Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe (GE0065)
Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Kutaisi Municipality Town Hall; Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly; Batumi Municipality Town Hall; Akhaltsikhe Municipality Town Hall;
Support Institution(s): The project of USAID Good Governance Initiative in Georgia; Forum participant nongovernmental organizations
Policy AreasE-Government, Fiscal Openness, Local Commitments, Public Participation, Public Participation in Budget/Fiscal Policy, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information
Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe; Relevant services of Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities actively work on the issues of budgetary process transparency. By the support of USAID’s Good Governance Initiative in Georgia (GGI) the work is carried out on the local level to promote budgetary processes and improve mechanisms for public participation. In the framework of the third Action Plan OGP, four identified cities will ensure creation of an electronic mechanism “Plan City Budget” and add it to the munipality webpage. Furthermore, in regard to the local budget, a citizen’s guidebook will be developed. Date of Implementation: 2016-2017; Issues to be Addressed: Relevant services of the mentioned four city municipalities need significant support to improve budgeting process. Low level of public participation and motivation are also a problem. Main Objective: Raising public awareness in regard to budget issues; Improving mechanisms for public participation in the discussions of budget drafts
IRM End of Term Status Summary
24. Creation of electronic mechanism for local budget planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi, and Akhaltsikhe
Relevant services of Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities actively work on the issues of budgetary process transparency. By the support of USAID’s Good Governance Initiative in Georgia (GGI) the work is carried out on the local level to promote budgetary processes and improve mechanisms for public participation.
In the framework of the third Action Plan OGP, four identified cities will ensure creation of an electronic mechanism “Plan City Budget” and add it to the municipality webpage. Furthermore, in regard to the local budget, a citizen’s guidebook will be developed.
Prepare local program budget of the municipality
Create electronic mechanism “Plan City Budget” to define local budget priorities of the municipality Develop citizen’s guidebook in regard to local budget of the municipality
Responsible institution: Kutaisi Municipality Town Hall, Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly, Batumi Municipality Town Hall, Akhaltsikhe Municipality Town Hall
Supporting institution(s): The project of USAID Good Governance Initiative in Georgia; Forum participant nongovernmental organizations
Start date: September 2016 End date: December 2017
In order to increase public access to information, as well as to bolster civic engagement in budgetary planning processes, four municipalities of Georgia committed to introduce electronic mechanisms for budget planning. Specifically, Akhaltsikhe Municipality Town Hall, Batumi Municipality Town Hall, Kutaisi Municipality Town Hall, and Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly assumed the responsibility to implement three key activities proposed within the commitment: 1. preparing local program budgets; 2. creating the electronic mechanism, “Plan City Budget,” to define local budget priorities; and 3. develop a citizen’s guidebook on local budgets.
The commitment was completed to a limited degree as of August 2017. Three out of four municipalities, excluding Ozurgeti, had prepared and published their respective municipality budgets on their websites in a format showing a breakdown of expenses by programs. Ozurgeti Municipality had not published a program budget, due to the fact that it was not part of USAID’s Good Governance Initiative (GGI) and as a result, lacked resources and expertise.  As for a citizens’ guidebook, it was developed by Batumi, Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe Municipalities, however only Batumi published it online, with the remaining two disseminating print versions. By August 2017, all four municipalities had still to introduce the “Plan City Budget” mechanism on their websites.
End of term: Substantial
USAID’s Good Governance Initiative (GGI) played an important role in the commitment progress, as it supports three municipalities engaged in the initiative (Akhaltsikhe, Batumi and Kutaisi). Ozurgeti Municipality does not get funding, therefore, there was a lack of coordination in implementing the commitment activities.
Preparation of the local program budget: The four municipalities published their respective budgets in a budget program format online by the end of term. 
‘Plan City Budget’ electronic mechanism: Within the GGI project, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) together with the E-Governance Academy (eGA) developed new websites for Kutaisi (http://www.kutaisi.gov.ge) and Akhaltsikhe Municipalities (http://www.akhaltsikhe.gov.ge), which incorporate the participatory budgeting mechanism, “Plan City Budget.” While a new website with a similar interface and participatory services was also developed for Batumi Town Hall, it has yet to be launched.  In 2018, citizens registered in Akhaltsikhe and Kutaisi municipalities can submit budgetary proposals through the electronic portal, “VOLIS,” which is an Estonian model for participatory budgeting. 
Batumi Town Hall decided to introduce additional safety mechanisms for submitting budgetary proposals online, which required more time for setting up the system and resulted in postponing the launch of the platform.  However, a representative of the Town Hall anticipated launching “Plan City Budget” by the end of 2018.
Ozurgeti Municipality could not introduce the service within the 2016−2018 action plan cycle. Instead, the Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly intends to set up an interactive “Problem Map,” which will allow citizens to indicate concerns for their respective communities on a map. This service, together with the budget guidebook, is in the development process and was expected to be launched by the end of 2018.
Citizen’s Guidebook on Local Budget: Three municipalities (Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, and Kutaisi) developed guidebooks on local budgets, however only Batumi Municipality uploaded it to their website. Neither Akhaltsikhe nor Kutaisi municipalities have made electronic versions available. However, Akhaltsikhe Municipality Town Hall printed pamphlets and made a public presentation of the budget guideline. By the time of this report, the Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly was working on the document. 
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Major
Civic Participation: Marginal
Per the NAP 2016−2018, low public knowledge of local budget governance was cited as problematic in municipalities. After publishing program budgets, citizens can access the information for all four municipalities in more detail. Budget program format is different from previously available budgets as it provides spending information by programs (rather than by implementing agencies), is more detailed, and illustrates a clearer link between financial resources and outputs.  The citizen’s guidebook also serves as an important information source for the population, making budgetary processes more understandable. However, as focus groups in Akhlatsikhe and Ozurgeti showed, there is lack of information on these new resources. One issue raised by group participants was general skepticism toward decision-makers about their tendency to disregard concerns of the population. Therefore, regular communication with citizens is crucial to strengthen trust and encourage civic participation.
“Plan City Budget” is a novelty that seeks citizen input on budget priorities. Since its introduction in the beginning of 2018, Akhaltsikhe Municipality received 78 budget proposals, while Kutaisi Municipality received 28 proposals; this indicates active civic interest and participation. Both Akhaltsikhe and Kutaisi Municipalities created working groups to assess the proposals. However, their structure and methods to process the proposals differ. The newly established working group at Kutaisi Municipality Town Hall consists of representatives from the government, CSOs, media and private sectors, as well as independent citizens; the Akhaltsikhe group consists of Town Hall representatives.  While Akhaltsikhe Municipality does not restrict the number of proposals for public voting, Kutaisi publishes only three, which may limit the population’s role.  The Kutaisi working group provides feedback to authors whose proposals were rejected.  Leading proposals for Akhaltsikhe included creating green and recreational spaces, painting houses and fixing streetlights, building a stadium, and constructing a building in the village Atskuri. Others concerned fixing water pipelines, creating playgrounds for children, and road construction. Akhaltsikhe Town Hall already allocated funds for the selected proposal within the 2019 budget on creating green areas, while proposals in Kutaisi municipality are still undergoing the evaluation process.
To increase public awareness and engagement, the GGI project experts plan to visit Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe to develop outreach campaigns.  As Batumi and Ozurgeti Municipalities did not introduce the mechanism within the National Action Plan 2016−2018 cycle, there was no civic engagement in the budgetary planning process in this regard. Kutaisi Municipality Town Hall conducted awareness-raising activities, including appearances on television programs and meetings with youth, to inform them about the portal. However, a representative of the Town Hall stressed the lack of civic participation due to the inconvenience of timing the outreach campaign during the summer period. 
The commitment was not carried forward in the new action plan (2018−2019). However, through GGI support, Batumi Municipality Town Hall made a related commitment, which aims to enhance civic participation in budgetary planning processes through institutionalizing the participatory planning mechanisms. The commitment details awareness-raising activities to promote participatory mechanisms, as well as envisages adapting legal framework to institutionalize them.
On a long-term perspective, the IRM researcher advises developing standardized institutional procedures for budgetary proposal discussions and public voting, as well as creating uniform websites and participatory tools for all municipalities across the country. Beyond this commitment, in 2017, Tbilisi City Hall took steps to develop a participatory budget planning mechanism.  As other municipalities desire to adopt the system, it would be useful to coordinate these activities and agree on a unified approach. The central government could provide support and coordination to make budgetary processes in municipalities sustainable across all Georgian municipalities. The responsible agencies could be the Ministry of Justice (which operates the State Development Agency (SDA)),  the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (which facilitates state budget governance and modern technologies),  and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (which coordinates the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia to strengthen institutional capacity and local government unit services).  Municipalities can also approach IDFI for support in developing user-friendly websites with participatory tools, similar to Zugdidi and Kutaisi. 
 Law of Georgia, “Approval of the 2018 budget of the city of Kutaisi municipality” doc. no. 21 (18 Jan. 2018), https://bit.ly/2Ri8UI2; Law of Georgia, “On Changes and Amendments to the Resolution # 1 of 12 January 2018 of Ozurgeti Municipality Sakrebulo 'On Approval of the 201 Year Ozurgeti Municipal Budget'” doc. no. 44 (27 Aug. 2018), https://bit.ly/2AtTL0M; Law of Georgia, “Approval of the 2018 Akhaltsikhe Municipality budget” doc. no. 28 (22 Dec. 2017), https://bit.ly/2CL0S6v; Law of Georgia, “Approval of the budget of the Batumi city municipality in 2018” doc. no. 41 (26 Dec. 2017), https://bit.ly/2PnoipA.
 Mikheil Darchiashvili (Governance Program Manager) and Levan Samadashvili (Deputy Chief of Party, Tetra Tech ARD), interview with IRM researcher, 19 Oct. 2017.
 Ednar Nataridze (Head of the Financial Department, Batumi Town Hall), phone interview with IRM researcher, 28 Oct. 2018.
 Nino Tvaltvadze (Deputy Mayor, Kutaisi City Hall), phone interview with IRM Researcher, 29 Oct. 2018.
 Tvaltvadze, interview, 29 Oct. 2018.
Guram Melikidze (Deputy Mayor of Akhaltsikhe Municipality Town Hall), phone interview with IRM Researcher, 29 Oct. 2018.
 Mikheil Darchiashvili (Governance Program Manager) and Levan Samadashvili (Deputy Chief of Party, Tetra Tech ARD), 19 Oct. 2018.
 Tvaltvadze, interview 29 Oct. 2018.
 Municipal Development Fund, http://mdf.org.ge/?site-path=fund/about/&site-lang=en.
 Saba Buadze (IDFI, Anti-Corruption Direction Head), interview with IRM researcher, 1 Nov. 2018.