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Tbilisi, Georgia

Participatory Budgeting (TBI0007)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Tbilisi Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Tbilisi Municipal Department of Finance, “Municipal Services Development Agency”NCLE,TbilisiMunicipalLegalDepartment,Districts Administrations

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Subnational

IRM Review

IRM Report: Tbilisi, Georgia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

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

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

IMPLEMENTATION OF BUDGET PARTICIPATORY PLANNING MECHANISM
Commitment Description
1. Local Context and Needs:
Currently, citizens practically have no access to the process of formation of the document defining the main content of Tbilisi Government’s activities in the year to come. Furthermore, during budgetary discussions, the public obtains contradicting information through media from opposing parties on this substantial document and they have no possibility to easily check the actual situation without having to spend a great deal of time to cross-check the facts. Therefore, there is a pressing need to introduce Budget Participatory Planning system to allow Tbilisi residents to have an easy access to information related to budget formation process and at same time create very important participation mechanism for them.
2. Commitment Content Description An integrated electronic platform will be created alongside with other electronic applications enabling Tbilisi residents to rate in visually presented thematic budget each thematic priority and, thus, easily reconfigure the priorities in different sequences. Citizens will also be able to see sub-
topics of each priority and will also have access to information about how the budgets of the previous years were allocated, or which distribution of the priorities was supported by the population, what was the distribution in Tbilisi or separately taken municipalities or districts. The program automatically generates the average weighted outcome from the selected priorities. This outcome will be mandatory at any stage of the drafting and approval of the budget. The Tbilisi Forum will give the possibility to leave comments on the Tbilisi Forum and present viewpoints directly to the City Hall. In addition, it will be possible to interactively conduct different types of statistics (budget, year, territories, voting characteristics, etc.). In parallel with the voting process, the municipal and district departments will ensure their engagement with citizens and facilitation of voting process. Deadlines and procedures will be established regarding when platform will open for voting; when it will close; at what stage within the framework of the government procedures of budget formation and correction processes the consideration of the weighted budget drafted by the society will take place and brief explanation about comparison result of the finally approved budget will be published. The requirement and format for informing and interviewing of the public including engagement of people with disabilities and other target groups will also be established.
3. Positive outcome for the Public Access to budgetary process will be significantly increased and the participation mechanism based on dialogue with Tbilisi government will be created. This in itself, will increase the potential of developing of a public orientated budget.
4. Anex№2
Implementation date: 2020
Commitment 2: implementation of Budget Participatory Planning Mechanism
Implementing Entity
Tbilisi Municipal Department of Finance, “Municipal Services Development Agency”NCLE,TbilisiMunicipalLegalDepartment,Districts Administrations.
Description of Current Situation
According to the current situation, the City Hall budget is planned based on the previous year’s budget and preconditions set out in the election program. Additional studies may also be conducted in separate cases. There is no established procedure or effective mechanism for the participatory budget planning.
Main Aim
Approximation of the budget planning to the citizens' renewable needs. Creation of electronic and procedural mechanisms for increasing their managerial involvement in this regard. Establishment of a mechanism of cooperation that will make Tbilisi authorities more accountable to the public.
OGP Principles
Accountability
Civic Participation
Technology and Innovation for Openness and Accountability
Implementation Stages
Provide implementation of application content and software
01.12.2018 - 28.02. 2019
Elaborate and approve system supporting legal act.
01.03.2019 - 30.06.2019
System Testing, Improvement and Implementation
01.03.2019 - 30.10. 2019
Training of City Hall employees
01.09.2019 - 30.10. 2019
Produce a video clip regarding portal and other OGP commitments and disseminate it through social media, mass media or local municipalities’ units
30.10. 2019 - 28.02.2020
System enactment, public engagement in planning and forming of the 2020 budget
01.11.2019 - 28.02.2020
Indicator
- The mechanism of budget participation planning is designed and implemented. Supporting activities and trainings are carried out; - Mechanism includes functions defined in introductory part; - Supporting legal regulations for functioning of applications are developed according to introductory part; - Active informational campaign aimed to raise awareness on engagement mechanism in accordance with the Open Government Communication Strategy of Tbilisi City Hall is carried out throughout the city (preparation of a video clip and its distribution via social media).
Risks and Hypothesis
It is possible to have correctable initial errors in the newly implemented system.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Implementation of Budget Participatory Planning Mechanism

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“An integrated electronic platform will be created alongside with other electronic applications enabling Tbilisi residents to rate in visually presented thematic budget each thematic priority and, thus, easily reconfigure the priorities in different sequences. Citizens will also be able to see sub-topics of each priority and will also have access to information about how the budgets of the previous years were allocated, or which distribution of the priorities was supported by the population, what was the distribution in Tbilisi or separately taken municipalities or districts. The program automatically generates the average weighted outcome from the selected priorities. This outcome will be mandatory at any stage of the drafting and approval of the budget. The Tbilisi Forum will give the possibility to leave comments on the Tbilisi Forum and present viewpoints directly to City Hall. In addition, it will be possible to interactively conduct different types of statistics (budget, year, territories, voting characteristics, etc.). In parallel with the voting process, the municipal and district departments will ensure their engagement with citizens and facilitation of voting process.

