Participatory budgeting. Support in moving forward to transparency and deeper democracy
The Project “Public budgets from A to Z: greater civil society awareness, access and participation” is tasked to involve the general public, the media, and civil society organizations (CSOs) in public finances monitoring and drawing up the state and local budgets. The Project was being implemented (2016-2018) by East Europe Foundation and the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation PAUCI funded by the European Union.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
One of the Project key component aimed to develop participatory budgeting in 8 Ukrainian cities: Drohobych, Dolyna, Bila Tserkva, Severodonetsk, Mykolaiv, Kropyvnytsky, Mirgorod, Energodar and 2 ATC: Bilozirskaya ATC, and the Balta ATC, chosen on a competitive basis through an open invitation out of 78 applications.
Experts focused on the development of two components of the participatory budget: e-democracy and deliberative democracy. E-platform has helped to raise local resident’s role in the budget process and increased the number of participants in the projects selection process.
Deliberative approach (widespread discussion of decisions) was aimed to form local teams that organizationally provide the process and authors of the projects, helped them in finding ideas.
Ukrainian and international experts considered the process of participatory budgeting from different perspectives: organizing information; counseling; dialogue and partnership among key stakeholders; multi-sectoral training for local government officials, civil society organizations and active citizens.
Informing local communities considered as the initial process of the public budgeting, therefore, one of the areas of support was methodological and financial support of the information campaign. Information about different stages was carried out through various channels of communication: radio, TV, newspapers, flyers, announcements, organization of meetings, etc.
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT
First of all, it is worth emphasizing the growing of PB financial strength, namely, amount of money provided for the implementation of winning projects. In Mykolaiv, this amount increased from 10 million UAH in 2017 up to 12 million UAH in 2018; from 5.3 million UAH to 7.2 million UAH in Bila Tserkva; from 3 million UAH to 5 million UAH in Kropyvnitskyi, from 750 thousand UAH to 900 thousand UAH in Mirgorod and from 250 thousand UAH up to 500 thousand in Drohobych.
Continuing all-Ukrainian trend, activity of the project authors decreased. Only Dolyna showed the growth - 17 projects in 2018 and 3 in 2017.
At the same time, another trend persists - number of winning projects increases in the majority of communities.
Another equally important indicator is a number of inhabitants involved in the voting process. It helps to assess the quality of the support of information campaign and communication policy of the local authority.
To analyze the PB impact on the community, PAUCI Foundation conducted a survey that points out that in most communities, PB has become an effective tool for communication between local authorities and the community. Local authorities have received an analysis of the most problematic issues and proposals for their solution.
During the survey, impact assessment on governing quality was carried out according to the following criteria:
1. Informing about the needs of residents and increasing the efficiency of public tasks.
In Sievierodonetsk, Mykolaiv, Drohobych, Biloziria ATC, a number of projects which for one reason or another were not admitted to voting or not received enough votes were recommended to be included in the relevant programs or to allocate part of the city budget to solve the corresponding problems.
2. New ideas.
In Energodar, profile departments received a list of problems that most residents are interested in, as well as promising ideas that can be implemented with the city budget within existing target programs.
3. Public control.
In Mykolaiv high level of interaction of the local authorities with community and projects authors is noted, which is carried out at all stages of the implementation of PB.
4. Improving the efficiency of administration.
For most communities, implementation of PB becomes an additional burden on the various structural units, but participation in PB allows to increase professional skills in the field of social communication and public administration for the relevant departments.
5. Well-balanced decisions.
In the Balta ATC, Drohobych, Energodar, Kropivnitsky, high attention is paid to deliberative processes. Increased number and quality of consultation meetings with activists allows to consider a broader range of stakeholders and creates conditions for the further development of deliberative processes in the community.
No less important is mobilizing civil society as well. As a result, new leaders, initiative groups are emerging. The public budget has made it possible to unite previously unknown people around their ideas and interests. It formed an active community in the city, dialogue and cooperation between the community and local authorities.
Impact assessment on the local community has its own criteria:
1. Growth of the local participation, the emergence of new leaders and initiative groups.
The surveyed communities pointed to a significant activation of the local community. Mobilization of the community around project authors is indicated in the Balta OTG, Energodar, Kropivnitsky. It should be noticed, that project authors actively use other forms of public participation: public hearings, local initiatives, e-petitions. PB became a real school of civic education in Severodonetsk, Mykolayiv and Energodar. In Drohobych local administration managed to intensify the involvement of young people and students in the social and political life.
2. Improving knowledge and skills of civic activists.
In general, the project authors are better understood budget process through their participation in the PB process and acquired new skills in project management. For example, in Myrhorod, citizens prepared project, in collaboration with the Polish sister city to be financed under the programme of the British Council's Cultural Bridges in Ukraine after participation in workshops relating to the project preparation.
3. Growth of trust to local authorities.
Common search for solutions to local problems increasing trust between community and local administration.
An example of cooperation can be found in the "mixed" format of working groups, including representatives of civil society, local authorities and members of local councils.
In the opinion of the surveyed communities the biggest challenges are the following issues: participation of budgetary and educational institutions in PB processes, control over the implementation of projects, as well as control over paper voting.
According to experts, possible directions of improvement of the PB process are:
strengthening the PB practitioners’ community; strengthening formal and informal ties through the holding of International PB Practitioners' Forum, Regional Forums, and other events;
awareness of the need for constant improvement and change of the public budget;
introduction to new PB practices that will meet the needs and interests of local communities, development of the national PB standards.