2014-2017 Adjara Program Budget sets a unique precedent of responsible budgeting in Georgia
1. 2014-2017 Adjara Budget
The Government of Adjara program budget for 2014-2017 gives the Georgian government a very good example of responsible budgeting. The 2014-2017 budget of Adjara Autonomous Republic, which, sadly, was published without its program appendix, is a genuine program budget. Program budgeting is a results-oriented budgeting system, which, contrary to conventional budgeting, gives detailed costs of every activity and program over several years rather than just the agency spending the money and creating the figures after. This budget links the resources to be spent with the results to be achieved, which also means that the progress and impact can be monitored.
We believe there is no other instrument that helps increase performance, transparency and accountability in the public sector as effectively as program budget. Real program budgeting implies commitment on the part of spending agencies, which the GoG has been extremely loath to make for three years now. This noncommittal is the reason why the Government of Georgia has preferred general wordings over detail in its budgets in the past three years. Therefore, we believe switching from traditional budgeting to program budgeting is a question of political will, which both the current and previous Georgian governments have had in short supply.
The Government of Adjara Autonomous Republic proved that it has what it takes to switch to program budgeting – political will. 2014-2017 Adjara budget can safely be called a program budget, unlike Georgia’s 2014-2017 state budget. We believe the Government of Adjara provides the GoG with a very good example of not only political will and reforming zeal but also courage. What remains to be done, however, is the Government of Adjara implementing its 2014-2017 program budget in practice.
1.1. What Makes 2014-2017 Adjara Budget Unique
The Government of Adjara has put together a program budget template that gives such details as exact targets, inputs, expected outputs and outcomes and indicators to measure these, units of measurement, unit price, data source, frequency of measurement, responsible institutions, quarterly breakdown of activities and costing, which is a calculation of the proposed or estimated cost of producing something. Although Adjara government seems to have copy-pasted 2014 numbers into the 2015-2017 forecasts and some of the outcome indicators require further elaboration or revision, while other indicators are in effect targets rather than indicators, all in all, the indicators are very different from the central budget indicators, most of which seem to be designed not to measure anything.
Not only did the Government of Adjara complement the central government’s budget template, but put together a budget that offers a stark departure from the central government’s straitjacket of programme budget format. Moreover, the Government of Adjara made sure that all spending agencies filled in the data that – for the first time in the history of Georgian public finance – makes it possible to distinctly measure outputs versus outcomes with reliable indicators and match these with appropriate inputs, which the Georgian government agencies have, hopelessly, messed up for a fourth consecutive year now.
The Government of Adjara Autonomous Republic, as noted above, started off by rejecting the central government’s straitjacket of a program budget format. Some excellent budgetary examples from the Government of Adjara include:
- Adjara Department for Roads, for instance, calculates the exact square metre dimensions of holes in the roads that needs to be fixed, the exact number of traffic signs required, the exact length of pipes, maintenance costs even down to the insurance cost of maintenance equipment or uniforms for workmen, detailed breakdown of wages and salaries, etc. The central government has never given costings of any of the public works in any of its budgets. Detailed costings included in the budget are very important because, firstly, it makes the government plan sufficiently and secondly, holds the government to account, making it impossible for them to subsequently pluck numbers out of the air.
- Adjara Forestry: exact number of trees to be felled, exact areas of diseased coniferous and deciduous forests to be treated each year between 2014-2017.
- Adjara Department for Environmental Protection and Natural Resources: exact GPS coordinates to measure coastline abrasion, exact number of lab tests for sea water, sewage water washing into the sea, and air, and scores of other targets and indicators.
- Adjara Ministry of Healthcare and Social Affairs: exact number of beneficiaries in its social and healthcare programs in the 2014 budget, which the Georgian Ministry of Labour, Healthcare, and Social Affairs has consistently failed to provide.
This attention to detail indicates that the government of Adjara is taking its fiduciary responsibilities quite seriously.
2. Where the Rest of the Country Stands Relative to Adjara
By contrast, the central government’s 2014-2017 programme budget, which is even less detailed than the previous budgets, gives inputs where it should give performance indicators, fails to set objectives apart from activities, let alone outputs from outcomes, gives very few, if any, performance indicators that are designed to measure anything. Rather than moving towards a more detailed budgeting, a comparison of the Georgian government’s 2014 -2017 supposedly program budget and the 2010 traditional budget shows a steadily decreasing level of detail in the program activities.
The Government of Adjara agencies were provided with technical assistance (a several month on the job-training in 2013 by the USAID) to enable them to switch from traditional to programme budgeting. However, the technical assistance given to the Georgian government over the past 4 years dwarfs this assistance. Needless to say, the central government needed a great deal more technical assistance than the Government of Adjara. But the central government has not translated this into anything that remotely resembles a program budget, while in Adjara it has helped to produce a genuinely program budget. Therefore, we believe the Government of Adjara agencies should share their valuable program budgeting experience with the central government.
Transparency International Georgia believes that:
- the Government of Georgia should use Adjara’s program budgeting experience to improve its 2015-2018 budget
- the Government of Adjara should make good on its commitments in its 2014-2017 program budget by implementing it in practice.
- the Government of Adjara should publish its 2014-2017 budget in its entirety for the GoG and the rest of the country to both see and emulate what they have achieved.