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Armenia

Transparency of the State Budget (AM0029)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Armenia’s Third National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia

Support Institution(s): Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia; Helix Consulting LLC (upon consent), Compass Center for Science, Research, Education and Consulting NGO (upon consent)

Policy Areas

Fiscal Transparency, Open Data, Public Participation, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018, Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Issue subject to regulation: Currently, citizens of the Republic of Armenia have the opportunity to become familiar with the structure of the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia and the estimated and actual expenditures in accordance with functional classification via the online electronic interactive budget posted on the websites of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia. The disadvantage of the system is that even though it provides users with the above-mentioned information on the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia, it is not built upon the “open data” principles. The system does not provide users with an opportunity to download the information and process it for own purposes.; Main objective: Besides the expenditure part, improvement of the system of interactive electronic budget will provide an opportunity to interactively show not only the estimated revenues, but also the actual revenues through sources of generation, to make the search for particular data possible by applying relevant advanced instruments (for example, the distribution of expenditures of the State Budget among state bodies of the Republic of Armenia, etc.), as well as to make the information machine-readable for further processing by users. It will ensure that the information on the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia is user-friendly and will improve transparency of information on actual expenditures and collected revenues of the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia.; Brief Description of commitment: Improvement of transparency of the State Budget based on the “open data” principle. OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: Improvement of public services, Enhancement of public integrity; Relevance to OGP values: Interactive online presentation of the revenue and expenditure items of the State Budget through the application of the “open data” principle contributes to increase in accessibility and transparency, through the use of innovation and technologies.; Ambition: Application of the “open data” principle will allow making the State Budget of Armenia more accessible and understandable for analysts, journalists and citizens. The system will allow writing a comparative analysis of the budget expenditure, finding consistent patterns and identifying the problems. In the long run, the instrument will allow planning more effectively on the basis of fact-based analysis.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Interactive budget: Open Data principle

Commitment Text:

Title: More Interactive budget: Ensuring transparency of the State Budget applying the Open Data principle

Besides the expenditure part, improvement of the system of interactive electronic budget will provide an opportunity to interactively show not only the estimated revenues, but also the actual revenues through sources of generation, to make the search for particular data possible by applying relevant advanced instruments (for example, the distribution of expenditures of the State Budget among state bodies of the Republic of Armenia, etc.), as well as to make the information machine-readable for further processing by users. It will ensure that the information on the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia is user-friendly and will improve transparency of information on actual expenditures and collected revenues of the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1. Discussions with private companies and civil society aimed at clarifying the scope of activities (Oct 16 - Jan 17).

2. Drafting of the terms of reference and implementing procurement (Feb 17 - Jun 17).

3. Improvement of the interactive budget system based on the open data principle also with the option of presenting actual revenues according to the sources of generation thereof (Jul 17 - Jun 18).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institution(s): Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: December 2016 End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

Currently, the structure of the state budget and the estimated actual expenditures are published in accordance with functional classification via the online electronic 'interactive budget' tool available on the websites of Armenia’s electronic government[Note114: Electronic government of the Republic of Armenia, Interactive Budget, https://www.e-gov.am/interactive-budget/ ] and the Ministry of Finance.[Note115: Ministry of Finance, Interactive Budget, http://minfin.am/en/page/interactive_budget/ ] The 'interactive budget' is a visual tool, which with step-by-step clicking on specific budget categories, provides data on the relevant budget expenditures, including procurement contracts where applicable. The disadvantage of the system is that it is not built on 'open data' principles. The system does not provide users with an opportunity to easily find, download, process and re-use information, nor does it include information on budget income by source.

This commitment entails improvement of the interactive budget platform through providing downloadable data with a search and filter option. The intended results are improved accessibility and transparency of the state budget through online presentation of revenues and expenditures with possibility of analysis.

The commitment text specifies the main characteristics of the 'interactive budget' including possibilities to search by specific criteria, and downloading and processing data. However, it does not specify a detailed level of information on expenditures (e.g. the general expenditure article or the costs, the vendor, etc.). According to the representative of the NGO which provided the suggestion to include this commitment, the intended result was to open up the expenditure broken down to the cost lines incurred by state agencies.[Note116: Gharib Harutyunyan (Compass Research, Training and Consultancy Center NGO), interview by IRM researcher, 9 November 2017]

The potential impact of this commitment is assessed as minor. The commitment provides for a new format of the budget data, while the relevant data has already been published in different formats through the interactive budget tool and budget reports. The main value added by the commitment is a more user-friendly and less time-consuming search of information. The system will allow publishing data within one day of reporting the spending to the Ministry of Finance.[Note117: Zhirayr Titizyan (Ministry of Finance), interview by IRM researcher, 15 November 2017] The actual impact in terms of changes in practice would depend on the level of usage of the budget platform and subsequent public oversight.

