more, GIFT stewards envision budget literacy as part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen an informed dialogue, analysis, and interaction between government and public to enhance the search for better services and public finances.

For this reason, the GIFT, acting on the initiative of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay, took on the task of beginning a compilation of some cases implemented in the last year. The cases can be permanently consulted in this link.

From this compilation, below, we present four cases from Latin American countries that are part of the Network and that have decided to share their progress and experiences with the community. In each of them we can appreciate different approaches and target population, as well as country-specific origins: organizers from the government in some cases, civil society or collaborations between both sectors in others:

3 budget literacy tools as part of a comprehensive budget transparency strategy, by Paula Manera from the Office of Planning and Budget – Presidency of Uruguay

From direct interaction with society to a work plan to improve a portal, by Daniel Torres from the Ministry of Finance of the Dominican Republic

Costa Rica trains citizens for the first time on the Open Budget, by Erick Rojas Villalobos from the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Costa Rica

Strengthening organizations and activists in budget analysis with gender focus by Carmen Ryan and Julieta Izcurdia from the Civil Association for Equality and Justice of Argentina (ACIJ)

As we mentioned in the sixth Module of the Tutorial on portals, remember that each country is different, as well as users’ needs and capacities from one to another, it is good to be inspired by the best international implementations, but imitating or replicating can result in a product that is not attractive to the audience, or worse, not functional in the country context.

#BetterBudget Dataquest for Sustainable Development

In achieving openness, transparency is only one side of the equation, and its impact will depend on the use given to relevant information and how to close the feedback loop to create better accountability. Government-civil society coalitions are light touch and scalable participation initiatives that enable collaboration in a semi-formal flexible setting for dialogue among different stakeholders, to achieve specific objectives of improving certain processes and policies that affect sustainable development. The coalitions bring together the GIFT agenda in different levels, as they: rely in the publication of digital tools, including the better collection of data, user-centered publication and open data; encourage the adoption of public participation mechanisms by helping break barriers related to questions about the possible effects of participation, while simultaneously establishing bases for trust and collaboration among stakeholders of different sectors; and are strengthened through peer-collaboration at the international level, as practitioners from the different countries from civil society and government co-create the mechanisms and share their specific focus, methods and lessons learned.

What is it?
It is an open data expedition, in which government and civil society call on the population to explore open public spending data and relate it to additional data and contextual information to present results or findings of the implications of budget allocation and implementation.
The topics were selected based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), considering the critical role of the public budget for achieving them, and were restricted to three categories selected for their relevance in the current debate:

 

Objectives of the #BetterBudget Dataquest
As the better budget name suggests, it is an opportunity to find new analysis on specific topics and innovative solutions to improve budget allocation and its implementation. In addition, the process is an opportunity for open data publishers to generate budget literacy and data use capacities, as well as an opportunity to observe the challenges that users can face while using the data, to improve its publication.

Target audience
The Dataquest is aimed at a population with intermediate to advanced knowledge in data science, economics or journalism (or similar).

Results of the 2019 edition
The first edition of the #BetterBudget Dataquest was held in 2019, by invitation for the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) Stewards and partners as part of the International Open Data Day. The events were organized in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Uruguay and South Africa, all with the participation of the government and civil society. Below are some relevant in three countries representing different approaches of the Dataquest:

Argentina

Organized by the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ), it had mentoring by the Ministry of Finance of the country and the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA). Participants oriented their analysis, primarily, to budgetary performance based on the physical goals of some budget programs. In this particular case, all teams focused on gender issues.

 

In particular, the work of one of the groups found that the Mother and Child Care program of the Ministry of Health reduced the delivery of fortified milk powder to children between the ages of zero and two in the 2014-2018 period, and that the amount of milk planned for delivery had been sub-executed, affecting thousands of infants (read research article).
Based on this, the Ministry of Finance has changed the form of publication of open budget data and physical goals, and improved dialogue to improve the establishment and monitoring of performance targets.

Costa Rica
Since the budget data was not yet available in open formats, the event focused on presenting how the country could eventually have a #BeterBudget Dataquest and what would be required. From this, Innovap, an independent academic organization, and the Ministry of Finance, signed an agreement to jointly develop a budget literacy initiative, called the Budget School, and begin the publication of open data with GIFT support.
The Open Budget School began on February 4, 2020 and will end with a Dataquest. This will reflect a breakthrough, not only in terms of publishing open data but also in developing government-civil society dialogue.

