ABOUT THE GUIDE AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PRINCIPLES

Public participation refers to the variety of ways in which non-state actors interact directly in public discussion and deliberation with state entities. Public participation in fiscal policy thus refers to the variety of ways in which civil society, businesses and other non-state actors interact directly with the executive on fiscal issues including government taxation and revenue collection, resource allocation, actual spending and performance, auditing and the management of public assets and liabilities.

There are two ways in which it can be initiated. Firstly, it can be initiated by state actors inviting non-state actors to participate. This is known as invited participation. Alternatively, non-state actors, such as civil society organizations or social groups can initiate the engagement. This is known as invented or claimed participation. 

Public participation in fiscal policies may take many different forms: it may be through face-to-face communication, deliberation or input to decision-making, also written forms of communication including via the internet, or a combination of different mechanisms. Public participation may also be formal or informal ranging from one-off public consultations or invitations for submissions, to on-going and institutionalized relationships, such as regular public surveys, standing advisory bodies, or administrative review mechanisms. It may also include potentially participatory budgeting, this is where citizens actually vote on and decide how a specific line in the budget will be spent.

Public Participation Principles
Target Audience
Content
Contributing to the Guide

The Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies aim to guide fiscal policy makers and other stakeholders in their efforts to improve government performance and public trust. They are the result of a collaborative and deliberative process in which central government finance ministry officials, officials in line ministries, local authorities, members of the legislature as well as legislative support bodies, officials from audit institutions and a wide range of civil society representatives, debated the importance of public participation in fiscal policies and national budget processes in a series of workshops. Inputs from the wider public were also gathered through the web on the draft set ‘Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies’ from August to October 2015.

In particular, the Principles provide guidance for public authorities in their endeavor to ensure that citizens and other non-state actors have effective opportunities to participate directly in public debate and discussion with respect to the design, implementation and review of fiscal policies, observing the following interdependent principles:

1. Accessibility: Facilitate public participation in general by disseminating complete fiscal information and all other relevant data, in formats and using mechanisms that are easy for all to access, understand, and to use, re-use and transform, namely in open data formats.

2. Openness: Provide full information on and be responsive with respect to the purpose of each engagement, it’s scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.

3. Inclusiveness: Pro-actively use multiple mechanisms to reach out to engage citizens and non-state actors, including traditionally excluded and vulnerable groups and individuals, and voices that are seldom heard, without discrimination on any basis including nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste; and consider public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source.

4. Respect for self-expression: Allow and support individuals and communities, including those directly affected, to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of engagement that they prefer, while recognizing that there may be groups that have standing to speak on behalf of others.

5. Timeliness: Allow sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase; engage early while a range of options is still open; and, where desirable, allow for more than one round of engagement.

6. Depth: Support each public engagement by providing all relevant information, highlighting and informing key policy objectives, options, choices and trade-offs, identifying potential social, economic, and environmental impacts, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives; provide timely and specific feedback on public inputs and how they have been incorporated or not in official policy or advice.

7. Proportionality: Use a mix of engagement mechanisms proportionate to the scale and impact of the issue or policy concerned.

8. Sustainability: All state and non-state entities conduct on-going and regular engagement to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time; institutionalize public participation where appropriate and effective, ensuring that feedback provided leads to review of fiscal policy decisions; and regularly review and evaluate experience to improve future engagement.

9. Complementarity: Ensure mechanisms for public participation and citizen engagement complement and increase the effectiveness of existing governance and accountability systems.

10. Reciprocity: All state and non-state entities taking part in public engagement activities should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, and who they represent; should commit to and observe all agreed rules for engagement; and should cooperate to achieve the objectives of the engagement.

The Guide is intended for ministries of finance and other central government executive departments or ministries; legislative committees engaged in the formulation and review of the budget; citizens and community members interested in engaging in the way public funds are raised and used; civil society organizations, private sector entities, research institutes and academics that are actively seeking to engage with governments.

Each mechanism is presented and discussed with the following sections and dimensions:

1. Summary

Briefly describes the mechanism as it was implemented, and the particular policy objectives and public demands or expectations that the practice was or is intended to address.

2. Basic facts

Identifies when the practice takes place, that is in which stage of the fiscal policy cycle (for the purpose of the Guide, there are four stages: formulation, enactment, implementation, audit); where it happens, that is at what level of government (national, regional, or local); and who implements it, that is the Executive, the Legislature, the Supreme Audit Institution, or a non-state actor (more detail on who implements the mechanism is offered in a following section).

