Transparent budgets and active citizens for sustainable development

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Donor: Dutch Embassy in Bucharest within the Matra program

Goal: To increase the level of understanding, awareness and control of budgeting, among the population and civil society at the local level, about the budgetary cycles and budget documents, and empower local citizens to take a more active role in consultations and oversight of the local budgets.

Period of implementation: July 2018 – June 2019.

Project objectives and activities:

Objective 1. Creating the framework for citizens’ engagement. The project will start with the selection of 3 beneficiary localities from the Centre, South and North regions of the country. In this regard, Expert-Grup will launch an open call for expression of interest to all local governments. The selection will be based on the size of the locality, and hence its potential to inspire other localities, as well as the intrinsic motivation of the local public administration for enhancing budgetary transparency (the application will ask for a motivation letter from the applicants in order to understand their reasons for taking part in this project). The selection results will be consulted and validated with the donor, before communicating about the final decision to the public. In order to facilitate the smooth implementation of the project and ensure sustainability, Expert-Grup will set up a series of civic coalitions (“Coalitions for Local Budgetary Transparency” – hereafter, coalitions). For each locality, the setup will consist of one key implementing partner per locality, which will be the key focal point of the project at the local level and will be responsible mainly for administrative and logistical purposes. With the local knowledge of local partners, the coalitions will be formed, comprising representatives of the local public administration, CSOs, local schools, academia, civic activists and other relevant stakeholders. The role of these coalitions will be to serve as local “agents of change”, as they will be formed of people with intrinsic motivation and interest to improve the transparency and civic participation of the budgetary process at the local level. This framework will allow the participants to communicate, share their views and exchange of experience and expertise in this field, during and after the project. 

Objective 2. Motivating the local public administration to increase their budgetary transparency and opennessAfter establishing contacts with the key implementing partners at the local level and creating Coalitions for Local Budgetary Transparency, the project team will sign memoranda of understanding with the local public administration of the beneficiary localities, which will commit them to opening up their budgets. Also, at the beginning of the project, Expert-Grup will conduct a baseline assessment about the level of budgetary transparency in beneficiary localities. At the end of the project, another similar assessment will be conducted, in order to compare the progress against the baseline and estimate the impact of the project. Importantly, if the localities will meet all conditions of budgetary transparency, the project will assign them the “Budgetary transparency seal” – certificates confirming that in year 2017 the beneficiary locality consulted its budget with citizens and is spent the budget in a transparent way (note: these certificates will be awarded only to local public administration that will support the organization of public hearings on the local budget, publish on the website the draft budget and final budget, as well as budgetary execution reports, and will be supportive to the project activities).  

Objective 3. Empowering local agents of change. After the formation the framework for stimulation of citizens’ engagement, the project team will build capacities of its members, as well other relevant stakeholders. Namely, in each beneficiary locality, we will conduct a series of workshops on budgetary cycles, Medium-Term Budgetary Framework, budgetary programs, as well as about instruments to conduct budgetary analysis and oversight.

Objective 4. Increasing the understanding of the budget documents. Two dedicated social accountability tools will be elaborated in order to achieve this objective: (i) annual “local citizens’ budgets”, for each beneficiary locality, that translate into simple language the annual budgetary documents of the local public administration; and (ii) independent budgetary analysis, which represent analytical assessments of the annual budgets of each beneficiary locality, including their comparison with the budgets from previous years, budgets of other comparable localities and their importance for local development. Along with these tools, Expert-Grup will develop guidelines and will train the local stakeholders, mainly representatives of the local public administration and members of the Coalitions for local budgetary transparency about the implementation of both tools. As a result, the beneficiary will continue to implement this important instruments after the project ends. 

Objective 5. Increasing participation in the budgetary process. Organize public hearings at the local level for discussing the draft budgets for the next year, with the participation of representatives of CSOs, private sector, public institutions and policy makers. The Coalitions for Local budgetary Transparency will play a major role in the organization and participation in these hearings. Also, the social accountability tools listed under objective 3 (local citizens’ budgets and independent budgetary analysis) will feed in these hearings, so that the discussions will be evidence-based and involve people who understand the provisions of draft annual budget laws.

Objective 6. Dissemination of the information regarding budget documents. Implement a communication campaign for the population at the central and local level about the budgetary processes, the need to get involved in consultations and monitoring of budgets and instruments about how to get involved in the most practical way. The campaign will consist of elaboration of 5 infographics, in Romanian and Russian languages, which will be actively disseminated on social media and the most popular online news portals. Also, the infographics will be printed in form of flyers and will be disseminated in the project beneficiary localities.

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