What did Ukraine Consolidated Communities Do to Reach Progress in Local Budget Transparency and 9,000 Resident Proposals?

Here is a short answer – the consolidated communities (CCs) underwent a budget transparency evaluation. In November 2019, the Crystal of the Year Award acknowledged the top performing CCs that were evaluated with the joint methodology implemented by USAID DOBRE and U-LEAD with Europe Programs, including the public coalition “For Transparent Local Budgets!” The evaluation was performed in 106 CCs in 18 Oblasts of Ukraine. 47 DOBRE partner CCs were evaluated for the second time in a row, and their index scores prove that the CCs increased the level of budget transparency in just one year. The maximum transparency index grew higher: from 46 to 61 points. Moreover, there were significant system changes revealed: average budget transparency levels increased 17.7% in all 47 CCs. In 2018 the average level was 21. 3%, and in 2019 it was 39%.

So how can budget assessment work as a motivator for positive change in CCs? 

First, experts assess the existing budget transparency level in a CC. It allows for tracking of what needs to be improved and what practices should be introduced to enhance transparency in the respective field. Based on the findings, they form an analytical report and recommendations. Further on, they discuss with local governance representatives the CC budget transparency index and offered recommendations. Experts provide support to the CCs that implement their given recommendations. The following year, the assessment cycle repeats. This way, the assessment plays some vital roles:  

  • serves as a tool for promoting local budget transparency standards;
  • creates positive competition among municipalities;
  • builds “road maps” for increasing budget transparency.
local budget awareness campaign
Local Budget Awareness Campaign in Pidvolochiska CC

Second, detailed assessment results for each consolidated community are posted on the “Transparent Local Budgets” online platform. Here also one can find the Analytical Report on “The 2019 Local Budgets Transparency Index. Consolidated Communities,” including recommendations as well. The “Local Budgets Transparency Assessment Methodology” can be found via this link.

Third, it is worthwhile mentioning the fact, that behind each improved index score there has been tedious work done by experts and local governance representatives. In 2019, in each DOBRE participating CC, there was an awareness campaign rolled out that engaged an expert team from a public coalition called “For Transparent Local Budgets!” comprised of DOBRE partner regional civil society organizations and local council representatives. For instance, Vitaliy Lukov, Head of Voznesenska CC, led a presentation on “the wise budget cow” for residents.

In Pidvolochiska CC, the Head of the CC as well as three deputy heads, starostas and representatives of the local finance department participated in the awareness campaign.

In Dmytrivska CC, local residents made “the budget borsch,” conducted the budget Q&A contest and welcomed event guests with “the CC budget” cheese.

Similarly, the way to Muzykivska CC budget was paved through … cake.

Local Budget Awareness Campaign in Lanovetska CC
Local Budget Awareness Campaign in Lanovetska CC

Quite zealous were the school students who joined the budget awareness campaign, and the experts explained to them the budget-related issues in a very creative and interactive way. To note, at the beginning of the new academic year, the schools in Lanovetska CC held a picture contest called “My CC Budget.” School children demonstrated their understanding of local budget and ideas for CC budget efficient spending. In addition, the CC Youth Council made a short video on the community budget.

“The Budget Night” quest moved from the CC Head room to the Executive Committee session hall at the City Council in Voznesenska CC. In the game format, local youth learned about the specificities of budget allocation procedures and methods of impacting the CC budget.

“This is not the first time that we have rolled out such awareness campaigns, and every time, we are impressed by the creativity and inspiration coming from our experts and consolidated communities. To explain complicated ideas in an easier way is our main goal. We do our best to familiarize local residents with the aspects of the budgeting process using comprehensible language. When residents understand it, they come up with an initiative and good ideas that are critical to the whole community,” explained Anatoliy Boiko, Coordinator of the public coalition “For Transparent Local Budgets.”

The Budget Night - Quest for Youth in Voznesenska CC
“The Budget Night” - Quest for Youth in Voznesenska CC

To top it all off, over 15,000 residents in total took part in the awareness campaign events. In 2018, the “Impact your Community Budget” campaign carried out in 50 CCs collected around 3,000 proposals. During the 2019 campaign, in Shumska CC alone, they collected 1,011 initiatives. So, from 75 DOBRE CCs, they received over 9,000 proposals for improving basic CC areas, i.e.: installing public lighting, road and infrastructure maintenance, installing children and sports playgrounds, rejuvenation and beautification, etc. All proposals were transferred to local councils for review and inclusion in the 2020 local budgets.

“The DOBRE Program supports the CCs that take efforts to increase the level of local budget transparency, and with pleasure celebrates their successes with them. The biggest reward for these CCs is probably not the award statues handed out on stage, but rather the strengthening of their trust of local governance actors, which happens as a result of better citizen engagement and improved communication between residents and authorities. The recent resident opinion survey conducted among DOBRE participating CCs revealed that in 2019, the level of confidence that community resource management has been done in a proper manner has been growing. Plus, the corruption perceptions index decreased by 12% in comparison with 2017,” stated Yulia Tkachuk, DOBRE Anticorruption Component Lead.  

2019 ENG – Crystal of the Year Award and budget transparency assessment in 2019 is a joint effort of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the consortium of USAID/DOBRE Program implementers, European Union and its five member states Germany, Sweden, Poland, Denmark and Estonia through the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, and the public coalition “For Transparent Local Budgets!” The local budget transparency index and its assessment methodology is developed by East Europe Foundation in partnership with public coalition “For Transparent Local Budgets!” in cooperation with the Association of Ukrainian Cities supported by European Union.