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Georgia

Increasing Citizen Participation in Supervision of Public Finances (Public Audit) (GE0055)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: State Audit Office

Support Institution(s): Advisory group comprising of the representatives of the State Audit Office and civil sector, working on the citizen participation issues in the public finance management supervision

Policy Areas

Anti Corruption and Integrity, Audits, Capacity Building, Democratizing Decision-Making, E-Government, E-petitions, Fiscal Openness, Oversight of Budget/Fiscal Policies, Public Participation, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information, Social Accountability

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Public Accountability , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Increasing citizen participation in supervision of public finances (Public Audit); In cooperation with the civil sector, the State Audit Office plans to enhance citizen participation in the supervision process of public finances (public audit), that will build their trust in the State Audit Office. At the initial stage a strategy will be drafted, in close cooperation with the civil sector. Considering the best practice of various countries, the strategy will provide mechanisms to ensure constructive citizen participation in the complete audit cycle, including the monitoring stage of recommendation implementation. In addition, by means of an innovative ICT webplatform mechanism, citizens will receive complete information about the state budget, public finance management, audit findings, given recommendations and the status of its implementation. Various methods of visualization will be applied to make information easily perceivable on the web-platform. The webplatform will form a channel for bilateral communication between the State Audit Office and citizens. On the one hand, citizens will become familiar with the information provided by the Audit Office, on the other hand, they will be able to notify the Office about a concrete malefaction, as well as the drawbacks of government services identified by them. Furthermore, citizens will be able to submit proposals based on professional surveys on the improvement of the identified shortcomings. The information received from a citizen will be analyzed and taken into consideration if recommended in the drafting and implementation process of the audit plan. Citizens’ participation in the public audit process will rise public awareness on the budgetary processes and will rise their demand for transparent management of the public resources. Thorough information will improve the quality of citizen supervision of the governance processes. Date ofImplementation: 2016-2017; Issues to be Addressed: Low demand on the transparency and accountability of public finance management resulting the risk of the direction of inefficient public administration. Main Objective: Improving transparency and accountability by citizen participation in the process of public audit; which will promote efficient, productive and economic disposal of budget resources

IRM End of Term Status Summary

✪14. Increasing citizen participation in supervision of public finances (public audit)

Commitment Text:

In cooperation with the civil sector, the State Audit Office plans to enhance citizen participation in the supervision process of public finances (public audit), that will build their trust in the State Audit Office.

At the initial stage a strategy will be drafted, in close cooperation with the civil sector. Considering the best practice of various countries, the strategy will provide mechanisms to ensure constructive citizen participation in the complete audit cycle, including the monitoring stage of recommendation implementation.

In addition, by means of an innovative ICT web platform mechanism, citizens will receive complete information about the state budget, public finance management, audit findings, given recommendations and the status of its implementation. Various methods of visualization will be applied to make information easily perceivable on the web-platform.

The web platform will form a channel for bilateral communication between the State Audit Office and citizens. On the one hand, citizens will become familiar with the information provided by the Audit Office, on the other hand, they will be able to notify the Office about a concrete malefaction, as well as the drawbacks of government services identified by them. Furthermore, citizens will be able to submit proposals based on professional surveys on the improvement of the identified shortcomings. The information received from a citizen will be analyzed and taken into consideration if recommended in the drafting and implementation process of the audit plan.

Citizens’ participation in the public audit process will raise public awareness on the budgetary processes and will rise their demand for transparent management of the public resources. Thorough information will improve the quality of citizen supervision of the governance processes.

Milestones:

Conducting public consultations with the representatives of civil sector for developing and improving various mechanisms of citizen participation in the public audit process

Drafting the citizen participation strategy in the public audit process

Finishing and approving the citizen participation strategy in the public audit process

Defining the concept of webplatform and agreement with the representatives of civil sector

Technical development of a webplatform and its presentation to the society

At least 15 workshops with the representatives of the municipalitites, students and media  are organized by the State Audit Office to rise awareness on the right to request public information and webportal

Shooting a short video on webplatform and its distribution through social media

Responsible institution(s): State Audit Office

Supporting institution(s): Advisory group comprising representatives of the State Audit Office and civil sector, working on the citizen participation issues in the public finance management supervision

Start Date: August 2016 End Date: December 2017

    ✔     ✔

  

Editorial note: This commitment is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented and therefore qualifies as a starred commitment.

Commitment Aim:

In order to increase transparency and accountability of public finances and involve citizens in decision-making, the State Audit Office (SAO) committed to establish a web platform budgetmonitor.ge. Through this platform, the SAO’s would present up-to-date information on state and municipal budgets in an easily understandable manner; publish audit findings in a user-friendly format; allow citizens to select budget priority areas to be audited by SAO and enable citizens to report cases of corruption confidentially or anonymously.

