Anti-Corruption - Fiscal Openness - Participatory Decision-Making - Asia and the Pacific

When Citizens Have a Voice on Public Spending

Georgia / September 19, 2021

2018 OGP Global Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia | Credit: OGP


By building a website that allowed citizens to understand the government budgets and report concerns, Georgia empowered its citizens to keep the government accountable.

Shielded From View, Georgia Wastes Billions

In Georgia, the general public has not been well informed on its government’s budget processes, and as a result have not known how to look for and recognize corruption or incompetence. Although a decade ago the country’s campaign to tackle petty corruption was widely hailed as a success, 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. That same year, in the Open Budget Survey, two-thirds of Georgians said the government failed to effectively inform them about public spending. They needed more access to be able to hold the government accountable.

Reviewing Budgets and Reporting Wrongdoing

Included in Georgia’s 2016-2018 OGP action plan is the goal of increasing citizen participation in supervision of public finances. The SAO created an online platform to improve accountability and transparency of budget data. The site now hosts data on public debt, major infrastructure projects, municipal budgets, and audits — all presented in an easy-to-understand way.

The website features several pages that encourage public input. For example, the “Fight Corruption” function allows citizens to report cases of corruption, which are then passed on to an auditor. This combines the means of understanding and reacting to government budgeting in one destination. Another part of the site, the “Citizen Page,” enables citizens to suggest government bodies for auditing as part of the following year’s Annual Audit Plan, even allowing you to select priority areas for examination.

The goal of this user-friendly website is to help the public become more familiar with the budgeting and auditing processes, using information provided by the SAO. With this, they will be able to notify the office about any wrongdoing they uncover and any shortcomings in government service where budget allocation isn’t leading to sufficient quality of governance. This citizen participation is made possible by the demands for a transparent and shared management of public resources.

Georgia’s Budget Monitor website | Credit: Georgia State Audit Office

Budget Scrutiny Yields Results, Reports Quadruple

The site has been popular with the public, initially tallying one thousand hits per day. SAO estimates there have been more than 15,000 unique visitors, with an average of 400-500 unique users each month.

As for the report functions, in its first six months, the site saw 23 reports submitted – more than four times the number of reports received following previous efforts at achieving transparency. These included reports of corruption and suggestions on how to make improvements to healthcare, education, and other public services.

The platform’s success so far has shown that by bringing the public up to speed on budgetary processes and equipping them to report problems, it has potential to tackle financial corruption and mismanagement. To achieve this, it is important to raise the profile of the SAO and its audits, providing political power to tackle deeper, more entrenched issues in the country’s finances. Popularization of the website, however, remains complicated. There is still a low level of citizen participation. The development of the platform was intended to work alongside a new Freedom of Information Act, which is a key priority for civil society and would improve the range of information that could be accessed through the Budget Monitor platform.

Building On New Foundations of Trust

Looking ahead, the site has the potential to tackle deeper, more entrenched issues in the country’s finances. To make this a reality, the SAO could amplify its work through a large-scale outreach campaign. With a higher profile, the platform stands to have an even more powerful impact. To achieve this SAO included a related commitment in the 2018-2019 action plan, with a specific focus on citizen engagement in the audit process. The SAO plans to launch a feedback mechanism through Budget Monitor to improve the efficiency and speediness of the responses to citizen reports.

Last updated: September 20, 2021