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Afghanistan

Participation in National Budget (AF0028)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Finance

Support Institution(s): Relevant civil society organizations

Policy Areas

Fiscal Openness, 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?
Afghanistan scored 15 out of 100 marks in the Open Budget Survey of 2017. This shows that the budgeting processes in Afghanistan are usually from top to down, views of citizens rarely considered in selecting development projects which shall be included in budget. Despite the fact that, MoF convened consultative meetings with public on budget preparation process for the year 2018. In 2019, MOF organized consultative meetings in eight provinces for the year 2020 budget still the public participation has not been substantial and broad. Squat public participation in budget preparation caused lack of public scrutiny in the implementation of development projects. Since public opinions neglected in the budgeting process therefore public accountability in terms of services is overlooked.

What is the commitment?
This commitment involves public in budget preparation and implementation through a specific mechanism. According to this commitment ministry of finance shall gather public opinions while preparing budget and scrutinize public proposed projects in accordance with government policy and national priorities and present them to budget hearing sessions.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
People involvement can firstly mobilize resources which will resolve severe public problems. On the other hand, public will scrutinize resources utilization which will ensure effectiveness and transparency in consumption of resources. Civic participation in budgeting process will encourage citizens to monitor the implementation of development projects and make government be accountable to citizens for their activities and expenditures.

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

Additional information
This commitment is related to policy on budgeting and combatting corruption of MoF.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

15. Increase Public Participation in Preparation of National Budgeting Process

This commitment involves public in budget preparation and implementation through a specific mechanism. According to this commitment Ministry of Finance shall gather public opinions while preparing budget and scrutinize public proposed projects in accordance with government policy and national priorities and present them to budget hearing sessions.

Main Objective

People involvement can firstly mobilize resources which will resolve severe public problems. On the other hand, public will scrutinize resources utilization which will ensure effectiveness and transparency in consumption of resources. Civic participation in budgeting process will encourage citizens to monitor the implementation of development projects and make government be accountable to citizens for their activities and expenditures.

Milestones

  • Prepare guidelines for public participation in preparation of national budgeting process.
  • Conducting two consultative meetings with civil society organizations to gather and incorporate their ideas for enrichment of public participation guidelines in the budgeting process.
  • Finalizing the guidelines.
  • Implement guidelines for public participation in preparation of national budgeting process in 15 provinces for the year 2021.
  • Provide necessary facilities against the righteous demands of relevant CSOs and others who are interested.
  • Implement guidelines for public participation in preparation of national budgeting process in 30 provinces for the year 2022.

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 establish a mechanism for participatory budgeting. The commitment is in line with recommendations from the International Budget Partnership. The partnership’s Open Budget Index in 2017 gave Afghanistan a score of 15 out of 100 in public participation in the national budgeting process. [207] It gave the same score in 2019. [208] While the score indicates that there are generally few opportunities for the public to engage in the budgeting process nationally, the findings suggest that participation is particularly weak during budget implementation. The Ministry of Finance will lead the implementation of this commitment, in collaboration with civil society organizations.

In an interview for this report, a Ministry of Finance representative emphasized that the ministry values consultation with the people on certain policy areas and has done so through different means over the years. [209] For example, the ministry used to provide paper forms that citizens could fill out with their feedback and submit to the ministry. [210] Civil society has also been invited to attend budget hearings in the past, albeit in a consultative capacity. At these hearings, they have consistently scrutinized the government’s lack of attention to the protection of human rights and women’s rights. [211] However, there remains room for growth, as demonstrated by the lack of an inclusive process to establish provincial development plans. [212]

During the development of Afghanistan’s 2020 national budget in 2019, the Ministry of Finance had taken initial steps to embrace public participation in the process. Out of the country’s 34 provinces, the ministry organized town hall meetings in eight. [213] However, there is no evidence that the public input collected through those eight town hall meetings was considered or incorporated into the national budget.

Beyond these town halls, there were no other consultative processes prior to the approval of the budget. Certain civil society groups have also reported their participation as observers of the process, but they have not been able to significantly influence the process. In particular, civil society organizations remain skeptical about the process to select citizen representatives and about the budget agenda discussed by the government. [214] Nonetheless, the IRM researchers acknowledge that this indicates a slight improvement from previous practices, which did not provide any opportunities for public participation at all. [215]

The design of this commitment specifies that with the introduction and implementation of public participation guidelines, there will be improved clarity and consistency regarding the process. This clarity includes the following areas: the selection of citizen representatives, the consultation process, and follow-up of public input. The commitment text outlines that the guidelines will help ensure that citizens and civil society have opportunities to be involved in the preparation and implementation of the national budget. It also ensures that civil society will be able to actively provide input and monitor government performance. Public feedback on the government’s project proposals would also be presented at the budget hearing sessions before such projects are included in the national budget.