Status

Midterm: Complete

The commitment was fully implemented as of September 2017. SAO formed a working group with CSO involvement, conducted 14 focus groups to identify end-user preferences, and launched the platform in March 2017. Budgetmonitor.ge offers different sub-pages, including “State Budget,” “Municipal Budget,” “Audits,” “Citizen Page,” and more. By the midterm, SAO conducted 13 out of 15 meetings across Georgia as indicated in the commitment to raise awareness of the portal. For more information, please see the 2016–2017 IRM midterm report. [42] 

After the midterm, SAO conducted numerous meetings with different target groups in order to raise awareness about the portal, including meetings with different Parliament committees and staff, media representatives, students, and others. In total, SAO presented the platform at 11 meetings. [43] Additionally, with the help of USAID, SAO collected feedback from budgetmonitor.ge users on the deficiencies and possible improvements of the portal. SAO also hired an external consultant to analyze the platform and develop an outreach strategy to further promote this resource. [44]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Civic Participation: Marginal

Public Accountability: Marginal

Since launching the platform, SAO estimates more than 15,000 unique visitors, with an average of 400-500 unique users each month. SAO’s current efforts are directed at increasing returning users. [45] The platform contains multiple features, with information, a corruption-reporting feature, and assistance when being audited. According to end-users of the platform, budgetmonitor.ge simplified access to basic financial data including the state budget, details of the Legal Entities of Public Law, and municipal budgets. [46] CSOs positively assess both the simplicity of the data, and the user-friendly interface of the platform. [47]

The “Citizen Page” enables citizens both to suggest government bodies for auditing as part of the following year’s Annual Audit Plan and to select priority areas for examination–both features providing citizen participation. While the platform offers citizens a direct opportunity to get involved in audit planning and corruption reporting, there is still a low level of citizen participation based on statistics to date.

The “Fight Corruption” sub-page allows citizens to report cases of corruption, which are further studied by a specific auditor, thereby giving citizens a mechanism for holding the government accountable. According to CSOs, the creation of the platform in itself is already an indicator of strong political will to increase accountability. [48] According to SAO, citizen requests are received from various customer modules (e.g., annual audit planning, disclosing corruption, or selecting budget priority areas for examination) and initially screened for relevance. While many requests were received within one year, after initial screening, 25 were deemed relevant to SAO’s work and competences. [49] Out of the 25, 7 identified corruption risks. In total, around 9 requests were taken into consideration in the audit plan. As the annual audit plan is decided at the end of the year, all suggestions received during the year can be potentially incorporated into the plan. It is challenging to make amendments to the existing plan for suggestions received after the plan is adopted, although it has been done. [50] As of September 2018, SAO had submitted 29 reports to the Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation.

According to a researcher at ISET, the platform is a big step however, popularization of it remains problematic. [51] CSO representatives positively assess SAO’s earlier efforts to promote the platform, and stress that meetings organized by the agency to introduce the platform were helpful. The platform was actively promoted through ads on Facebook. According to a Senior Analyst at Transparency International Georgia (TIG) using social media would further help. [52]

Carried Forward?

Based on IRM recommendations, SAO included a related commitment in the 2018−2019 Action Plan (Commitment 11), with a specific focus on citizen engagement in the audit process. Namely, SAO plans to establish a feedback mechanism for citizen input received through budgetmonitor.ge, which will improve the efficiency and timeliness of responses to citizen notifications (audit planning suggestions or corruption case reporting). This will increase citizen trust in the platform. SAO plans to conduct five working groups to increase awareness regarding the platform.

[42] Lasha Gogidze and Tamar Gzirishvili, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Georgia Progress Report 2016-2017 (OGP, 30 Apr. 2018), https://bit.ly/2NIr097.

[43] Tsotne Karkashadze (Head of the State Budget Analysis and Strategic Department), e-mail correspondence with IRM researcher, 15 Oct. 2018.

[44] Karkashadze (State Budget Analysis and Strategic Department), phone interview with IRM researcher, 10 Oct. 2018.

[45] Karkashadze, interview, 10 Oct. 2018.

[46] Lasha Senashvili (Senior Analyst at Transparency International Georgia), phone interview with IRM researcher, 26 Dec. 2018.

[47] Irakli Barbakadze (Researcher at ISET), phone interview with IRM researcher, 26 Dec. 2018; Giorgi Topouria (Senior Analyst at Transparency International Georgia), phone interview with IRM researcher, 23 Aug. 2018.

[48] Senashvili, interview, 26 Dec. 2018.

[49] Citizens often find it hard to distinguish competencies of different government agencies. Therefore, a lot of the suggestions submitted to SAO through the website are irrelevant to SAO’s work (e.g., they refer to tax authorities or other unrelated bodies). SAO screens these suggestions and deals with those that refer to their work. Currently, there is no monitoring mechanism in place to oversee how suggestions are screened. Generally, the agency is assessed positively by local CSOs, and SAO’s will to launch such a platform was commended as a step toward accountability.

[50] Karkashadze, interview, 10 Oct. 2018.

[51] Barbakadze, interview, 26 Dec. 2018.

[52] Senashvili, interview, 26 Dec. 2018.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership