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South Africa – Citizens Track Public Expenditure and Propose New Projects

Sudáfrica – Ciudadanos que dan seguimiento a los gastos públicos y proponen proyectos nuevos

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Coined the rainbow nation to encapsulate the coming together of many different people, South Africa has been a global leader in budget transparency. The work to make the government’s expenditures publicly accessible did not happen overnight. It was the result of government reformers and civil society actors working tirelessly to make the government more transparent and curb corruption.

While the government made budget information available, citizens felt that they had limited access and involvement in the budget decision process that would ultimately impact their daily lives.

South Africa committed to creating a portal that would be more accessible and increase citizen participation. Prior to this commitment, the information the government made public was static, unintegrated, and not conducive to engaging public interaction.

Working with a network of civil society organizations, the government launched Vulekamali – loosely translated, it means open money – a web portal that houses both national and provincial department budgetary information, budgets and actual expenditures for programs and subprograms within departments. Additionally, the portal equipped citizens with learning resources on the budget process, and external databases (including those with civil society analyses). The government holds “Civic Information Drives” to explain how to use Vulekamali. [11]

The National Treasury and civil society actors have held hackathons and “Data Quests” to promote the use of the data to advance social change. [12] The Data Quests engages civic actors, social workers, public officials, and budget and data analysts on analysis and advocacy needs. The hackathons encourage developers, students, entrepreneurs, and data experts to use the data to create solutions to social issues. The new portal is already proving to be fruitful. Using the portal, citizens have already created proposals for more housing, [13] equal opportunities for women, [14] and road maintenance and infrastructure. [15]

[11] “Join Us at a Vulekamali Event in Your Area,” Vulekamali, https://vulekamali.gov.za/events .

[12] “Vulekamali in Kwazulu-Natal,” News and Events, Imali Yethu, accessed 26 June 2019, https://imaliyethu.org.za/news-and-events .

[13] “Land for the Landless,” Vulekamali, Hack Dash, accessed 26 June 2019, https://hackdash.org/projects/5c7a5b2e256b2a1313910607 .

[14] “Budget Breakdown,” Vulekamali, Hack Dash, accessed 26 June 2019, https://hackdash.org/projects/5c7a503d256b2a13139105ea .

[15] “Road Infrastructure Maintenance,” Vulekamali, Hack Dash, accessed 26 June 2019, https://hackdash.org/projects/5c7a4361256b2a13139105e1 .

Photo Credit: Beyond Access, Masiphumelele Library, South Africa

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