3. Why

Explains what the objective of incorporating public participation is, and when available how success is to be measured.

4. Authorizing environment

Discusses whether there is a specific law or regulation that provides authority for, or that directs officials to engage the public. If the mechanism is an Open Government Partnership commitment, a tag will link to it. The aim is to define what the general enabling environment is.

5. Who and how

This section aims to capture the process step by step, allowing the user to know where to start. It describes how the mechanism was designed and implemented, discussing:

Participants/selection processes/diversity of inputs;

How decisions are made;

Whether decisions are binding;

How much of the process relies on technology;

Whether there are any institutionalized elements; and

Resources invested in the implementation of the mechanism, including whether they are one-off or recurring resources.

6. Results and impact

Presents how the input generated through the participation process was used, seeking to elucidate the extent to which participation makes a difference. In that regard, some of the questions included are: Does the institution give feedback on the results of participation? What problem did public participation solve/overcome? In some cases, external references about the mechanism are provided such as studies, surveys and other publications.

Note: There may be cases where there isn’t yet evidence of impact, this however needs to be stated.

7. Lessons learned

Lessons learned by the practitioners who implemented the mechanism. It can include summaries and links to any assessments or evaluations of the intervention e.g. an OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism report, a departmental review, a civil society organisation review, a program evaluation or supreme audit institution assessment, and/or a score on a relevant Open Budget Survey question. This also includes tips and the main conditions and factors associated with the success of the practice.

Importantly, the Guide can include mechanisms that have failed. In such cases, the lessons learned on why they failed will be most relevant. The Guide will attempt to capture adaptive learning; that is progress over time. When information is available, this section discusses whether the mechanism has been replicated elsewhere within the country, or in another country.

8. Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies

How many of the Principles the mechanism aligns to. When appropriate, it will also offer recommendations of potential actions that would allow the mechanism to engage more of the principles.

9. Country context

This Guide does not seek to offer in depth context descriptions or analysis. However, it does provide information to facilitate a general understanding of the surrounding factors and conditions in which the mechanism in question took place, such that readers can contrast this information with their own contexts. Specifically, this includes information on the:

a. Type of government;

b. Civic space (size of civil society, regulatory framework);

c. Open Budget Survey scores – the overall budget transparency score, and the scores for public participation, providing an indication of whether the intervention is measured by the OBS; and

d. Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index scores.

The Guide initially contains a relatively small number of cases, but more will be progressively added in the future, subject to demand. You can nominate a new case or experience in practice where there are lessons and models to share. GIFT is considering practices that have been documented in some way; it could be a case study that is already written up, a video, interview or blog post hosted elsewhere.

The “Submit Yours” section in this page includes a methodological note that provides guidance for the development of new cases.

Get in touch with us by e-mail via info@fiscaltransparency.net.

01

Accessibility

Facilitate public participation in general by disseminating complete fiscal information and all other relevant data, in formats and using mechanisms that are easy for all to access, understand, and to use, re-use and transform, namely in open data formats.

02

Openness

Provide full information on and be responsive with respect to the purpose of each engagement, it’s scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.

03

Inclusiveness

Pro-actively use multiple mechanisms to reach out to engage citizens and non-state actors, including traditionally excluded and vulnerable groups and individuals, and voices that are seldom heard, without discrimination on any basis including nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste; and consider public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source.

04

Respect for self-expression

Allow and support individuals and communities, including those directly affected, to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of engagement that they prefer, while recognizing that there may be groups that have standing to speak on behalf of others.

05

Timeliness

Allow sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase; engage early while a range of options is still open; and, where desirable, allow for more than one round of engagement.

06

Depth

Support each public engagement by providing all relevant information, highlighting and informing key policy objectives, options, choices and trade-offs, identifying potential social, economic, and environmental impacts, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives; provide timely and specific feedback on public inputs and how they have been incorporated or not in official policy or advice.

07

Proportionality

Use a mix of engagement mechanisms proportionate to the scale and impact of the issue or policy concerned.

08

Sustainability

All state and non-state entities conduct on-going and regular engagement to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time; institutionalize public participation where appropriate and effective, ensuring that feedback provided leads to review of fiscal policy decisions; and regularly review and evaluate experience to improve future engagement.

09

Complementarity

Ensure mechanisms for public participation and citizen engagement complement and increase the effectiveness of existing governance and accountability systems.

10

Reciprocity

All state and non-state entities taking part in public engagement activities should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, and who they represent; should commit to and observe all agreed rules for engagement; and should cooperate to achieve the objectives of the engagement.

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