October 3, 2019

South Africa: Citizens Monitoring Public Budgets

Government reforms and civil society actors in South Africa worked tirelessly to make the government more transparent and curb corruption by making the government’s expenditure publicly accessible. However, the information the government made public was static, unintegrated, and not conducive to engaging public interaction.

Citizens also felt like they had little access and involvement in the budgetary process, so the government committed to creating a portal that would be more accessible and increase citizen participation.

Working with a network of civil society organizations, the government launched Vulekamali – loosely translated, it means open money – a web portal that houses both national and provincial department budgetary information, budgets and actual expenditures for programs and subprograms within departments. Additionally, the portal equips citizens with learning resources on the budget process and external databases (including those with civil society analyses).

The government holds “Civic Information Drives” to explain how to use Vulekamali. The National Treasury and civil society actors have held hackathons and “Data Quests” to promote the use of the data to advance social change. The Data Quests engage civic actors, social workers, public officials, and budget and data analysts on analysis and advocacy needs. The hackathons encourage developers, students, entrepreneurs, and data experts to use the data to create solutions to social issues.

The new portal is already proving to be fruitful. Using the portal, citizens have already created proposals for more housing, equal opportunities for women, and road maintenance and infrastructure.