Visit SA Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) website: https://sacoronavirus.co.za

Background

About the Online Budget Data Portal project

Learn more about the new Online Budget Data Portal that is being built to help you understand the country's finances in a simple way.

Project description

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.

The Open Government Partnership

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.

Development

Development Stages

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:

  • Planning Stage

    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.

  • Stage One

    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].

  • Stage Two

    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.

  • Stage Three

    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.

  • Stage Four

    Spatial data providing a view of budget-related information at National, Provincial, Public Entities and Municipal levels across sectors, by economic classification.

Development Approach

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.

Project Approach

  • Develop an application programme interface (API) and ensure that the raw data is available in a user-friendly format via the API.
  • Build an easily accessible, user friendly online budget data portal where budget related documents and guidance material can be brought together in a single location in a way that is educative and interactive. This includes facilitating and developing the mockups of the portal that will be assessed.
  • Develop a communications strategy and implement a project communications campaign that is centred on widespread public participation.
  • Develop a stakeholder engagement plan and implement through engagement with civil society organisations to select the ideal portal design.
  • Enhance public participation opportunities and develop civic information products and execute a nationwide civic education drive.
  • Create links to relevant local and international data sources.
  • Undertake ongoing hosting and maintenance arrangements.
  • Provide data updates.

Project Status

  • Plan
  • Stage One
  • Stage Two
  • Stage Three
  • Stage Four

The project has been completed

Planning

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.

Stage One

Stage one laid the foundation for the project. The Vulekamali name was chosen through a naming competition and the portal was official launched in February 2017 by the Minister of Finance.

The Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) and Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure (EPRE) documents and datasets were made available through the website during this stage.

During stage one there were two hackathons and three Data Quests. The hackathons were held in Cape Town and Johannesburg and participants worked with the data available through the Vulekamali API.

Data Quests were held in Tshwane, Cape Town and Mbombela. The Data Quests were designed to understand user needs in order to direct the development of the portal.

Stage one also included a series of civic information events in Mpumalanga, where the Vulekamali project team introduced communities and local government to the vulekamali project and conducted workshops on budget analysis and advocacy.

Stage Two

Stage 2, which is version 4 of the data portal, builds on version 3 by adding other economic data and resources, while also updating it with the latest Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE), Adjusted ENE, Conditional Grant Frameworks & Allocations, and Estimates of Provincial Expenditure (EPRE) data and improving the user experience based on user feedback. In response to user requests, the inclusion of explanatory guides on ENE and EPRE is also available on the Portal. In addition to this, version 4 provides links to relevant local and international economic and demographic datasets and data portals. Both the homepage, and Departmental Budget pages have also been improved. Along with the development done on vulekamali, three civic information drives were held in KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, These included a DataQuest and Hackathon in each of these provinces.

Stage Three

Stage 3, which is version 5 of the data portal, builds on version 4. A key feature as part of stage 4 is the Procurement guide which aims to answer many questions citizens might have of the government’s procurement process. During Stage 4, there were several visual improvements made to the Department pages. Extensive work was done to include Provincial Infrastructure projects to bring further transparency in government spending, procurement. During stage three 3 educational videos were released on vulekamali. This took the overall number of educational videos to seven. A key focus of stage 3 was the release of procurement information. As with each stage, the project steering committee assess user feedback, some of these recommendations were included in the development process, i.e. improving vulekamali’s FAQ, learning resources, the inclusion of in year monitoring information, Infrastructure project information. Along with all the development done on vulekamali, three civic information drives were held in Free State, Limpopo and finally, the North West Province.

Stage Four

Stage 4, which is version 6 of the data portal, builds on version 5. A key feature as part of stage 4 is the representation of budget information, geo spatially. As a user, you are now able to view the division of revenue by Province and Municipality, https://geo.vulekamali.gov.za/. Adding visual improvements to vulekamali, like the Division of Revenue raised nationally, though not directly part of stage 4, was a response to the project steering committee request to make this information more understandable to the user. This also speaks to geographic allocation of funds. During stage 4, a guide to understanding government planning and performance management was developed. During stage 4, South Africa experienced a national state of emergency announced by the President which resulted in a lockdown, due to the global CoronaVirus outbreak. Though the delivery of stage 4 remained on track, there were some additional features which had direct relevance to the virus. One of these features was including a dedicated section on the R500 billion coronavirus response package as indicated by the President. Similar to this, the Minister of Finance too, delivered a special adjustment budget speech, in response to the Coronavirus. Links to this were made accessible on the vulekamali homepage. With all the unexpected changes as a result of the Coronavirus, there has been an inclusion of various forms of information. Finally, a supplementary budget summary page was added to help people find and understand this new information.

Your Contributions

An Exciting Opportunity

The budget portal presents an exciting opportunity for members of the public, CSOs, academia, business and government departments to contribute and to:

  • Provide input on the most USEFUL budget information produced by the National Treasury and by other government institutions.
  • Upload USEFUL budget information generated by non-governmental institutions and citizens.
  • Indicate which data sets and spreadsheet formats are USEFUL.
  • Help develop USEFUL illustrations and aggregation tools for different levels of technical sophistication.
  • Participate on interactive platforms that are USEFUL alongside producers and other users of information and contribute to the publication of additional information.
  • Have USEFUL and informed discussions in different government policy areas about service delivery.
  • Ultimately contribute to developing a portal that promotes meaningful engagement and fosters public participation in the budget process.

Contacts

Feedback and questions about Vulekamali
National Treasury official responsible for the project
  • Ms Prudence Cele
  • Senior Policy Analyst
  • Budget Office
Civil Society partner representative contact person
  • Ms Zukiswa Kota
  • Head: Monitoring and Advocacy Programme
  • Public Service Accountability Monitor (IMALI YETHU representative)
GTAC contact for the project
  • Mr Mehleli Mpofu
  • Project Manager: Government Technical Advisory Centre
Service provider contact for the project
  • Mr Adi Eyal
  • OpenUp

Information for Developers and Data Scientists

Vulekamali Datastore and API

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.