Indonesia

In this case, the #BetterBudget Dataquest showed the potential of implementing this sort of activity with university students, as a way to improve the involvement and analysis of the budget. It was carried out on campuses of the PKN STAN University, first in Jakarta and then in Tangerang.

 

Following the rules of the event, the conveners invited the students to form teams of a maximum of five people with different profiles. The results and analyzes were among the most creative of the 2019 edition (click on the image to reproduce the video generated by the winning team), evidencing the importance of the voice of young people in improving public policies.

 

 

 

2020 Edition

In the new edition of the #BetterBudget Dataquest, we will seek as a priority to improve the quality of the results and close the feedback loop with the government, to ensure that the results are taken into consideration for the improvement of the public financial management, either in the program design, budget allocations or setting of targets. For this, in addition, we will have the collaboration of UNDP Latin America, who through its national offices will support local government and civil society organizers, as necessary, to improve the impact of the exercise, and as an incentive to Participation will offer winners to present their results to UNDP representatives.

Finally, regarding the logistic aspect, the generic Rules of Operation that can be consulted in this link will be used as a base, and can be adapted according to the variants of the event that will be carried out in each country. It should be noted that, considering the experience of 2019, the event will not be limited to the International Open Data Day, but may be held between the months of March to May to provide flexibility to the organizers, considering the local holidays and contexts.

Organizations wishing to carry out a Dataquest should contact Lorena Rivero del Paso at lorena@fiscaltransparency.net, to record the date of the event and facilitate the necessary collaborations.

 

Project supported by the OGP Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

Relaunch of Austrias Open Spending Portal

Until 2019 Austrian municipalities followed the rules of cameralistic system. The budgeting and also accounting was done according to a cash-flow oriented system. From the beginning of 2020 an accrual system consisting of three perspectives must be implemented. The income statement  (Ergebnishaushalt) shows the resource flows within the municipality. The cash flow statement (Finanzierungshaushalt) shows the cash inflows and outflows. The balance sheet statement (Vermögenshaushalt) includes balances of property, accounts receivable, accounts payable, loans etc. With this shift to a resource oriented concept a holistic assessment of municipal households is possible.

The introduction of the new accrual accounting system in Austria as of 2020 made it necessary to implement a major relaunch of the platform. In fact, Open Spending Austria has been completely rewritten and redesigned.

City of Klosterneuburg at Open Spending Austria

City of Klosterneuburg at Open Spending Austria: https://www.offenerhaushalt.at/gemeinde/klosterneuburg

As data currently is only available in for the planned budget of 2020, only two of the three budget components can be visualized (see figure). The two components already available are the cash flow statement (left) and the income statement (right) For the third component (middle, the balance sheet statement), data from the actual spending 2020 will be needed that will be available as of spring 2021.

Currently, more then 1.100 municipalities in Austria have disclosed their spending data on the platform, which is more then 53 percent. And more are joining every month…

Creating public participation opportunities in Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia. December 2019.
Europe Foundation and the Ministry of Finance of Georgia.

In the past years, Georgia has had a clear interest and mandate to improve budget transparency in the country. The country has gone from 55 points score (out of 100) in the Open Budget Survey of 2012 to 82 points in 2017. The country now ranks among only five other countries considered to provide “extensive” budget information of the 115 countries assessed. Yet, when it comes to user-centered fiscal transparency and public participation opportunities in the budget cycle, there are still challenges ahead that civil society and government would like to overcome.

In this enabling context, the Europe Foundation, a local civil society organization with previous experience in supporting the participation of groups with disabilities at the local level, reached out to the GIFT network. Their intention was clear and straightforward: to support the development of public participation mechanisms in the country, following the GIFT Principles on Public Participation in Fiscal Policy, as well as the examples gathered by the network in the Guide of Public Participation Mechanisms. As such, during a public event in December 2019, they presented the translation of the Public Participation Principles into Georgian, signaling the start of the work towards establishing a collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and strengthening the required capacities of other civil society organizations.

