The following article discusses one of several participatory budgeting initiatives underway in several countries of southern Africa. -Editor
PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING IN ETHEKWINI MUNICIPALITY, SOUTH AFRICA
This article was prepared by Mr. Owen Naidoo, Financial Officer, Ethikweni Municipality, South Africa
Ethikweni Municipality is located in Durban, South Africa. Participatory Budgeting in Ethikweni Municipality is guided by the Mayor and is facilitated by three departments namely: Treasury; Corporate Policy and Community Participation; and Action Support. The Treasury department is responsible for the compilation, co-ordination and driving of the budget process whilst the Corporate Policy and Community Participation and Action Support departments co-ordinate the participation process with the community and various stakeholders through Regional Public Hearings and Ward Meetings and Integrated Development Plan (IDP) workshops.
The driving force behind the participatory budgeting initiative: Citizens participation in the budgetary process is encouraged by the South African Government and is strongly supported by the legislation which acknowledges that community input is essential in compiling the budget. Thus the budget is believed to be the ‘people’s budget’. South Africa has a democratically elected government and there is freedom of speech as embodied the national Constitution. The Participatory Budgeting process has also been made possible by the political history of South Africa. The imbalance in service delivery needs to be redressed to ensure that the previously disadvantaged communities get an equitable distribution of resources and service delivery.
The participatory budgeting process in Ethikweni Municipality is targeted at all users of information including, the Community, Commerce and Industry. The demographic focus is women, youth, disabled, indigent and previously disadvantaged individuals.
Participatory Budgeting Tools and Methodologies:
- Public and Regional Budget hearings: These are held centrally after the draft budget has been tabled to council. Cluster presentations are done by each cluster head during the hearings;
- Integrated Development Plan Workshops and Ward Meetings: These are held on an ongoing basis and are meant to obtain the views of the citizens.
- The Print and Electronic Media: The budgets are publicized through newspapers, the radio and the council’s website. The draft budget is placed on the council website 90 days prior to the approval of the budgets for comment.
- The Budget is monitored through in-year, monthly, quarterly and annual reporting as required by the legislation. Monitoring is done against service delivery and the Budget Implementation Plan which quantifies measurable targets.
- Inclusiveness: Budgets are presented and questions area asked by the community and responses by Councillors and Officials are recorded. Budgets are amended to include necessary adjustments as required. Concerns pertaining to Provincial / National issues are recorded and communicated to the relevant authorities. The decentralized presentations ensure a participative budgeting process. Presentations are reasonably attended. Community Mobilisers are deployed in various wards to facilitate participation and assist citizens especially in the previously disadvantaged areas. Translators are used to ensure that communication is multi-lingual (diverse society).
Results and Impact of the PB Process:
- Communities are aware of the budgets and resource availability and relate these to service delivery.
- Community feedback enables informed decisions to be made in the budget.
- Helps eliminate the feeling of suspicion, marginalization and exclusion from the budgeting process.
- Creates reliable, transparent and accountable budgeting
Like any other municipality with limited resources and unlimited community needs and wants, Ethikweni is faced by financial constraints in implementing the Participatory Budgeting process.. To counter this problem, a prioritization process takes place to ensure that basic needs are addressed in all communities. Another shortcoming relates to political agendas of parties which create bottlenecks during the budget approval process.
By. Mr. Owen Naidoo, Financial Officer, Ethikweni Municipal Council