Completion

At the end of the first year of implementation, the overall completion of the commitment was limited, although the first two activities have been completed. The discussion with private companies and civil society took place prior to the implementation period—that is, during the discussion of the third action plan. Throughout the implementation period, terms of reference have been drafted and the software was procured from the sole source. The vendor is LSOFT Ltd, which has already provided similar services to the Ministry of Finance. The contract was signed in August 2017 with a two-month delay as of action plan (due June 2017).[Note118: State procurement contract No RA MF 17/5, 29.08.2017, https://www.e-gov.am/procur_files/40772838-pg.PDF ] The planned date of completion was end of December 2017 according to the ToR attached to the contract. The funding for this work was allocated from the state budget and comprises 4.8 million AMD. Although outside of the assessment period, most of the technical work was carried out by October 2017.

Next Steps

The commitment is planned to be completed on time. The IRM researcher recommends organizing a discussion of the test version of the budget platform with civil society and other stakeholders through a public presentation before finalization, to take into account comments and suggestions from users. CSOs interviewed noted that the term ‘interactive’ does not reflect the concept of the product and recommend changing the title to ‘visual’, as in this case the budget data does not provide any opportunity for feedback from the public.[Note119: Focus group discussion in Gyumri, 23 November 2017] In the next action plan, the government could consider including a commitment on an interactive platform for public discussion of the budget in the planning stage, which would require both online and offline consultation tools and measures, including usage of online platforms, public discussions, and expert roundtables.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Interactive budget: Open Data principle

Commitment Text:

Title: More Interactive budget: Ensuring transparency of the State Budget applying the Open Data principle

Citizens of the Republic of Armenia have the opportunity to become familiar with the structure of the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia and the estimated and actual expenditures in accordance with functional classification via the online electronic interactive budget posted on the websites of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Armenia. The disadvantage of the system is that even though it provides users with the abovementioned information on the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia, it is not built upon the 'open data' principles. The system does not provide users with an opportunity to download the information and process it for own purposes. Besides the expenditure part, improvement of the system of interactive electronic budget will provide an opportunity to interactively show not only the estimated revenues, but also the actual revenues through sources of generation, to make the search for particular data possible by applying relevant advanced instruments (for example, the distribution of expenditures of the State Budget among state bodies of the Republic of Armenia, etc.), as well as to make the information machine-readable for further processing by users. It will ensure that the information on the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia is user-friendly and will improve transparency of information on actual expenditures and collected revenues of the State Budget of the Republic of Armenia.

The activities under this commitment are as follows:

1.Discussions with private companies and civil society aimed at clarifying the scope of activities (Oct 16 - Jan 17).

2.Drafting of the terms of reference and implementing procurement (Feb 17 - Jun 17).

3.Improvement of the interactive budget system based on the open data principle also with the option of presenting actual revenues according to the sources of generation thereof (Jul 17 - Jun 18).

Responsible institution: Ministry of Financeof the Republic of Armenia

Supporting institution: Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia

Start date: December 2016 End date: June 2018

Commitment Aim

This commitment entailed improving the existing interactive budget platform, which includes planned and actual expenditure, by providing downloadable data with search and filter options, as well as information on budget revenues. It intended to improve accessibility and transparency of the state budget through online presentation of revenues and expenditures with possibility of analysis.

Before the commitment’s adoption, the state budget and the estimated and actual expenditures were published via the online electronic “interactive budget” tool available on the websites of Armenia’s electronic government [Note19: Electronic government of the Republic of Armenia, Interactive Budget, https://www.e-gov.am/interactive-budget/ ] and the Ministry of Finance. [Note20: Ministry of Finance, Interactive Budget, http://www.minfin.am/hy/page/grafik ] This is a visual tool that provides data on the relevant budget expenditures, including procurement contracts where applicable. However, this information was not available in open data format. In contrast, the new interactive budget platform environed in this commitment would provide users the opportunity to easily find, download, process, and re-use information, and would include information on budget income by source.

