My Town – My ResponsibilitySep 16, 2015
The citizens of Montenegro will no longer have to dig through the thousands of data, sift through pages and pages of municipal budgets in order to find out how the local self-governments spend their money. Millions of previously hard-to-access records are now just one click away, all in one place – on the website “My Town” www.mojgrad.me, which offers visually appealing and easily searchable presentations of municipal budgets, expenditures, debts, number of employees, unemployment rate, etc. What’s more, citizens can now assess where their town stands financially in comparison to other towns across the country, as well as within the southern, central or northern region. In addition to this, the Strategic Plan of the Capital City of Podgorica was presented on an interactive map, where all projects can be filtered based on location, type/category and value.
“My Town” is the first web portal of its kind in Montenegro, which was developed with an aim to increase transparency and accountability of municipal budgets. The upgrading of the website was a part of the project “Monitoring of the local budgets”, a joint venture of the Ministry of Finance, UNDP in Montenegro and the NGO Institute Alternative.
The Government of Montenegro, through the Ministry of Finance supported this initiative in order to strengthen better planning and execution of the budgets, as well as to reinforce civic monitoring mechanisms. “This activity is fully in line with our efforts to ensure long term sustainability of the finances both at the central and local level. The use of new, innovative technologies in enabling access to the information that affects the lives of citizens is something that we should all benefit from,” said Nikola Vukićević, Director General of the Budget at the Ministry of Finance.
The importance of having all data and relevant information at one place, presented in a simple, easy to understand way was also emphasized by Sanja Bojanic, Democratic Governance and Economy and Environment Team Leader at the UNDP in Montenegro. “So far, data about municipal budgets were not easy to find, they were scattered around and even when the citizens would manage to discover them – the information was presented in such a complex way that it wasn’t of much use. This is why we recognized the need to integrate all available data and to present it in a simple and visually appealing way. Now, “My Town” enables a comparative overview of all updated financial information since 2012, which includes income, expenses, debts, and the comparison by year, municipalities and regions“, said Ms. Bojanić.
Stevo Muk, President of the Steering Committee of the Institute Alternative, said that “On the one hand, citizens are not interested enough in local budgets, or are not aware enough of how it affects them, while on the other hand there is also lack of capacities within the local self-governments to efficiently plan and execute budgets. Some of the causes for this are related to the political culture and tradition, but also to some practical issues such as the unavailability of data. We would like the municipalities to be more responsible to their citizens and citizens to exercise their monitoring role. This is the main rationale for establishing a website like this,” emphasized Mr. Muk.
Marko Sošić, Public Policy Researcher at the NGO Institute Alternative explained that this website is a “handy and mighty tool for citizens to find out how the local self-government spend tax payer’s money, how manage finances that they collect from and on behalf of the citizens, and how they plan the future budget and overall development of their town.”
UNDP in Montenegro works to open new avenues for citizen participation, as well as to strengthen the mechanisms of citizens’ control over administration. This is a part of our wider agenda to increase the use of innovative and new technologies for increasing transparency of public finances. Representatives of Montenegrin municipalities actively participated and contributed to the formulation of recommendations for improving the overall municipal budgeting process.