TUNIS February 25, 2015 – The World Bank and Tunisia’s Ministry of Finance organized a two-day an orientation workshop this week entitled “Advancing Public Participation in the Budget Process—Linking Budget Analysis to Service Delivery Outcomes”. The training aimed to empower civil society and improve accountability by addressing the institutional bottlenecks and capacity gaps suffered by its stakeholders.
With greater budget transparency worldwide, new opportunities have emerged for broader, more effective public participation to help influence budgetary outcomes. Budgets are key documents that lay out a government’s priorities in terms of policies and programs. Democratizing the budget process gives citizens a say in both policy and resource allocation, particularly at local levels. Budget transparency is a prerequisite for public participation and accountability.
“Establishing a budget from a revenue perspective is essential” said Mrs. Olfa Soukri, parliamentarian and rapporteur to the finance committee within the House of People’s Representatives. “Citizens need to be able to access budget details per project and ministry but more importantly per region, governorate and district.”
In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has seen an impressive increase in civil society organizations covering a multitude of sectors including fiscal transparency, access to financial information, local budget monitoring, and budget analyses. The activities of these societies range from monitoring how funds are allocated and spent from the grassroots to national levels. Tunisia has joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and listed disclosure of budget information as key to its OGP action plan.
Eileen Murray, Resident Representative at the World Bank office in Tunis, opened the workshop, saying Tunisia was to be one of the first countries in the region to make budget data available to the public in user friendly formats. “The World Bank is very pleased to have had the opportunity to support the Ministry of Finance in this initiative for the development of the Tunisia Open Budget Portal,” she said. The portal will allow the public free access to budget data through the Ministry of Finance official webpage.
This training workshop was also seen as a first step towards supporting an open government initiative in a decentralized government environment. It aimed to contribute toward creating foundations for citizen engagement in the decentralization process, and to encourage debate in forthcoming local elections.
The objective was also to expand the capacity of Think Tanks and Civil Society Organizations working on issues related to fiscal transparency. Transparency mechanisms include using existing data on budget allocation and expenditure; understanding key entry points for budget analysis to help motivate social accountability; knowing how to present and disseminate such analysis in an user friendly format using “budget briefs”; and becoming “enablers of public dialogue” by learning how to argue for improvement.
Mrs Aicha Karafi, Director General and the Ministry of Finance representative to the OGP pilot finance committee highlighted "The development of the Open Budget Platform and putting it online contributed to the achievement of the ministry’s financial transparency policy and constitutes a key commitment for Tunisia’s OGP action plan” .
In addition to the governance program, the World Bank Group has a Development Policy Loan series and a portfolio of 22 investment and technical assistance operations in Tunisia. This includes 10 loans for about US$1 billion and 12 grants for $51 million focused on water and sanitation, wastewater, decentralization, financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises, higher education and rural development in underdeveloped regions.