Deadlines and procedures will be established regarding when platform will open for voting; when it will close; at what stage within the framework of the government procedures of budget formation and correction processes the consideration of the weighted budget drafted by the society will take place and brief explanation about comparison result of the finally approved budget will be published. The requirement and format for informing and interviewing of the public including engagement of people with disabilities and other target groups will also be established.”

Milestones

2.1. Provide implementation of application content and software

2.2. Elaborate and approve system supporting legal act

2.3. System Testing, Improvement and Implementation

2.4. Training of City Hall employees

2.5. Produce a video clip regarding portal and other OGP commitments and disseminate it through social media, mass media or local municipalities’ units

2.6. System enactment, public engagement in planning and forming of the 2020 budget

Start Date: December 2018

End Date: February 2020

Editorial Note: The commitment text above is an excerpt from the Tbilisi 2018–2020 action plan. The complete text provides detailed and technical information about how the milestones will be carried out. The full commitment text is available here: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Tbilisi_Action-Plan_2018-2020.pdf

Context and Objectives

Participatory budgeting is important for Georgia within the EU Association Agreement and for introducing good governance practices to the country. [18] Georgia ranks among the top five countries in the world, according to budgeting transparency, advancing 28 spots since 2012. [19] However, according to the Local Self-Government Index 2017, [20] most Georgian municipalities lack citizen participation during budget planning processes, and IDFI assesses the country to be at an early stage of evidence-based policy development. [21]

Currently, the Tbilisi budget planning process is a prerogative of City Hall, with the Tbilisi Assembly Committees providing comments and recommendations on City Hall’s draft budget, until the Assembly’s final approval [22]. While the City Assembly meetings to discuss the budget are open to the public, public interest is usually low. [23] Tbilisi’s budget for previous years is published on the municipality website, [24] but currently no participatory mechanisms exist and citizens lack access to the budget planning processes.

As a result, Tbilisi City Hall has committed to introduce an electronic participatory budgeting mechanism for citizens to rate budget priority areas. Following public voting, the program will generate a weighted average to determine the budget priorities. This commitment also foresees the development of relevant documents formalizing processes for City Hall to consider the weighted budget and provide official feedback on the final budget. The newly developed electronic mechanism will not only allow citizens to provide inputs on budgeting but also to gain easier access to information on budget distribution and planning processes. It will also explain through an electronic portal how the funds of previous years were allocated. The commitment is thus relevant to the OGP values of access to information, civic participation, and technology and innovation.

This commitment continues from Commitment 3 from the previous action plan, which involved conducting face-to-face interviews with Tbilisi residents for annual public opinion surveys to support evidence-based budgeting. [25] With OSGF support, the methodology and questionnaires were developed, but this component was not included in the present action plan due to its complexity. [26] To increase the commitment’s relevance and civic participation, TI Georgia and USAID GGI suggested that City Hall allocate specific funds to be spent based on citizens’ priorities. However, according to the Budgetary Department of City Hall, this is too difficult legally to implement. [27] USAID GGI also suggested that Tbilisi City Hall could pursue the Estonian model for participatory budgeting which commits local governments to allocate a certain amount of funds to implement citizen-proposed projects.

This commitment is specific enough to be verifiable considering its detailed milestones in developing the software for the application and system, establishing a legal framework, testing the system, and training relevant City Hall employees. If fully completed, it could have a moderate impact, as citizens will be able to more easily submit their priorities to City Hall for consideration in the Tbilisi budget compared with their ability to do so previously. The creation of an easy-to-use tool for citizens to rate their budget priorities could better integrate the public into the budgeting process. This integration is important, as the budget process often inadequately reflects public needs whereas citizens have practically no access to the budget design process. [28] In terms of access to information, the mechanism will allow citizens to compare budgets from previous years in a user-friendly manner and check the distribution of funds allocated to public priorities. It could also reduce the time needed for citizens to check budgetary information. Citizens will also be able to share their comments on budgeting in the Tbilisi Forum, but the commitment does not specify whether City Hall will be obliged to respond and to reflect these comments in policies.