Status

Midterm: Limited

At the end of the first year of implementation, the Ministry of Finance completed the first two activities of the commitment. The discussion with private companies and civil society took place prior to the implementation period—that is, during the development of the third action plan, in the framework of OGP Working Group meetings and discussions with the CSO that had proposed the commitment. [Note21: Zhirayr Titizyan (Ministry of Finance), interview by IRM researcher, 15 November 2017] Throughout the first year of implementation, the Ministry of Finance prepared the terms of reference and completed software procurement process. As a result, the ministry signed a contract with LSOFT limited liability company (LLC) in August 2017: [Note22: State procurement contract No RA MF 17/5, 29.08.2017, https://www.e-gov.am/procur_files/40772838-pg.PDF ] according to the Term of Reference (ToR) attached to the contract, the planned completion date for the budget platform software development was the end of December 2017. Although, after the midterm period, most of the technical work on platform software was carried out by the contractor by October 2017. For more information, see the Armenia IRM Progress Report 2016–2017. [Note23: IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018 (Year 1), 03 Transparency of the State Budget, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/03-transparency-of-state-b... ]

End of term: Complete

In December 2017, the commitment-responsible official at the Ministry of Finance organized a discussion around the draft platform with interested CSOs and companies in order to improve the format of the information to be available, and the suggestions were taken into account when finalizing the platform. In late May 2018, the Ministry of Finance accomplished the testing and data input process and delivered the platform to National Security Service for approval, which is an ordinary procedure for government electronic platforms. [Note24: Zhirayr Titizyan (Ministry of Finance), interview by IRM researcher, 17 September 2018] However, the security checks took longer than expected, and the platform was not available online until late August 2018.

At the time of writing the report (September 2018), the platform was available at the webpage of the Ministry of Finance under the “State Budget” section. It provides the possibility to search and filter budget information by several criteria, including the state agency, functional classification section, group and class, functional program, economic classification, and the possibility to view related contracts. [Note25: Ministry of Finance, Interactive Budget, http://budget.minfin.am:82/ ] The results of the search can be downloaded in Excel format. In addition to the information provided by the existing “interactive budget” platform, the new platform provides supporting documentation for all spending, and includes spending of Project Implementation Units (PIU). The data on expenditures and revenues is updated on a daily basis. [Note26: Zhirayr Titizyan (Ministry of Finance), interview by IRM researcher, 17 September 2018] Budget revenues are also available with search options by agency, budget section, group, and account. Apart from revenues and spending, there is a page on budget deficits where the sources and calculations of deficit are presented in a table with a possibility for download.

In the section of spending, the contracts are presented in PDF format. However, the IRM researcher noticed that some of the PDF documents under the “Contracts” sections are in fact not the contracts themselves but the verification documents for the relevant spending (a one-page document including the name of the recipient, budget line, and amount), or signed invoices along with acceptance acts. [Note27: See, for example, randomly found verification documents: http://budget.minfin.am:82/xml/storage/43263812-sca43.pdf, http://budget.minfin.am:82/xml/storage/42259239-13015.pdf, and a link to invoice and acceptance act provided under “contract” section: http://budget.minfin.am:82/xml/storage/43050172-sca55.pdf ]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Although budget data was published in different formats before this commitment’s implementation, including through the existing interactive budget tool and quarterly budget reports, this commitment significantly improved the accessibility of the budget information as well as the scope of the information available to the public. In contrast to the existing graphical interactive budget, the accessibility of the information has been ensured in the new platform through the search and filtering options with the possibility to download. For example, users can download information on a specific state agency and/or budget line (e.g., education, housing, health), or compare planned and actual expenditure of various state agencies by type of cost (i.e., communication costs, representative costs, insurance costs). More detailed searches can also be carried out by selecting a specific functional class or program. For example, in the area of education, users can select higher education in the functional classification, and if needed, have further opportunities to select from a range of economic classification lines such as salaries, trip expenses, allowances, etc. The scope of the information has been enlarged to include purchase contracts or other verification documents, spending of PIUs, and extrabudgetary spending. In contrast to the quarterly budget reports provided in Excel format on the webpage of the Ministry of Finance, in the new platform, the information is updated daily.

The IRM researcher contacted CSOs working in the area of budget analysis and fiscal transparency, including CSOs participating in initial consultations and the meeting in December 2017 to provide feedback on the platform. Most were not aware of the platform at the time of writing the report, but indicated interest and found that the platform would be useful for their work. Specifically, it would aid in checking the actual spending of specific budget lines, updated daily, to analyze the expenditure in the areas of public interest. However, since there are no guidelines or tutorials on platform usage, users must have a basic understanding of the budget structure and try the platform several times to gain better understanding on how to use it.

