July 11, 2018

Georgia: Accountability through Access

Transparency Website Exceeds 1,000 Hits a Day

Georgia is considered a relative success story among post-Soviet states. A decade ago the country’s campaign to tackle petty corruption was widely hailed as a success, yet issues have persisted. In 2015, Georgia’s State Audit Office (SAO) uncovered billions of dollars of wasteful spending, exposing serious flaws in the management of public finances. Poor accountability has been underpinned by the public’s lack of understanding of budget issues. Two-thirds of Georgians said the government failed to effectively inform them about public spending. In response, the SAO is enlisting citizens in the fight for accountability and enabling more transparent information of budget data.

The SAO built an online platform for budget information. It hosts an array of information — public debt, major infrastructure projects, municipal budgets, and audits — all visualized for ease of use. But its real power is its potential to get people involved. A “citizen” tab invites users to identify issues, report cases of corruption, and prioritize government agencies to audit.

The site initially clocked one thousand hits a day with help from media coverage and support from civil society. In the first six months of operation, the site received 23 submissions, more than four times the level of previous efforts. An important long-term benefit is raising the profile of the SAO and its audits, providing political cover to tackle deeper, more entrenched issues in the country’s finances.