Bottom-Up-Budgeting: Experience at the grassroots?
Since September 2012, Buttom-Up Budgeting or BUB has been a buzzword among civil society organizations (CSOs) all over the country, as the budget for 2014 was being discussed by people's organizations at the municipal level.
By end of 2012, majority of civil society organizations CSOs had attended a series of fora and discussions on BUB. This allowed us to obtain BUB's conceptual input, legal mandate, and procedures.
The knowledge that they have acquired provided many these CSOs new realizations for engagement. Each of them designed planning and budgeting strategy for BUB engagement.
In a project evaluation that I attended with the members of the Bgy Barosbos Mananagat Association (BBMA), a group of fisherfolk engaged in marine protection from Bgy Barosbos in Carles town in Northern Iloilo, BUB emerged, unsolicited, in the discussion, as the group elaborated on how to access funds from the government to acquire additional facilities.
According to Charlito Padriaga, president of BBMA, "our group has been preparing to participate in the BUB process in order to put forward the needs of the fisherfolk sector to the respective government agencies and the local government unit."
The Principles of BUB
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) considers BUB and Planning as an enabling strategy of the Aquino administration in realizing governance reforms.
"The concept is simple: it is the opposite of the top-to-bottom planning and budgeting," explained Ordize Jesus Siva, council member of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).
Siva, who is the president of the Bolilao Empowerment of Neighborhood Association (BOENAS), an urban poor organization in Iloilo City, has provided extensive capacity-building activities to his members to optimize the opportunity being provided by the BUB process.
The BUB approach is guided by 3 principles: convergence, participation, and empowerment. It aims to achieve community empowerment by encouraging citizens to take active roles in the community by articulating their needs to the government and determining what projects are responsive to their needs.
The process will also stimulate partnership between local government and civil society. It is participatory governance in action and can strengthen LGU-CSO relations in local development planning and budgeting.
The result of all the local planning and budgeting is the convergence of plans and priorities as projects are harmonized at the national level by national government agencies in their programs and budget for implementation.
While the 3 guiding principles of the BUB have become operational, there are leaders of people's organizations that pointed out to the BUB process as a venue limited to CSOs that are more organized and who possess the competency and experience in planning and budgeting.
Mary Jane Homena, project coordinator of the Western Visayas Network of Social Development NGOs (WevNET) shared that "CSOs that have experienced engaging in local budget process before the BUB was adopted undeniably possessed the edge because its constant participation in the local budgeting process provided them the knowledge and familiarity of government's financial terrain."
Homena however admitted that there are gaps in the BUB. One major limitation of BUB that Homena noticed is that it doesn't provide a level playing field among more organized and less organized CSOs.
As a result, in the areas covered by the consultations, the more organized CSOs got better chances of getting their projects integrated in the list of priorities.
"The least organized CSOs often expressed frustration after the consultations for many of them have expected that the BUB serves as an assurance that their respective plans will be integrated in the list of priorities no matter how insignificant it may be," Homena added.
Homena elaborated that "all of this imbalance, if we can call it as such, is also a consequence of inadequate preparedness in conducting consultation and the lack of trained facilitators. These observations were shared by many CSOs that participated in the process."
They also observed that BUB facilitators who conducted consultations are ill-equipped in providing the necessary background of BUB.
Less organized CSOs expected that the BUB process will facilitate participation among a broader range of civil society sectors, especially organizations that are not linked to organized network of CSOs.
Their expectations fall within the concept why the BUB is adopted and implemented as a participatory planning and budgeting tool in the first place. The BUB is not a substitute to CSO representation in the local government as mandated by the Local Government CODE of 1991. Rather it plays a complementary role which reinforces existing and institutionalized participatory governance efforts.
Opportunities through BUB
Making the BUB process more effective in responding to the needs of the basic sectors demands thorough assessment at this stage of its implementation. It is imperative that adequate monitoring, evaluation and feedback system are integrated in its implementation cycle to address constraints compounding every stage. Doing so can facilitate the potential of CSO participation and can help CSOs optimize the opportunities being offered by the BUB process.
The observable weaknesses of the BUB process as indicated in the numerous consultations illustrates that more work is being demanded from the government as an implementing arm.
In spite of the massive capacity-building initiatives in preparing for the roll out of the BUB, competency among implementing personnel and facilitators still needs to be ensured. As frontliners in the implementation of the BUB, they must be able to adequately internalize the concept to make the process effective.
The CSOs, on the other hand, have to seize the opportunity of consolidating their ranks through the BUB process. It cannot be re-emphasized enough, but a strong CSO sector can translate to improved participation in local governance.
CSOs that have constantly engaged in local governance have a lot to share about how their involvement enhanced the delivery of services to the people. - Rappler.com
Ted Aldwin E. Ong is the acting chairperson of the Iloilo Caucus of Development NGO's (Iloilo CODE-NGOs) and the vice-chairperson of the Western Visayas Network of Social Development NGO's (WevNET).