During the event, GIFT Stewards and partners from the government and civil society of South Africa and Uruguay showcased examples of public participation, budget literacy and digital tools for fiscal transparency, and afterwards we had a chance for peer-exchange with the public officials of the Ministry of Finance involved, as well as with civil society groups.

Along these lines, the Ministry of Finance has launched efforts to introduce public engagement in the budget process, including the presentation (December 24th) of the Budget Transparency and Engagement System, an electronic platform that enables all interested parties to get acquainted with state budget information, key country priorities, state budget programs, and plan their own budget. Through this system, the inputs provided by the users will go directly to the public officials of the budget department.

We will keep you posted about the continued collaboration to design and implement public participation mechanisms in Georgia, seeking to improve budget allocations and policy design for a sustainable development that leaves no one behind!

Evaluation par la société civile d’un indicateur lié à l’offre de de services publics et impact sur l’allocation de ressources budgétaires par le gouvernement

 

Le rôle des organisations de la société civile au Bénin dans l’évaluation d’un indicateur important pour l’éducation nationale, et la réaction positive du gouvernement béninois à travers le Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances.

Plaidoyer des OSC du Bénin sur l’indicateur « 1 livre de mathématiques et de lecture pour chaque élève » et « les Subventions attribuées par le gouvernement aux écoles » pour l’année scolaire 2018-2019 en direction du Ministre des Enseignements Maternel et Primaire (MEMP)

Dans l’exercice de leur mission de contrôle citoyen de l’action publique, les Organisations de la Société Civile (OSC), Social Watch Bénin et ALCRER, avec l’appui des Cellules de Participation Citoyennes[1] (CPC) réparties dans les 77 communes des 12 départements du Bénin, ont transmis au MEMP à la date de 20 Août 2019, les résultats d’une collecte de données sur l’Indicateur intitulé « 1 livre de mathématiques et de lecture pour chaque élève » puis sur le niveau de transfert des « Subventions attribuées par le gouvernement aux écoles ». Les résultats des deux enquêtes ont permis de faire des recommandations dans des rapports transmis au MEMP.

Pour l’indicateur « 1 livre de mathématiques et de lecture pour chaque élève », les données collectées par les CPC dans 10 départements, 66 communes et 648 écoles du Bénin, de Mars à Avril 2019 ont relevé au total un effectif de 167.270 élèves pour 96.740 livres de mathématiques soit 57,83% de l’effectif total des élèves et 88.193 livres de lecture soit 52,72% de l’effectif des élèves.

En ce qui concerne les « Subventions attribuées par le gouvernement aux écoles », les données ont été collectées dans 10 départements, 44 communes et 419 écoles. Au total, 186 écoles ont reçu à bonne date la totalité des subventions sur les 419 de l’enquête soit un taux de 44,39%. Notons aussi que dans presque tous les départements la majorité des écoles n’a pas reçu la totalité de leur subvention pour le compte de l’année scolaire 2018-2019.

Sur la base de ces résultats, les recommandations suivantes ont été faites au MEMP :

  • Pour l’atteinte de l’indicateur « 1 livre de mathématiques et de lecture pour chaque élève » il faudra entre autres :
  • Faire le point des ouvrages de mathématiques et de lecture en bon état disponibles par classe et niveau sur leur circonscription rapporté à l’effectif des élèves ;
  • Inscrire comme mesure prioritaire pour l’année 2019-2020, la mise à disposition dans chaque salle de classe d’un livre de mathématiques et lecture pour chaque élève ;
  • Doter les salles de classes d’armoire de rangement des livres pour leur assurer de bonnes conditions de conservation.
  • Quant aux subventions que le gouvernement attribue aux écoles :
  • Respecter les dates de transfert de tranches de subvention aux Ecoles primaires publiques.

Ces résultats ont été adressés au MEMP à travers un courrier de Social Watch Bénin qui ressort les différentes recommandations sus-présentées.   Ces recommandations parvenues au Directeur Général du Budget (DGB) du Ministère de l’Economie et des Finances (MEF), les réponses  apportées  sont les suivantes :

  1. subvention de fonctionnement aux établissements 

Pour assurer un meilleur fonctionnement aux établissements en début d’année scolaire, le Gouvernement a introduit à partir de 2017, dans la loi de finances, une mesure autorisant des engagements par anticipation de crédits sur le budget de l’année à venir.

