Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) demands transparency and citizens’ participation in the budget-making process at district level in Punjab. Punjab Assembly should present budget in the month of April every year to ensure proper debate by the opposition members and treasury benches in the budget session, said CPDI Programme Manager Syed Kausar Abbas.
CPDI launched report on ‘Study of Budget Making Process at District level in Punjab’. The objective of this study is to analyse the processes of budget making at district level and to highlight the status of compliance with the timelines provided in the Budget Rules 2003. Empirical data has been collected from all districts through a network of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from all districts to determine this. The purpose of this exercise is to determine the level of public participation in the budget-making process and also to help the CSOs in identifying the gaps in the process.
Syed Kausar Abbas said that budget is the most important policy document of the government. In the modern day states all policies are supposed to be formulated through active public participation. The federal and provincial budgets are hotly debated in both provincial and national assemblies and discussed in electronic/print media, however, the district budgets are approved in quiet isolation. He said that the Punjab Assembly should present budget in the month of April to ensure proper debate on the budgetary allocations in the public sectors.
Kausar Abbas said that Budget making is a continuous process. The Budget Rules provide a step by step calendar for budget making. The very first step is the issuance of Budget Call Letter which is to be issued in the month of September. It is noted with concern that only one third of the districts issued the BCL on the stipulated time. The next important element is the submission of estimate of expenditures/receipts and the excess/surrender statements. The former makes the basis of next year budget and the later makes the basis of revised budget. It has been observed that only 11 districts were able to complete the exercise of revised budget in time. It is observed that most of the districts did not pass the budget of 2015-16 in time. That is to say that the budget was passed in the month of July (and even later) in these cases.
He said that there has been total ban on CCB schemes, thereby reducing the level of public participation in development planning. Less than half the districts were able to launch ADP schemes while the rest had zero districts ADP. This is largely due to the fact that the PFC shares have not been able to cope with the ever rising current/salary expenditures. Only 14 districts have their own websites while the rest do not have any website. This situation also creates hindrance in sharing of information with the public thus affecting the level of public awareness and facilitation adversely.
The overall lack of public participation at the district level has created alternate modes and forums of public consultation like DCC (District Coordination Committee) wherein the elected parliamentarians play the role of sharing the public voice with the state functionaries. The government is all set to launch the new local government system. The proposed system of local government is a major shift away from the present system. The mandate of the new local bodies has been reduced to merely municipal functions.
In order to plug the gaps in district budget making it is important to enhance the capacity of the budget wing, following the budget calendar, share information with the public through internet and other sources, encourage public participation and discourage political interference in district budgets.
Survey on budget making process was conducted by member organizations of ‘Citizens’ Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA)’ in all 36 districts of Punjab. CNBA is a network of 25 civil society organizations working for budget reforms and accountability at district level in Punjab.