SAHIWAL: District governments should ensure citizens` participation in the budget making process that should be transparent and open to public input and feedback while the people must also play a pro-active role in this regard.
This was the consensus at an interactive dialogue organised by Citizen Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA) attended by local political and civil society activists at a hotel here on Thursday.
The participants lamented that though new district governments would be in place by end of January 2016, the provincial government has yet to finalise the modalities of the functioning of district budgets under the amended LG Act 2013.
They said public participation in district budget making processes must be the corner stone of annual planning as envisaged in the new law.
Mr Kousar Abbas of Centre forPeace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) conducted the dialogue as resource person.
It was said that according to Budget Rules, Government of Punjab 2006, it was mandatory for each district to share budgetcalendar with multiple stakeholders.
The process starts in September of each year with issuance of Budget Call Letter. This process ends in June with final approval of the budget.
The citizens were informed how they could follow budget calendar and put their proposal in Budget Call Letter. It is stressed each district government must make special arrangements for soliciting public opinion in the processes of budget making under new LGA 2013. They should ask about the budget making process from district government through using their right to information.
The citizens should make district governments develop their official websites so that they could get first-hand information about budget making. Every district has a senior network administrator (SNA) of fice for developing websites and making budget process open to public.
The participants developed a consensus that budget making was not a`secret` process and should be carried out through citizens` participation so that they could give their input by proposing development schemes which they consider necessary for their areas. These schemes if approved would be included in the province`s Annual Development Plan (ADP).
In the end, a unanimous resolution was passed stressing upon provincial government to get developed websites of 26 district governments of Punjab. It is learnt presently only 10 district governments Multan, Muzzafargarh, Bahawalnagar, DG Khan, Pakpattan, Sialkot, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Chiniot and Mandi Bahauddin -have their operational official websites.