The commitment has had a major contribution to improving the scope and mechanisms of the access to information on the budget. At the same time, there is a need to implement awareness-raising activities and disseminate the information on the platform through various channels to ensure its usage and impact in terms of better transparency and public oversight.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report (September 2018), Armenia has not finished developing its fourth action plan. The IRM researcher recommends the government and other stakeholders to carry out public awareness-raising activities to ensure usage of the platform as well as to provide brief information on the platform and user guidelines on the platform page.

For Commitment detail, see Armenia End-Term Report 2016-2018.


Commitments

  1. Open Data in Official Declarations

    AM0035, 2018, Asset Disclosure

  2. Government Grant Transparency

    AM0036, 2018, Fiscal Transparency

  3. Beneficial Ownership Register

    AM0037, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  4. Modernization of Community Website

    AM0038, 2018, E-Government

  5. State Water Cadastre

    AM0039, 2018, E-Government

  6. Land Cadastre

    AM0040, 2018, E-Government

  7. Integrated Social Services

    AM0041, 2018, E-Government

  8. Unified Information System for Management of Education

    AM0042, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Exploring Medical Assistance Program

    AM0043, 2018, E-Government

  10. Platform for Submitting Petitions

    AM0044, 2018, E-Government

  11. Public Service Dashboard

    AM0045, 2018, E-Government

  12. State Travel Transparency

    AM0027, 2016, E-Government

  13. Accountability for Grants of the Government

    AM0028, 2016, E-Government

  14. Transparency of the State Budget

    AM0029, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  15. "Open Data" in Official Declaration:

    AM0030, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  16. Portal for Community Decisions.

    AM0031, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Accountability Licensing

    AM0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Accessibility of Integrated Social Services

    AM0033, 2016, E-Government

  19. "One-Stop-Shop" Pilot Project Within Military Registration Offices

    AM0034, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Digitization and publication of data in the “Republican Geological Fund” SNCO

    AM0016, 2014, Extractive Industries

  21. Ensuring Transparency in Mining

    AM0017, 2014, Extractive Industries

  22. Ensuring Public Awareness About Health Care Financing

    AM0018, 2014, E-Government

  23. Ensuring Transparency of Asset and Income Declarations of the RA High-Ranking Officials

    AM0019, 2014, Asset Disclosure

  24. Online Broadcasting of the State Procurement Appeals Board Sessions

    AM0020, 2014, E-Government

  25. Community Microsurvey Introduction in 10 Communities

    AM0021, 2014, E-Government

  26. Ensuring Open, Transparent, Participatory and Accountable Process of State Policies and Legislative Reforms

    AM0022, 2014, E-Government

  27. Public Awareness on the Lawmaking Activity of State Governance Bodies

    AM0023, 2014, E-Government

  28. Ensuring Transparency of the Election of Governing Boards of the RA General Secondary Education Institutions and of the Annual Budget Planning and Expenses of Ra General Secondary Education Institutions

    AM0024, 2014, Education

  29. Knowledge and Capacity Building of Public Servants in the Freedom of Information and Anticorruption Field

    AM0025, 2014, Capacity Building

  30. Ensuring Transparency of Local Self Government Bodies of Large Communities

    AM0026, 2014, E-Government

  31. Reviewing the Regulatory Normative Legal Acts (Regulatory Guillotine Project)

    AM0001, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  32. Improving Internal Audit System for the Public Sector

    AM0002, 2012, Audits and Controls

  33. Improving Procurement Procedures

    AM0003, 2012, Capacity Building

  34. Improving Budget Planning and Reporting Systems Through Full Utilization of Program Budgeting

    AM0004, 2012, Audits and Controls

  35. Promoting Transparency and Objectiveness in Tax Administration

    AM0005, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  36. Fight Against Corruption

    AM0006, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  37. Introduction of a Unified Payment System (Portal)

    AM0007, 2012, E-Government

  38. State Car Inspection Improvements

    AM0008, 2012, Infrastructure & Transport

  39. Implementation of an Electronic System for Consular Services

    AM0009, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  40. Implementation of Mail-Armenia System

    AM0010, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  41. Introduction of e-Statistics System

    AM0011, 2012, E-Government

  42. Introduction of e-Documentation Sharing System in Urban Communities

    AM0012, 2012, E-Government

  43. Ensuring Transparency of Asset Declarations

    AM0013, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  44. Standardization of Offical Websites Content

    AM0014, 2012, E-Government

  45. Improvement of Knowledge and Skills of Public Servants on Access to Information

    AM0015, 2012, Capacity Building