With a click of a button, people are able to easily get to grips with the country’s budgets, thanks to an online system called Vulekamali.
The portal was established two years ago by National Treasury in collaboration with a number of civil society organisations.
This innovative project won an award during the 17th Public Sector Innovation Awards 2019, under the Innovations Harnessing 4IR Solutions category.
National Treasury Director Andile Best, who leads the Vulekamali portal initiative, says its main aim is to increase public interest, participation and knowledge of government’s financial programmes.
“This is National Treasury’s commitment to be more transparent about public finances. Budgetary information is already published on Treasury’s website, but the portal contains easily accessible data in a user-friendly format, to enable more effective information sharing, analyses and research,” he explains.
According to Best, Vulekamali supports involvement by civil society and the public in budget processes and enables citizens to have informed discussions about government policies.
“If we ask the public to participate in budgetary processes and they come from a position of not knowing, they cannot make quality inputs. Secondly, we want the public to know how government spends money from the public purse,” Best says.
For example, civil society organisations often want to know how government renders services, how services are connected to the budget and whether national, provincial or local government is responsible for specific services.
Best says amongst the stakeholders involved in the project are the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; civil society coalition Imali Yethu; Global Initiative and the Government Technical Advisory Centre.
At every level of decision making and on each governance structure, there is representation of both government and civil society, he says.
Speaking on behalf of the civil society organisations involved, Zukiswa Kota, the head of the Monitoring and Advocacy Programme at the Public Service Accountability Monitor and lead co-ordinator of Imali Yethu, says accountable budgetary processes are critical to a democracy. The ultimate goal is to influence better service delivery, she says.
“For us, access to quicker information means that you do not constantly have communities upset and unaware of budget processes,” she says, adding that people have a better sense of the urgency required in commenting on budgets and they know who to speak to about their frustrations.