Bani pierduti. Lost money.
It’s the name of a Romanian anti-corruption project and the reason for its existence: tackling widespread financial corruption in the country’s political bureaucracy.
Romania has faced widespread calls to tackle issues of crime and corruption, including from the European Commission and European Union, and has been criticized for lack of respect for rule of law. Slow investigations into high-level government officials have drawn criticism. Citizens have also spoken out, including through protests against corruption and austerity measures that took place in 2012.
Through Romanian NGO Funky Citizens, Bani pierduti is empowering citizens to keep elected officials accountable. It has found a disconnection between citizens and the budgetary process; people are unaware of how it works and as such, do not participate; therefore, citizens’ needs are not reflected in how their taxpayer money is spent. Long-term fiscal planning is not encouraged, which can result in nearsighted, poor spending of public funds that lacks accountability.
The project’s website provides information on how taxpayer money is spent and provides ways for constituents to get involved. One of the mechanisms it is developing to engage people is the eParticipatory budget tool.
This is an online simulator that allows people to learn about a bill that is before the government and vote to see what the impact of a decision for or against it would be. Participants can also propose amendments. Feedback from the simulator – which way people voted, suggested amendments – is then sent to elected representatives.
The simulator also allows people to try to create a balanced budget. It gives them an opportunity to see what the trade-offs are when creating a budget and what the impacts of certain decisions are. Feedback collected during this exercise is also sent to policy-makers.
Bani pierduti ran into some difficulties with this, as the Romanian executive didn’t follow the planned budgetary calendar. It delayed their ability to get data up on the site and into the simulator for people to work with.
During that time, however, they were able to focus instead on doing advocacy work and attained success in their participation in the Romanian constitutional review. Working with a group of NGOs, three of their four initial proposals made it into a early process that sought feedback from civil society and academics. Through the website, social media and various meetings, they continued to promote their proposal for multi-annual budgeting, which was accepted into the draft constitution. The team are currently putting together an impact report that will become available on the IACC site next week.
Bani pierduti was established in 2011 after its involvement in a competition called Restart Romania. After undergoing community scrutiny, it was selected alongside four other organizations to receive a grant of $5,000 (U.S.). The person who developed it had experience with Romania’s branch of Transparency International.
The organization is now seeking funding to expand its simulators to Facebook and Twitter applications and will need grant money to accomplish this.