Review of Kutaisi Budget without Public Participation
Despite the requirements of the law, the local self-government of Kutaisi has not publicized the 2017 budget yet. According to the Local Self-Government Code, Gamgebeli/Mayor of a municipality presents a draft budget of the next year along with the accompanying documents to the City Council (Sakrebulo), whereas the latter disclose it for public discussion within the period of 5 days. The City Council is required to hold public hearing of the draft; the given obligation has not been fulfilled by Kutaisi local authorities so far.
According to the local government representatives, any interested person may take a look at the proactively published first draft of the budget on the municipality’s official website. As for the public hearings of the issue, they could not be organized so far as certain parameters of the local budget are tied to the central budget and therefore, until approval of the central one, the local budget cannot be finalized.
We would like to strongly emphasize that the Article 27, clause "L" of the Administrative Code defines proactive publication of information as follows: “placing any public information of public interest on electronic resources by a public institution in the manner determined by a respective subordinate normative act”. It is clear that the definition does not include public discussion and therefore, publication on the website can hardly provide for maximum public involvement, envisaged by the principle of publicity.
Concerning the argument, that for holding a public hearing the local government needs approval of the central budget, such case is not provided for by the law; in addition, it is not quite clear how similar public hearings will be organized in other self-governing municipalities (Batumi, Zugdidi, Telavi).
It is noteworthy that in the course of drafting the local budget, the City Hall has arranged several meetings with the population; the fact is greatly welcome, but the draft available at the municipal website undergoes changes in accordance with the central budget parameters and the public is unaware of moved adjustments. Given the low degree of awareness about the recent developments, it certainly becomes difficult to work our valuable recommendations.
Congruent to the Local Self-Government Code, the deadline for submitting the municipal budget to the City Council expires on December 10; it is not quite clear when the City Council intends to hold a public hearing to inform the population about the main aspects of the financial document, get familiar with their feedback and account for provided recommendations.
We believe that involvement of the public sector in the decision-making process is critical to transparent governance; therefore, we urge the local government of Kutaisi to ensure timely preparation of the city budget and arrangement of public hearings with involvement of the civil society before its presentation to the City Council.