National Treasury has been working in partnership with IMALI YETHU to develop an easily accessible online budget data portal. This portal has recently been named "vulekamali" by a South African citizen who entered a competition which was open from November 2017 until mid January 2018. Through vulekamali, National Treasury continues to entrench its commitment to transparency and budget participation reforms.
As is well known internationally through ranking in the 2017 Open Budget Index (OBI), South Africa came 1st out of 115 countries, sharing this position with New Zealand. National Treasury already publishes extensive budgetary information on its website, however it has been observed over time that the use of this data is not as extensive as it could be. Furthermore, the OBI report shows that South Africa can improve on public participation. The portal will therefore publish easily accessible data in a user-friendly format, to enable more effective information sharing, analyses and research. The portal will support involvement by civil society and the public in the budget process and enable citizens to have informed discussions in different government policy areas.
The launch of vulekamali was on 20 February 2018, in Parliament, Cape Town.
IMALI YETHU is an open coalition of civil society organisations driven by an interest in promoting budget transparency and public participation. Members are in active support of the development of the budget portal and seek to promote wider civic participation across all sectors of South African society.
South Africa is a founding member of the multilateral Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative that “aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance" (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/).
Each member government is required to submit an action plan containing commitments. South Africa's OGP commitment two is in respect of Open Budgeting and National Treasury, working together with Civil Society Organisations, is responsible for the attainment of this commitment.
This commitment requires involvement of civil society in various aspects of the budget process from planning to implementation and monitoring and evaluation, enabling citizens to have a firmer grasp of how national resources are generated, distributed and reported upon.
Given the complexity, the portal will be built in stages. The different development stages are essentially distinguished by the scope of data made available in each stage. After the planning stage, the project has four stages of data availability:
Mapping out a project plan showing when and how different stakeholders will be engaged, what the terms of reference will be for appointing a technical team, the technical specifications, as well as the longer-term plan providing for where the portal will be hosted and resources required for its maintenance, daily operations etc.
Data currently available within the National Treasury as well as budget-related data within the domain of civil society organisations [data repository with currently existing data; and collaboration platform].
Local and internationally released data, such as data on GDP and IMF world economic data. Links to other already established databases and datasets provided by other national institutions.
Wider government institutional information, including performance information and procurement information. There could be various sources of this data. Custodians are the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) and line departments, etc.
Spatial data providing a view of budget-related information at National, Provincial, Public Entities and Municipal levels across sectors, by economic classification.
Many IT projects that use the traditional waterfall approach of extensive design upfront do not work well, are delivered late, or are over budget.
This project is utilising an agile approach. The agile approach is one of iterative development in rapid cycles will allow data to be made available in the phased manner. The agile development principles encourage active ‘user’ involvement throughout the product’s development and will serve to ensure that the data provision is responsive to user needs. Civil society and citizens’ inputs will be incorporated into the IT development, in order to ensure product development alignment to user needs.
A number of opportunities for civil society engagement and partnership with the project have been identified along the full life-cycle of the project.
During stage one there will be a series of DataQuests designed to understand user needs, in order to direct the development of the portal.
The first DataQuest has already been held in Pretoria on 26 September 2017. The purpose of the Data Quest is soley to understand the needs of potential users of the data in order to determine the user features that will need to be developed for the portal.
Different participants who are passionate about government policy analysis and its supporting data, from government, private sector and civil society were in attendance and participated in discussions and provided inputs.
On 22 November 2017, there was a second DataQuest in Cape Town, followed by a two-day Hackathon on 23 and 24 November 2017. This is in line with the agile IT development process that is being used for this project. DataQuests are planned for each Province.
A Project Steering Committee and Operational Working Group comprised of National Treasury officials and representatives of IMALI YETHU was set up to provide strategic and operational guidance to the project. The Government Technical Advisory Centre was brought on board to support with the planning and project management of the project.
A project planning phase was undertaken to scope the project, working together with Civil Society organisations. Thereafter, an open tender process was undertaken to secure a service provider to support the implementation of the project. In keeping with the partnership approach, Civil Society Organisations observed the procurement process. The tender was awarded to OpenUp. The official project commencement date was 4th August 2017.
The budget portal presents an exciting opportunity for members of the public, CSOs, academia, business and government departments to contribute and to:
The data and resources on the vulekamali data portal are also available using the vulekamali datastore and API. You can explore and download all the datasets and resources from one place, or use the API to work with them in your favourite programming language.