Autrement dit, pour la rentrée 2019-2020, une avance du quart des subventions de 2019 sera mise à disposition pour assurer un bon démarrage. Rappelons au passage que l’année scolaire chevauche sur deux années budgétaires. Après le vote du budget 2020, l’avance sera régularisée sur le budget et les 3/4 restants seront mis à disposition au plus tard au mois de mars 2020.

Au cas où les subventions votées n’arrivaient pas à couvrir les charges, une autorisation d’ouverture de crédits complémentaires est souvent donnée. Une subvention 150.000 F /classe soit, 900.000 F par groupe de classe est accordée.

  1. Indicateur « 1 livre de mathématiques et de lecture pour chaque élève»

Les curricula sont actuellement en cours d’actualisation. Pour 2020, la fourniture des intrants pédagogiques est érigée comme une priorité. Cette priorité sera soutenue par la Banque mondiale sur les trois années à venir. Le MEF s’est engagé à travers la DGB à jouer sa partition pour que ces deux points soient suffisamment pris en compte dans le budget 2020.

 

Commentaire sur ce texte de la part de M. Le Directeur Général du Budget du Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances du Bénin. M. Rodrigue S. Chaou :

« Avant la notification du rapport d’évaluation de la société civile, cet indicateur n’était pas suffisamment pris en compte lors des premiers arbitrages budgétaires. Un crédit de 100 millions était prévu pour la production des intrants pédagogiques en 2020. Nous remercions très sincèrement la société civile pour la veille citoyenne qu’elle assure et qui a permis au MEF et au MEMP de s’accorder finalement sur une dotation plus conséquente sur cet indicateur très important pour la qualité de l’éducation et la vie des citoyens. De 100 millions de FCFA comme allocation budgétaire initiale (première version du Document de Programmation Pluriannuelle des Dépenses -DPPD-), les ressources de contreparties nationales se sont multipliées par 10 en passant à 1 milliard de FCFA (budget déposé à l’Assemblée Nationale). »

 

 

[1] Les CPC sont des réseaux locaux d’OSC qui font un contrôle citoyen de l’action des Mairies et des collectivités locales au niveau des communes du Bénin.

An investigation based on budgetary data evidences significant reductions in food policies for children in Argentina

by ACIJ (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia)

In February 2019, ACIJ Argentina, together with the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency, organized a Dataquest for the international day of open data. There, a group of organizations and activists met in order to analyze the data of the Argentine budget and make visible its impact on equality.

The work was carried out in teams and one of the groups found that the Mother and Child Care program of the Ministry of Health reduced the delivery of fortified milk powder to girls and boys between zero and two years old in the 2014-2018 period, and the kilos of milk planned to be delivered had been sub-executed, affecting thousands of children.

This is a program that aims to ensure that all children in the country can achieve a state of integral health and its impact is greater on children in poverty. Based on this finding, the journalist who, together with her group, discovered this information in the Dataquest, initiated an investigation with other journalists, to find out the reasons for the reduction.

It was necessary to make multiple requests for access to public information and interviews to know the reasons: delays in tenders, lack of coordination with the provinces, management problems with supplier companies, among others. The investigation also showed that some provinces were more affected than others due to deviations. For example, the province of Chaco, one of the most impoverished in 2018, with 41% of its population below the poverty line, received 30% less than the expected milk.

The results of the investigation can be consulted in the regional research “The Promised Milk”, led by the newly formed network of Latin American Journalists for Transparency and Anti-Corruption (PALTA Network).

63.4% of girls, boys, and teens in Argentina see at least one of their rights infringed. This means that they are poorly fed, sleep in houses without drinking water or sewers, do not access education on equal terms, and/or suffer from poor or poor levels of health care. In this context, it becomes essential that the State prioritizes the effectiveness of social spending in policies aimed at guaranteeing the right to health and food for girls and boys, being inadmissible sub-executions of available resources.

This investigation demonstrates the importance of having clear, disaggregated and accessible information to monitor the performance of public policies aimed at guaranteeing rights, and that the State better justifies and explains the reasons for budgetary deviations.

This situation is replicated in other countries of the region such as Uruguay, El Salvador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala.