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Afghanistan

Participation in Local Budgeting (AF0022)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) and Kabul Municipality

Support Institution(s): Relevant civil society organizations

Policy Areas

Fiscal Openness, Local Commitments, Public Participation, Public Participation in Budget/Fiscal Policy

IRM Review

IRM Report: Afghanistan Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Budgeting processes in Afghan municipalities are top-down, so the views of citizens rarely considered in selecting development projects. Usually the municipality budget reflects the views of government officials who prepare the budget document in the municipalities. Insignificant public participation in the municipal budgeting process has made people almost inconscient about municipal revenues and expenditures. People are not aware that how much revenue do the municipalities collect from people and where do they spend the money. This, on one hand, causes corruption and, on the other hand, leads to problems such as lack of budget implementation, lack of budget effectiveness, lack of accountability and citizens' dissatisfaction.

What is the commitment?
Commitment involves public in the municipalities budget preparation and implementation processes in accordance with a specific mechanism. According to this commitment, municipalities will regularly collect public ideas to prepare a participatory budget so that projects will be executed which are in the priority list of people.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
At first, public involvement can mobilize resources in a direction to resolve severe problems in cities. On the other hand, resources will be used up under public scrutiny to ensure effectiveness and transparency in the utilization of resources. Public participation in budgeting process will encourage citizens to monitor the implementation of development projects and to force municipalities to be accountable to citizens in their tasks and expenditures

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
This commitment ensures public participation in the budgeting process, and also increases accountability and transparency to citizens.

Additional information
This commitment is related to the Municipal Accountability Guidelines, Municipal Budgeting Procedures, and Municipal Laws.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

9. Increase Public Participation in Budgeting Process of Municipalities

Commitment involves public in the municipalities budget preparation and implementation processes in accordance with a specific mechanism. According to this commitment, municipalities will regularly collect public ideas to prepare a participatory budget so that projects will be executed which are in the priority list of people.

Main Objective

At first, public involvement can mobilize resources in a direction to resolve severe problems in cities. On the other hand, resources will be used up under public scrutiny to ensure effectiveness and transparency in the utilization of resources. Public participation in budgeting process will encourage citizens to monitor the implementation of development projects and to force municipalities to be accountable to citizens in their tasks and expenditures.

Milestones

  • Drafting guidelines for public participation in municipal budgeting process.
  • Convening two consultative meetings with civil society organizations to gather and incorporate their ideas for enrichment of public participation guidelines in budgeting process.
  • Finalizing the guidelines.
  • Implementing public participation guidelines in the budgeting process of 15 municipalities of cities in the provinces to ensure public participation in the preparation of budget for the year 2021.
  • Conduct a survey to evaluate the outcome of public participation in budget implementation and public satisfaction in 15 cities.
  • Implementing the public participation guideline in 34 provinces of Afghanistan (each province one municipality).

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Afghanistan’s action plan at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Afghanistan_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf.

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Civic Participation

Potential impact:

Minor

Commitment Analysis

This commitment aims to develop a guideline for participatory budgeting at the municipal level, aligning with the OGP value of civic participation. The commitment will also include the implementation of the guideline in 15 municipalities for the 2021 fiscal year. This activity will be followed by a survey to measure public satisfaction of the process before it can be rolled out across the country. The Independent Directorate of Local Governance will lead the implementation of this commitment in close coordination with the Municipality of Kabul. It will also have support from civil society organizations.

Currently, citizens play a limited role in the government budgeting process in Afghanistan, with no decision-making power. The International Budget Partnership’s 2017 Open Budget Index gave Afghanistan a score of 15 out of 100 in public participation in the national budgeting process. [102] The index highlighted that there is room for improving participation in budget implementation.

Efforts to institutionalize public participation in the local government budgeting process began in 2016 and have resulted in the establishment of consultative boards in 46 municipalities. [103] These boards have access to the draft budget and are empowered to provide feedback on behalf of citizens. Generally, municipal administrations host meetings with citizens during the budgeting process at three stages: drafting, approval, and implementation. [104] Key stakeholders note, however, that civil society has not been engaged at any stage of this process. They claim that the government has been biased in conducting such consultations, being selective in the choice of citizen representatives and favoring specific projects without considering citizens’ priorities. [105]

According to the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, up to 95 percent of municipalities have already carried out public consultations in the budgeting process. However, they have not been able to achieve high engagement rates. [106] The low level of engagement can be attributed to, among other things, 1) low public awareness of participatory processes, 2) a lack of understanding and ownership of the process among citizens, 3) weak information-sharing mechanisms, and 4) unclear accountability mechanisms for the government to respond to citizen feedback. [107] These factors exacerbate the common perception that the government prioritizes its own agendas regardless of public input. [108]

The Municipality of Kabul is different from other municipalities due to its special status as a capital region and its direct reporting line to the president. [109] In Kabul, the principles of participatory budgeting are implemented to a greater degree than in other municipalities. Here, a representative (wakil-e guzar) of each subdistrict (guzar) from the 22 districts (nahia) is invited to participate in the municipal budget process. Citizens in each subdistrict may submit their proposals to their respective representative, who in turn act as a bridge between citizens and the municipal government. [110] The municipality does not provide opportunities for open public participation.

Between 2016 and 2019, roughly 20 percent of 310 budget proposals submitted by citizens through their representatives had been incorporated into the Kabul municipal budget. [111] A community scorecard of the municipality found it to lacking in several areas, including accountability and management. [112] In contrast, an open process of participatory budgeting in Seoul, South Korea, saw citizens voting on and finalizing 766 projects amounting to approximately 55 million USD in 2017 alone. [113] That open, and evolving, process has resulted in positive trends in citizen satisfaction. [114]

Therefore, while participatory budgeting processes already exist in Afghanistan, the practice is intermittent, not guided by any standards, improperly implemented, inadequately enforced, and thus largely unsustainable. It is also crucially not open to civil society participation at a decision-making level. In addition, in municipalities outside Kabul in particular, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) reported that a lack of awareness and understanding of the budgeting process remain the biggest hurdles in successfully implementing participatory budgeting. [115]

In this context, this commitment stands to have a minor potential impact on increasing public participation in the municipal budgeting process through the introduction and implementation of guidelines to standardize the process. Although the practice of public participation in budgeting exists in principle, the process largely hinges on an inconsistently applied representative model, with participants handpicked by the government.

This commitment will incrementally improve public participation by providing for the active participation of civil society in all stages of participatory budgeting. Those stages include the development of the guideline, the selection of citizen representatives, attendance in the participatory budgeting process, and the monitoring of government performance. According to IWA, civil society will now be able to track the whole process and report on government performance. [116] In IWA’s view, while civil society expects to face resistance from the government in opening the process to their participation, this commitment establishes an important basis to develop and implement participatory budging guidelines according to international standards. [117]

Despite such promise, the impact of the proposed guideline hinges on two factors. The impact depends not only on its effectiveness in opening direct access to the process for all citizens, but also on the extent to which municipalities can be held accountable for implementing a discretionary guideline. It, therefore, seems likely that the guideline could be implemented inconsistently or to varying degrees across the pilot municipalities. The commitment, as written, also does not specify any activities to raise public awareness, understanding, and ownership of the budget process. It also does not propose any strategies to improve information sharing and accountability through, for example, a responsive citizen feedback and redress mechanism.

These aspects were identified as fundamental challenges to meaningful participatory budgeting when the commitment was designed. [118] The lack of response to these key challenges limits the potential impact of this commitment. The inclusion of a survey to measure public satisfaction could be viewed as the government’s commitment to ensure that the guideline enhances meaningful public participation in the budgeting process. [119]

The introduction and effective implementation of a comprehensive, standard guideline with new opportunities for civil society participation stands to incrementally improve the practice of participatory budgeting at the municipal level. However, it is evident that many crucial, complementary measures are necessary to ensure and sustain meaningful participation. For instance, despite the introduction of guidelines and civil society participation, there will likely remain a wide gap between opportunities for participation and overall public awareness of citizens’ role in related processes. This information gap should be addressed while rolling out the guideline.

It is also evident that the guideline should clearly provide for open participation of the public in all stages of the budget process. It should also, importantly, facilitate and institute a responsive citizen feedback and redressal mechanism to hold municipalities accountable for fully implementing the guideline.

[102] International Budget Partnership, Open Budget Survey 2017: Afghanistan, 2017, https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/afghanistan-open-budget-survey-2017-summary.pdf.
[103] Ibid.
[104] Mohammad Amin Tokhi (Independent Directorate of Local Governance of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), interview by IRM researcher, 8 June 2020.
[105] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 12 October 2020.
[106] Ibid.
[107] Ibid.
[108] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 7 June 2020.
[109] Samiullah Hamid (Municipality of Kabul of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), interview by IRM researcher, 6 June 2020.
[110] Ibid.
[111] Ibid.
[112] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, Community Score Card of Kabul Municipality, 2016, https://iwaweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/KBL-Municipality-CSC-FINAL-REPORT.pdf, p. 1.
[113] See, for example: “Participatory Budgeting,” Seoul Metropolitan Government, accessed October 2020, translated from Korean, http://yesan.seoul.go.kr/intro/index.do.
[114] “Seoul: From Participatory Budgeting to Collaborative Budgeting,” Big Bold Cities, NDI, and Living Cities, https://www.bigboldcities.org/en/innovation/participatory-budgeting-%E2%80%98collaborative-budgeting%E2%80%99.
[115] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, Role of Civil Society in Provincial Budgeting in Afghanistan, 2015, https://iwaweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/role_of_civil_society_in_provincial_budgeting_in_afg_en.pdf, p. 21.
[116] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 12 October 2020.
[117] Ibid.
[118] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 7 June 2020.
[119] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 12 October 2020.

Commitments

  1. Revise Law on Recruitment and Authority of Attorneys General

    AF0014, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Revise Law on Local Government

    AF0015, 2019, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Establish Anti-Corruption Commission

    AF0016, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  4. Draft Beneficial Ownership Legislation

    AF0017, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Portal for Processing Legislative Documents

    AF0018, 2019, Capacity Building

  6. CSO Monitoring of Education

    AF0019, 2019, E-Government

  7. Develop Electronic Complaint System for Local Government

    AF0020, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Reform and Strengthen Education Data

    AF0021, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Participation in Local Budgeting

    AF0022, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  10. Electronic Revenue Collection System

    AF0023, 2019, Capacity Building

  11. Co-Create University Curriculum

    AF0024, 2019, Education

  12. Reform Promotion System for Police Officers

    AF0025, 2019, E-Government

  13. Monitoring Framework for Medicine Wholesalers

    AF0026, 2019, E-Government

  14. Monitoring of Private and Public Health Centers

    AF0027, 2019, E-Government

  15. Participation in National Budget

    AF0028, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  16. Open Justice for Anti-Corruption

    AF0029, 2019, Access to Justice

  17. Women's Empowerment Plan

    AF0030, 2019, Gender

  18. Establishment of Women Grand Council

    AF0031, 2019, Gender

  19. Law on Processing, Publishing and Enforcing Legislative Documents

    AF0002, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  20. Courts to Address Violence Against Women

    AF0003, 2017, Access to Justice

  21. Public-Police Partnership Councils

    AF0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  22. Registering Assets of Government Officials

    AF0005, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  23. Scheme for Establishing Health Service Accreditation Entity

    AF0006, 2017, Capacity Building

  24. Urban Improvement National Policy

    AF0007, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  25. Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations

    AF0008, 2017, Fiscal Openness

  26. Civil Society Monitoring Plan for Education and Higher Education

    AF0009, 2017, Education

  27. Plan for the Establishment of a Joint Committee Overseeing the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy

    AF0010, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  28. Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies

    AF0011, 2017, Access to Information

  29. Starred commitment Implementing Open Contracting

    AF0012, 2017, Access to Information

  30. Starred commitment Public Participation in Road Network Projects

    AF0013, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  31. Starred commitment Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

    AF0001, 2017, Anti-Corruption

Open Government Partnership