In implementing this commitment, the Ministry of Finance will engage civil society stakeholders to develop the guidelines for public participation in the budgeting process. The guidelines will then be used to pilot participatory budgeting implementation in 15 provinces for the 2021 fiscal year and in 30 provinces for the 2022 fiscal year. The ministry notes that the commitment builds on the initiative started in 2018, when the ministry hosted town hall meetings in five provinces, which then grew to eight provinces in 2019. The ministry has planned for 15 and 30 provinces in 2020 and 2021, in accordance with this commitment’s milestones. [216]

The ministry sets a quota of sending a maximum of three representatives to each village, which, on average, could amount to 500 representatives at every provincial town hall meeting. [217] The ministry noted that public participation in previous town hall meetings has been excellent. The ministry has received positive feedback on how the process gives the public a sense of ownership of the budgeting process. [218] However, civil society has been critical of the town hall representation model, as the three representatives from each district are often selected by the provincial governors instead of the citizens. [219] Civil society was also not involved in any aspect of the participatory budgeting process as part of the 2018 initiative.

A civil society representative who attended some of the town hall meetings shared that the meetings were largely ceremonial and did not offer much space to meaningfully discuss and provide public input on the budget plan. [220] Consequently, the IRM researchers note that this commitment presents an opportunity to ensure that the proposed guidelines for public participation address these problems and create space for constructive discussion and meaningful public and civil society participation.

This commitment stands to have a minor potential impact on increasing citizen and civil society participation in the budgeting process. According to a civil society representative from Integrity Watch Afghanistan, this commitment is an important step in co-creating a procedure that will allow civil society to participate meaningfully in the national budget process. As noted under Commitment 9, civil society expects to face a degree of government resistance in rolling out such practice. However, the representative noted that the commitment serves as a strong platform to integrate international standards around participation in the budgeting process. [221]

The commitment aims to respond to the persistent problem of limited public and civil society participation in the budget process. However, it does not fully address the complex barriers that need to be removed to achieve meaningful engagement with the public. This includes raising public awareness and ownership of the budgeting process, and creating strategies to improve public accountability as part of the process. The final scope of the proposed guidelines to promote public participation is also unclear, and its success hinges largely on effective implementation.

The Ministry of Finance has also not conducted any thorough evaluation of the town hall meetings in 2018 and 2019. Such evaluation could provide important insights into whether the town halls have been effective in capturing public feedback. In other words, the proposed guidelines for public participation could be useful in improving the level of public and civil society engagement in the budget process. The associated evidence would need to showcase progress and results, including the incorporation of citizen priorities in the national budget, and go beyond merely reporting that several meetings were held. The government is encouraged to collect concrete feedback from participants of these meetings regarding how the process could be improved.

Going forward, the Ministry of Finance could approach the practice of participatory budgeting with public participation and standardization of related processes, but also with transparency and oversight. As noted by the Open Budget Index, being informed about budget processes requires that citizens have open access to budget information, as well as other relevant data, thus ensuring constructive participation. In addition, to guarantee inclusive participation, the government could establish a mechanism to ensure that the participatory budgeting model captures different voices within the society, not just certain groups and select civil society representatives.

The national budget often affects some groups more than others in certain policy areas. This includes traditionally marginalized groups, such as women, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty. By identifying the different key stakeholders who are most affected by certain policy areas, the government could develop a participatory budgeting model that corresponds with the real problems and needs in society. To do so, the government could consider building on a similar model to the existing town hall meeting, dividing the process into different thematic working groups. In this manner, the government could gradually grow its resources and capacity in accommodating public participation in the budgeting process without sacrificing the voices of certain groups due to logistical or technical constraints.

[207] International Budget Partnership, Open Budget Survey 2017: Afghanistan, 2017, https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/afghanistan-open-budget-survey-2017-summary.pdf.
[208] International Budget Partnership, Open Budget Survey 2019: Afghanistan, 2019, https://iwaweb.org/pa/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/open-budget-survey-afghanistan-2019-en.pdf.
[209] Musa Mohsini and Sayed Masoud Hashimi (Ministry of Finance), interview by IRM researcher, 1 June 2020.
[210] Ibid.
[211] Ibid.
[212] Information provided by Integrity Watch Afghanistan during the IRM prepublication review phase. 2 November 2020.
[213] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, People's Treasure: An Analysis of the Executive Budget Proposal of Afghanistan 2020, 2020, https://iwaweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Budget-Analysis-Report.pdf, p. 2.
[214] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 12 October 2020.
[215] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, The Game of Numbers: Analysis of the National Budget 2018, 2017, https://iwaweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/IWA__National-Budget__English_6.pdf, p. 2.
[216] Mohsini and Hashimi, interview.
[217] Ibid.
[218] Ibid.
[219] Integrity Watch Afghanistan, interview by IRM researcher, 11 June 2020.
[220] Ibid.
[221] 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