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Romania

Citizen Budgets (RO0050)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Romania Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Public Finance (MFP), Office for Public Information, Public Relations and Transparency

Support Institution(s): Ministry for Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP), Centre for Public Innovation Funky Citizens

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Fiscal Openness, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Publication of Budget/Fiscal Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Romania Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, Romania Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Citizens Budgets
2018 - 2019 Lead implementing agency/actor Ministry of Public Finance (MFP), Office for Public Information, Public Relations and Transparency Other actors involved State actors Ministry for Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP) CSOs, private sector, multilaterals Centre for Public Innovation Funky Citizens What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The draft budget is publicly presented for debate, but the format of the document is very difficult to understand for the general public, even for citizens with a high level of education that are not experts in the field. Commitment description What is the commitment? The commitment aims to gradually introduce, for the central and local government, the mandatory budgets for citizens, a narrative form of public budgets. How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? Effective management of public resources Improving public services Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? Introducing Citizens' Budgets as an information tool in the process of adopting public budgets Milestone activity with a verifiable deliverable Responsible agency / partner Start Date: End Date: Preparing a Budget for Citizens from the state budget for the year 2019 and presenting it during the consultation period MFP September 2018 December 2018 Making and presenting the BPC for the 2019 budget MFP December 2018 February 2019 Drafting and adopting rules that introduce BpC's obligation for all public authorities MFP / MDRAP TBD TBD Preparing, initiating and implementing a support program regarding the use of BpC for public authorities MFP / MDRAP TBD TBD

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Citizens Budgets

Commitment Text: "The commitment aims to gradually introduce, for the central and local government, the mandatory budgets for citizens, a narrative form of public budgets."

Milestones:

    • Preparing a Budget for Citizens from the state budget for the year 2019 and presenting it during the consultation period
    • Making and presenting the Citizens’ Budget for the 2019 budget
    • Drafting and adopting rules that introduce the Citizens’ Budget obligation for all public authorities
    • Preparing, initiating and implementing a support program regarding the use of the Citizens’ Budget for public authorities

Start Date: September 2018 ...............................................

End Date: To be determined

Editorial Note: The commitment text is abridged. The full text can be found in the OGP 2018-2020 national action plan.

Context and Objectives

The International Budget Partnership’s (IBP)’s 2017 Open Budget Survey revealed that Romania scored highly on fiscal transparency, yet poorly on citizen engagement. For instance, Romania published all the essential budgetary documents except the Citizens’ Budget [25]—a less technical version of the proposed or approved budget created to give the broad public essential information. Few citizens comment on the published draft state budget, although they are legally permitted to do so, [26] which according to a civil society representative is because they do not have any infographics or narrative to help them understand the proposed expenditures or the choices to be made for the budget. [27] In 2017, a visualization was compiled for the 2018 approved state budget, based on the data published by the Ministry of Public Finances (MFP), by a Romanian NGO—Open Budget [28]—which also created an interactive application to visualize and modify the 2018 and 2019 [29] approved state budgets. Their user-friendly explanation constitutes a possible form of a Citizens’ Budget.

With this commitment, MFP will further give access to budgetary information by publishing on its website [30] another user-friendly explanation of the 2019 approved and rectified state budget in the autumn of 2019. This will resemble the 2018 Citizens’ Budget brochure that the MFP published, [31] following IBP’s best practice model. [32] More importantly, MFP will prepare and submit for public consultation a Citizens’ Budget for the 2019 draft state budget, thereby furthering citizen participation.

There are some early signals that implementation of this commitment will have challenges. According to the MFP representative, despite Milestone 3.3, MFP does not have the instruments or the resources to oblige other institutions of the public administrations to present their budgets in a user-friendly way. [33] An interviewed Ministry for Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP) representative stated that MDRAP’s role is to support the MFP’s initiatives to build the Citizens’ Budgets for public administration. [34] It remains unclear which rules are required, who will design them, and whether this milestone will be continued in the absence of direct intervention from the government. Thus, it remains unclear who will take responsibility for this milestone and in which form.

Nevertheless, if MFP and MDRAP could (as written in the commitment) collaborate and produce explanatory brochures at the level of public administration and support efforts of the public administration to showcase their prospective and realized budgetary decisions via user-friendly infographics, this commitment could improve budgetary participation in Romania. According to a civil society representative, citizens’ budgets are particularly relevant for participatory budgeting, as they give citizens a better understanding of how the decisions to spend the state budget were made. [35] Nevertheless, it is important to note that Citizens’ Budget brochures that are published after the budget has been approved and rectified do not further budgetary participation (though they do offer additional information on the budgetary choices that have been made).

Next steps

This commitment addresses an important policy area, considering the limited citizen engagement in budgetary decisions in Romania. The following recommendations can help guide its implementation as well as its possible continuation in the next action plan:

Publish more explanatory brochures for the 2020 budget.

  • The MFP has not been able to publish an explanatory brochure for citizens next to the draft state budget of 2019. [36] Although this opportunity was missed in 2019, an explanatory brochure could still encourage budgetary participation if it would accompany the 2020 draft budget, ideally at the end of the 2019 calendar year.
  • More importantly, MFP could publish an explanatory brochure to accompany the adopted budget at the beginning of the 2020 calendar year, and another to accompany the revised budget in the second half of the 2020 calendar year.

Have more conversations on the topic of budgetary participation.

  • Civil society has been critical towards the current budgetary participation practices and originally proposed this commitment. MFP could actively involve them in improving the practice of budgetary participation by:
  • organizing a series of discussions or working groups on the explanatory brochures and analyze the 2018 and 2019 published brochures (e.g., assess their usefulness, ways to improve their content, narrative, and/or design; assess their visibility and find ways to promote them among the wider public);
  • organizing a series of discussions or working groups on the practice of budgetary participation to find the best practices and see under which circumstances they could be implemented.
  • MFP could raise public awareness of the concept of budgetary participation and the role and responsibility of the citizen. This can be done via trainings—e.g., school lectures, university seminars, online masterclasses, brochures, etc. Civil society could be involved as facilitators or content creators. [37]

Pilot budgetary participation on smaller samples.

The government could set up an inter-ministerial working group (with experts from MFP and MDRAP) to:

  • Identify the (local) public administrations that would be interested in the topic of and implementation of budgetary participation and select the most suitable administrations. For example, the survey MDRAP conducted among local public administrations (see Commitment 2) revealed that budgetary participation was desired by many local public administrations.
  • Design a protocol for budgetary participation for the institutions piloting it,
  • Secure the technical and financial support for piloting budgetary participation at the level of these administrations,
  • Evaluate the pilot and disseminate the knowledge.

[25] Open Budget Survey 2017 Romania, IBP, available at https://bit.ly/1hHEpcL.

[26]Interview with Bogdan Grunevici, Ministry of Public Finances (MFP), 19 September 2019.

[27] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, Center for Public Innovation (CPI), 16 April 2019.

[28] Funky Citizens (2018) "Romania Open Budget Survey 2017: summary", available [in Romanian] at https://bit.ly/2ZMl0xJ.

[29] Open Budget 2019 application, available [in Romanian] at https://bit.ly/31JSDlj.

[30] "State budget", Ministry of Public Finances, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2kJEIeE.

[31] Ministerul Finantelor Publice (2018) "Bugetul pentru Cetateni", available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2mpVsb9.

[32]Interview with Bogdan Grunevici, MFP, 19 September 2019.

[33]Interview with Bogdan Grunevici, MFP, 19 September 2019.

[34] Interview with Andreea Grigore, Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration (MDRAP), 4 September 2019.

[35] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, CPI, 16 April 2019.

[36]Interview with Bogdan Grunevici, MFP, 19 September 2019.

[37] An interesting exercise in Budgetary Participation is proposed by CPI. See "Bugetare Participativa la Scoala", Centrul pentru Inovare Publica, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2kX9wZl.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Citizens Budgets

Not started

The Ministry of Public Finances (MFP) did not publish an explanatory brochure for citizens alongside either the 2019 draft state budget or for the 2019 approved state budget. Moreover, the 2019 budget was approved through Emergency Ordinance 14/2019. [8] MFP also did not adopt draft rules to introduce the citizens’ budget obligation for all public authorities. Neither MFP nor MLPDA prepared or implemented any programs to support public authorities in executing this obligation. [9]

[8] Emergency Ordinance 14/2019 on approving upper-limits for some indicators specified in the fiscal-budgetary framework for 2019 [in Romanian], https://bit.ly/38jKj0P
[9] Centralized portal, https://bit.ly/36Gp6Oc

Commitments

Open Government Partnership