Although CSOs recognize participation as important for ensuring transparency in budgeting processes, TI Georgia expressed uncertainty about the potential effectiveness and sustainability of this commitment. [29] An interviewed TI Georgia representative stated that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has a similar participatory budgeting mechanism on its website (“Plan Budget”), but it is mostly a formality. Therefore, although this new tool is potentially useful, political commitment and public awareness are needed to motivate the public to use it. Statistics from the MoF website (http://www.survey.mof.ge) show that overall 89 respondents participated in the survey and submitted priority areas in 2019. [30] As a result, the dissemination of a promotional video may not be enough to increase awareness of the new participation mechanism because the commitment requires stronger visibility and an outreach plan. Furthermore, the commitment is ambiguous about operationalization. For example, it states that “in parallel with the voting process, the municipal and district departments will ensure their engagement with citizens,” yet the ways and procedures for engagement are unclear. Finally, specific management procedures for maintaining the portal are not provided.

Next steps

Considering the importance of the commitment, it should be given priority and continued in future action plans if not implemented during the second action plan period (2018-2020). To ensure its effectiveness, the IRM researcher recommends City Hall do the following:

  • Focus on the sustainability of the project: it is important to clearly define the management for operating the mechanism and to allocate personnel who will be responsible for retrieving information from the portal and providing feedback to users.
  • Enhance public outreach for this commitment, as citizens should know about and be able to easily access feedback on their voting so there is meaningful engagement. City Hall should provide information on the whole process along with when and where to expect reasoned responses from City Hall on their inputs, such as through brochures, promotional videos, or website and social media updates. It could also be useful to develop policies for formalizing participatory budgeting and provide in advance the actual figures and percentages that might be influenced by the public budget voting.
  • To support evidence-based policy development and increase relevance of the commitment, it would be useful to conduct public opinion surveys, which were previously part of the commitment. This would require mobilization of considerable human and financial resources.
  • Consider adopting the Estonian model of participatory budgeting (proposed by UUSAID GGI during the action plan development). This process would commit Tbilisi City Hall to allocate a certain amount of funds to implement citizen-proposed projects that are identified through open public voting.
[18] EU-Georgia Relations Factsheet, November 10, 2017: https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/23634/EU-Georgia%20relations,%20factsheet

[19] Georgia is among top 5 countries in budgeting transparency, TI Georgia, 2018: https://www.transparency.ge/ge/post/biujetis-gamchvirvalobis-mxriv-sakartvelo-msoplios-xuteulshia

[20] National Assessment of Georgian Municipalities, IDFI, December 6, 2017: https://idfi.ge/en/national_assessment_of_georgian_municipalities

[21] Assessing Civic Participation in Batumi, Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe Municipalities, 2017: https://idfi.ge/public/upload/IDFI_Photos_2017/idfi_general/Engagement_Practice_Assessment_in_Municipalites_of_Georgia_Final_geo.pdf

[22] Tbilisi Assembly Committees discuss Draft Tbilisi Budget 2019, 1TV, November 2018: https://1tv.ge/news/tbilisis-2019-wlis-biujetis-proeqts-sakrebulos-komisiebi-ganikhilaven/

[23] IRM Tbilisi, Georgia Final Report 2017.

[24] “Tbilisi Budget”, Tbilisi City Hall, accessed April 2, 2019: http://www.tbilisi.gov.ge/page/43?lang=ge

[25] Tsartsidze, Dea, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Tbilisi, Georgia Final Report 2017, pgs. 37-42, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Tbilisi_Final-Report_2017.pdf

[26] Khasia, April 12, 2019.

[27] Topuria, March 15, 2019.

[28] TI Georgia, Analysis and Recommendations of Tbilisi Budget 2019: https://www.transparency.ge/ge/blog/sakartvelos-2019-clis-saxelmcipo-biujetis-proektis-analizi-da-rekomendaciebi

[29] Participatory Budgeting, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, 2016: https://bit.ly/2CZDFgk

[30] Plan Budget, Ministry of Finance: http://survey.mof.ge


Commitments

  1. Smart Map Civic Activity Portal

    TBI0006, 2018, E-Government

  2. Participatory Budgeting

    TBI0007, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Access to Services and Civic Engagement

    TBI0008, 2018, Capacity Building

  4. Transparent Governance

    TBI0009, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. City Hall Transparency

    TBI0010, 2018, E-Government

  6. Information and Civic Activities Portal “Smart Map”

    TBI0001, 2017, Capacity Building

  7. Introduction of Petition System to Tbilisi City Hall, Electronic Petition

    TBI0002, 2017, Capacity Building

  8. Implementation of Participatory Budget Mechanism

    TBI0003, 2017, Capacity Building

  9. Interactive Accessibility to Budget Spending and Introduction of Civic Control Mechanisms

    TBI0004, 2017, Audits and Controls

  10. Introduction of Civic Control and Accessibility Mechanisms for Municipal Services

    TBI0005, 2017, Capacity Building

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