Incorporating feedback: Citizens should be involved in all stages of budget making at local level

Study calls budget-making process in Pakistan ‘closed, restricted’.


Our Correspondent August 26, 2014

LAHORE: Citizens usually have little opportunity to participate in the budget-making exercise. They are, therefore, unable to improve their standards of living, states a study on Budget Making Process at District Level in the Punjab.

The budget-making process in Pakistan is closed and restricted as people are unaware of their rights and responsibilities, says the study report released on Tuesday.

The Centre for Peace and Development Initiative has launched the report in collaboration with the Citizen Network for Budget Accountability.

According to the International Budget Partnership budget analysis and advocacy can be a tool for improving effective governance and reducing poverty, the study states.

“According to the District Budget Rules of 2003, it is the duty of all district governments in the Punjab to arrange pre-budget seminars and consultation sessions with relevant stakeholders.

The rules also define the stakeholders, including councils, elected representatives, general public, women’s organisations, private sector, citizen community boards, District Mushawarat Committee, non-government organisations and community-based organisations,” according to the study.

It says district governments are required, by law, to incorporate feedback from these stakeholders in the final budget proposals.

“However, it was observed during the study that most of the districts government paid no attention to public participation in the budget- making process.”

It says that most rules were not followed in letter and spirit affecting performance of district governments.

“Due to lack of political oversight, bureaucracy at the district level is lethargic and not accountable.

The budget-making process should incorporate local voices and people’s participation should be increased to prepare a people-centric budget.”

It said that the participation should start at the time of Budget Call Letter and should end when district officers finalise budget documents.

“Since literacy level is low in Pakistan and budget documents are difficult to comprehend, easy to understand citizen budgets should be prepared and disseminated among citizens. Citizen budgets will be an important instrument of public accountability. People [seeing these] can raise questions about the spending heads in the budget,” the study states.

It favoured launching district government websites. It said that district budget offices should be directed to share budget-related information with the academia, students, researchers and civil society organisations for accountability and feedback.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.

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