Civil society groups and private individuals must (1) scrutinize the national budget's pork barrel allocations, lump sums, unprogrammed funds, and (2) pressure Congress or Malacanang to produce a “citizens’ guide to the budget.”
Civil society groups should partner with the International Budget Partnership.
Civil society groups and private individuals can learn budget advocacy and monitoring through IBP’s Open Budgets Game!
Reasons why governments should publish a citizens' guide to the budget
Countries that currently publish a citizens’ guide to the budget
Producing a citizens’ guide to the budget can either be (a) mandated by law, or (b) a proactive move by Congress or Malacanang
Examples of citizens’ guide to the budget
My suggestions are for civil society groups and private individuals to (1) scrutinize the national budget's pork barrel allocations, and (2) pressure Congress or Malacanang to produce a “citizens’ guide to the budget.”
President Aquino has changed the system in the allocations for congressional and senatorial projects. These allocations will now become line items in the national budget. Presumably, this new set-up will prevent another scam. But the national budget is thousands of pages long and only a few Filipinos have the technical expertise to understand it.
 Civil society groups should partner with the International Budget Partnership. The IBP explains its advocacy:
If you want to fight poverty, you need to care about government budgets. As the specific plans for how public funds will be raised and spent, budgets are the government’s most powerful tool to meet the needs and priorities of a country and its people. The aim of the International Budget Partnership (IBP) is to ensure that government budgets are more responsive to the needs of poor and low-income people in society and, accordingly, to make budget systems more transparent and accountable to the public.
The IBP believes that the public has a right to comprehensive, timely, and useful information on how the government manages public funds. Our experience shows that when ordinary people have information, skills, and opportunities to participate, broader public engagement in government budget processes can promote substantive improvements in governance and poverty.
In order to achieve its goals, the IBP works in five major areas:
- Building budget analysis and advocacy skills through training and technical assistance
- Measuring and advancing transparency, accountability, and public participation in the budget process
- Contributing to strong and sustainable organizations by providing financial assistance for civil society budget work
- Enhancing knowledge exchange among civil society budget groups and other public finance stakeholders by acting as a hub of information on civil society budget work
- Building vibrant international and regional budget networks
The IBP and its civil society partners contribute to reforms in how governments around the world manage public funds so that:
- budget processes (how budgets are proposed, debated, implemented, and evaluated) are more transparent and open to public input;
- budget policies (who will pay what taxes, or how much money will go to specific programs) effectively address the needs of the poor and marginalized; and
- budget rules, regulations, and institutions are stronger and better able to resist corruption and mismanagement and ensure more effective and efficient use of public resources.
Code-NGO: PDAF Watch
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism: PDAF Flow Chart
 Civil society groups and private individuals can learn budget advocacy and monitoring through the IBP’s Open Budgets Game!
 Why should governments publish a citizens' guide to the budget? (From “Producing a Citizens' Guide to the Budget: Why, What and How?” by Murray Petrie and Jon Shields, OECD Journal on Budgeting, Volume 2010/2)
Access to information is a precondition for citizens to: understand how a government is using its entrusted powers to tax, borrow, and spend public resources; become involved in informed public debate during the budget process; and hold a government properly to account. By reporting and explaining budget decisions and the state of the public finances with simplicity and clarity, the government can help to demystify the budget beyond the often necessarily technically complex detail in the budget documentation. Otherwise, the job is left to civil society or the media, who are not always adequately equipped. It is also a good discipline for policy makers to explain themselves in simple, everyday language. What countries currently publish a citizens’ guide to the budget? (Producing a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget: Why, What and How?,” by Murray Petrie and Jon Shields,OECD Journal on Budgeting, Volume 2010/2)
Publication of a citizens’ guide allows a government to explain in plain language the objectives of its budget and to supplement and complement other supporting material such as the budget speech, press releases, web pages, media appearances, etc. A guide provides a single place where the public can learn about the main features of the budget and gain access to more detailed reference sources. It also helps citizens to assess the impact on their own circumstances and on specific groups in society (including the effects on the burden of taxation, service provision and employment prospects).
Publication of a citizens’ guide to the budget is called for in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency (2007) under the principle that “fiscal information should be presented in a way that facilitates policy analysis and promotes accountability” (IMF, 2007a). The code stipulates specifically that: “A clear and simple summary guide to the budget should be widely distributed at the time of the annual budget.” A short paragraph in the explanatory IMF Manual on Fiscal Transparency (2007) lists some of the substantive and qualitative elements of a citizens’ guide (IMF, 2007).
It appears that relatively few governments currently publish a citizens’ guide to the annual budget. Less than 20 concrete examples have so far been identified. A major source of information about current practice is the Open Budget Survey. The seven countries identified in the 2006 survey (based on 2005 data) were El Salvador, France, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Two of these - New Zealand and the United Kingdom - publish summary information on the budget but do not call it a citizens’ guide.
The 2008 survey identified an additional ten countries that published a citizens’ guide or apparent equivalent: Angola, Colombia, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, India, Norway, Russia, Uganda and Ukraine. The 2008 survey found that, of these 17 guides, ten were very informative, three were somewhat informative, and four were not very informative. Civil society groups and private individuals must pressure Congress or Malacanang to publish a citizens’ guide to the budget. The guide must expressly point out, describe, and explain, among other things, what are the (a) pork barrel allocations for senators and representatives, (b) lump sums, and (c) unprogrammed funds.
Producing a citizens’ guide to the budget should ideally be mandated by law. Or, if Congress and Malacanang are sensitive to the public anger over the pork barrel scam, they should proactively produce the citizens’ guide to the budget, in cooperation with credible institutions like the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance.
If producing the citizens’ guide to the budget is mandated by law, safeguards must be placed to prevent the guide from simply being a “praise release.” For example, comments, critiques, or evaluation of the budget by civil society groups and institutions like the UP NCPAG must be included in the guide (at the very least, as annexes).
 Learn more about what a “citizens’ guide to the budget” is all about through these resources:
A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget (IBP) Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism articles
A Citizens’ Guide to Monitoring Government Expenditures (IBP)
Producing a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget (John F. Kennedy Library)
Citizen’s Guide - New York State Division of the Budget
NYS DOB: Citizen’s Guide The Budget Process
Citizen’s Guide to the City’s Budget Process (City of San Diego)
2013 Citizen’s Guide To The Washington State Budget
Part 1: PDAF racket rocks 'daang matuwid'
Sidebar 1: Pork a la PNoy
Part 2: Bailiwicks, not poor towns, grab slabs of House PDAF
Sidebar 2: Good pork, bad pork
Part 3: Senators' PDAF floods NCR, vote-rich provinces
Sidebar 3: Pork, 'daang matuwid' don't mix: One bidder, one PDAF project?
Part 4: Binay bags P200-M PDAF: Pork train to Malacañang?
Sidebar 4: LGUs ride piggyback on pork
Part 5: Bogus, favored NGOs fail to account for P770-M pork