Opportunities for Citizen Participation in the Budgetary Process

Getting Started

Opportunities for public to participate in the budget process are most commonly administered by the executive branch of government. However, in recent years, this task has been shared with or transferred to the legislature in some jurisdictions. This provides an alternative avenue for citizen participation in this process and is an additional tool for fiscal oversight.

This section of the toolkit contains a sample of  practices that  can  be  applied  to  create  opportunities  for  the public  to  participate  in  the  budget  process through various mediums. Each type of practice includes:

(1) Responsible actor that could implement this practice

(2) Participation level involved in accordance with the Citizen Participation Ladder

(3) Description of the practice

(4) Examples of the practice applied

Getting Started

Opportunities for public to participate in the budget process are most commonly administered by the executive branch of government. However, in recent years, this task has been shared with or transferred to the legislature in some jurisdictions. This provides an alternative avenue for citizen participation in this process and is an additional tool for fiscal oversight.

This section of the toolkit contains a sample of  practices that  can  be  applied  to  create  opportunities  for  the public  to  participate  in  the  budget  process through various mediums. Each type of practice includes:

(1) Responsible actor that could implement this practice

(2) Participation level involved in accordance with the Citizen Participation Ladder

(3) Description of the practice

(4) Examples of the practice applied

Overview of the Budgetary Process

In any democracy, no money can be raised or spent without the prior approval of the legislature. The legislative branch of government scrutinizes the executive branch’s budget proposals, debates them, amends or proposes alternatives – depending on the system of government – and approves or rejects them. The role of the legislative branch is to hold the government’s spending to account by scrutinizing its assumptions, its spending and revenue raising plans, as well as the results of its spending and revenue decisions. To fulfil its role, the legislative branch performs a variety of functions throughout the financial cycle and may be supported in its functions by several sources: library of parliament, independent fiscal institution, supreme audit institution, political party research staff, and civil society.

This infographic provides an overview of the budgetary process with a focus on parliament’s role in each phase and a general idea of how parliament can enable public participation.

Fiscal Ecosystem

Several actors are involved across all phases of the budgetary process, each with their respective roles. Understanding the fiscal ecosystem can be helpful to identifying effective ways to involve the public in this process.

This infographic describes each of the actors and summarizes their role in the budgetary process.

Open Budget Survey

The Open Budget Survey is the world’s only independent, comparative assessment of the three pillars of public budget accountability: transparency, oversight and public participation. In terms of public participation, its analysis focuses on the use of mechanisms for participation (especially of marginalized groups) in the formulation of the annual budget, mechanisms for the public to monitor the implementation of the budget, information sharing prior to the public’s participation, public hearings at various stages of the budget and explanations of how public input has been integrated, among other criteria.  

Consult your country’s results and engage with its author, the International Budget Partnership, to find out more and contribute your feedback. 

Responsible actor: Committees

Participation level: Consult

Parliamentary committees can conduct consultations with experts and the public and produce a report on their results for consideration by the government in the formulation of its budget. Consultations can be open-ended, centered on one or several specific topics of importance determined by the committee or aimed at specific segments of the population. Consultation methods can include public hearings, community round tables, written submissions, testimonies before committees, household surveys and online surveys among others. Ideally, a report summarizing the result of the consultations is presented.

Some examples are listed below.

Responsible actor: Parliament, Committees

Participation level: Consult

Parliament or committees can provide opportunities for the public to contribute their views on the budget proposal to be considered by parliamentarians as they debate and vote on the budget proposal. Consultation methods can include public hearings, community round tables, written submissions, testimonies before committees, household surveys and online surveys among others. Ideally, a report summarizing the result of the consultations is presented.

An example is listed below.

Responsible actor: Parliamentarians

Participation level: Collaborate

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It is most commonly applied in regards to specific programs or municipal-level programs. Existing tools can be helpful for this practice.

Note: In some Parliaments, it can also be applied to constituency development funds, which are funding arrangements that channel money from central government directly to electoral constituencies for local infrastructure projects. These funds are generally controlled by individual parliamentarians. The use of constituency development funds has been considered potentially risky by the International Budget Partnership because it may promote a form of clientalism. There is concern that these practices have few accountability mechanisms and it may give constituents a false understanding that the role of their parliamentarian is to directly fund public projects. By utilizing a participatory budgeting approach to allocate these resources, parliaments would be promoting a more transparent and accountable process, thereby contributing to a more equitable and effective distribution of constituency development funds.

Some examples are listed below.

  

Responsible actor: Committees 

Participation levelConsult 

Parliamentary committees at various stages of the budget, from examining the budget proposal, to monitoring implementation and reviewing public accounts, can hold public hearings to not only inform citizens but also hear and consider their questions and input. Such hearings can take place in parliament or within different regions in the country, and feedback from experts and citizens can be provided in-person or through online tools.

An example is listed below.

Good Practices

The following practices have been submitted by parliamentarians and related stakeholders, and describe techniques that can be applied to:

Creating Opportunities for Citizen Participation in the Budgetary Process

Next Section: Creating Regulatory Frameworks for Citizen Participation