About This Guide

What is public participation in fiscal policies?

Public participation refers to the variety of ways in which citizens and the general public, including civil society organizations and other non-­‐state actors, interact directly with public authorities with respect to the design, implementation and review of public policies by any form of communication. Participation ranges from one-­‐off consultations to on-­‐going and institutionalized relationships that leave records subject to access to information (Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies).

Direct public participation in government fiscal policy and budget making has been established as a right in the High Level Principles of Fiscal Transparency, Participation and Accountability, promulgated by the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT). Principle 10 establishes: ‘Citizens and non-state actors should have the right and effective opportunities to participate directly in public debate and discussion over the design and implementation of fiscal policies.’

What are the Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies?

The Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies are a set of principle that aim to guide fiscal policy makers and other stakeholders in their efforts to improve government performance and public trust. They are the result of a collaborative and deliberative process in which central government finance ministry officials, officials in line ministries, local authorities, members of the legislature as well as legislative support bodies, officials from audit institutions and a wide range of civil society representatives, debated in a series of workshops, about public participation in fiscal policies and national budget processes. Inputs from a wider public were also gathered through a web-based public consultation on a set of draft ‘Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies’ from August to October 2015.

In particular, the Principles provide guidance for public authorities in their endeavor to ensure that citizens and other non-state actors have effective opportunities to participate directly in public debate and discussion with respect to the design, implementation and review of fiscal policies, observing the following interdependent principles: 

1. Accessibility: Facilitate public participation in general by disseminating complete fiscal information and all other relevant data, in formats and using mechanisms that are easy for all to access, understand, and to use, re-use and transform, namely in open data formats.

2. Openness: Provide full information on and be responsive with respect to the purpose of each engagement, it’s scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.

3. Inclusiveness: Pro-actively use multiple mechanisms to reach out to engage citizens and non-state actors, including traditionally excluded and vulnerable groups and individuals, and voices that are seldom heard, without discrimination on any basis including nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste; and consider public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source.

4. Respect for self-expression: Allow and support individuals and communities, including those directly affected, to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of engagement that they prefer, while recognizing that there may be groups that have standing to speak on behalf of others.

5. Timeliness: Allow sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase; engage early while a range of options is still open; and, where desirable, allow for more than one round of engagement.

6. Depth: Support each public engagement by providing all relevant information, highlighting and informing key policy objectives, options, choices and trade-offs, identifying potential social, economic, and environmental impacts, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives; provide timely and specific feedback on public inputs and how they have been incorporated or not in official policy or advice.

7.  Proportionality: Use a mix of engagement mechanisms proportionate to the scale and impact of the issue or policy concerned.

8. Sustainability: All state and non-state entities conduct on-going and regular engagement to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time; institutionalize public participation where appropriate and effective, ensuring that feedback provided leads to review of fiscal policy decisions; and regularly review and evaluate experience to improve future engagement.

9. Complementarity: Ensure mechanisms for public participation and citizen engagement complement and increase the effectiveness of existing governance and accountability systems.

10. Reciprocity: All state and non-state entities taking part in public engagement activities should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, and who they represent; should commit to and observe all agreed rules for engagement; and should cooperate to achieve the objectives of the engagement.

The Guide on Principles and Mechanisms of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies

The Guide identifies mechanisms or practices that illustrate GIFT’s Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies and organizes them across a number of dimensions (described below) to provide “how to” guidance tailored to those who wish to implement similar efforts.

The guidance should not be understood as a source of prescriptive recipes, but rather as a catalogue of viable approaches to integrate public participation into fiscal policies, each of which must be defined on a case-by-case basis depending on specific goals and broader context.

Who is this Guide for?

This site is intended for ministries of finance and other central government executive departments or ministries; legislative committees engaged in the formulation and review of the budget; citizens and community members interested in engaging in the way public funds are raised and used; and civil society organizations, private sector entities, research institutes and academics that are actively seeking to engage with governments.

What will I find in this Guide?

Each mechanism is presented and discussed with the following sections and dimensions:

1. Summary

Briefly describes the mechanism as it was implemented, and the particular policy objectives and public demands or expectations that the practice was or is intended to address.

2. Basic facts

This section succinctly identifies when the practice takes place, that is the Stage in the Fiscal Policy Cycle (for the purpose of the Guide, we follow a classification with the following stages: formulation, enactment, implementation, audit); where it happens, that is at what level of government (national, regional, or local); and who implements it, that is the Executive Branch, the Legislature, the Supreme Audit Institution, or a Non-state actor (more detail on who implements is offered in a following section).

3. Why

This section explains what the objective of incorporating public participation is, and when available how success is to be measured.

4. Authorizing environment

Discusses whether there is specific law or regulation that provides authority for or that directs officials to engage the public? If the mechanism is an Open Government Partnership commitment, a tag will link to it. The aim is to define what the general enabling environment is?

5. Who and how

This section aims to capture the process step by step, allowing the user to know where to start. It describes how the mechanism was designed and implemented, discussing:

6. Results and impact

Here, the Guide presents how has the input generated through the participation process been used, seeking to elucidate the extent to which participation makes a difference. To that extent, some of the questions approached here are: does the institution give feedback on results of participation? What problem did it solve/overcome? In some cases, it is possible to provide external references about the mechanism (study, survey, other publications).

Note:  cases for which there is as yet no evidence of impact can be included in the Guide, but this has to be clear and transparent.

7. Lessons learned

This section summarizes and links to any assessments or evaluations of the intervention e.g. an OGP IRM report, a departmental review, a CSO review, a program evaluation or SAI assessment, a score on an Open Budget Survey question. It seeks to identify the lessons learned by the practitioners who implemented the mechanism as well as tips and the main conditions and factors associated to the success of the practice.

Importantly, the Guide can include mechanisms that have failed. In such cases, the lessons learned on why they failed will be most relevant. The Guide will attempt to capture adaptive learning; progress over time of mechanisms. When information is available, this section discusses whether the mechanism has been replicated elsewhere within the country, or in another country.

8. Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policies

This part discusses to how many GIFT Public Participation Principles the mechanism aligns to. When appropriate, it will also offer recommendations of potential actions that would allow the mechanism to engage more of the principles.

9. Country context

This Guide does not seek to offer in depth context descriptions or analysis. However, it provides information to facilitate a general understanding of the surrounding factors and conditions in which the mechanism in question took place. Users of the Guide can contrast them with their own. Specifically, these will include:

a. Type of government

b. Civic space (size of civil society, regulatory framework)

c. Open Budget Survey scores – the overall budget transparency score, and the scores for public participation. Indicate whether the intervention is measured by the OBS.

d. Score on TI Corruption Perceptions Index

How can I contribute to the Guide?

The Guide initially offers a relatively small number of cases, but more will be progressively added in the future, subject to demand.  You can nominate a new case or experience in practice where there are lessons and models to share. GIFT is considering practices that have been documented in some way; it could be a case study that is already written up, a video, interview or blog post hosted elsewhere.

The “Submit Yours” section in this site includes a methodological note that provides guidance for the development of new cases.

Get in touch by e-mail guide@fiscaltransparency.net