In what ways can citizens participate in the local budget planning process? How can they suggest for which purposes the budget will be spent? Can they assist in the decision-making process as to what in their municipality or town should be financed from the local budget, what is a priority for restoration or construction? Answers to these and similar questions referring to greater transparency of the public finance at the local level were provided today by representatives of the State Audit Institution, Standing conference of towns and municipalities (SKGO), Belgrade Fund for Political excellence (BFPE), Municipality of Ruma and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). They gathered at the presentation of the national promotional campaign “LET’s get to KNOW each other” organized by UNDP with the support of the Government of Switzerland, within the project entitled “Audit improvement at the municipality level with the aim of strengthening responsibility and effectiveness in public finance management”.
In one part of the Project that has been implemented since 2016 there were 15 local self-governments participating with the aim to improve their cooperation with civil society organizations, and thus with citizens and media. The population of these municipalities and towns is now better informed about their rights and opportunities to have an influence on how the local budget will be spent.
“As a result of improved cooperation, parks for children and bicycle paths have been renewed, additional funds have been allocated for transport of people with disabilities, as well as for shelters for victims of violence”, stated Vera Kovačević, a Project Manager, and added: “Also, greater budget funds have been allocated for development of local road infrastructure and support of sports clubs in the local communities”.
The media campaign “LET’s get to KNOW each other” will promote examples of good practice from local self-government which participate in the Project. The aim of this campaign is to inform citizens about the ways they could be helpful with their suggestions on the local budget planning and distribution.
It was stated at the conference today that for greater involvement of citizens and more transparent public finance management it is very important to have an adequate legal framework. The Law on local self-government has been amended and it obliges the local authorities to involve citizens more directly in the work of local self-government until the end of 2018. The Law stipulates the mandatory public discussions before adopting key documents of public importance.
Other than that, the new Law on the planning system, which enters into force in October 2018, stipulates the obligation of conducting consultations in all phases of the process of preparing public policy documents, and provides guidelines for assessment of work-related performance in public administration, which leads to more responsible and more transparent public finance management.