The Government Commitments program aims to promote transparency, harness new technologies and empower citizen participation to strengthen the governance of Buenos Aires.
Local government agencies increasingly face the challenge of providing citizens with greater levels of transparency and participation in governance issues. To meet this challenge, the city government of Buenos Aires has launched the Government Commitments initiative.
The project responds to a trend in governance that combines elements of performance management, evidence-based governance and open government. It sets out a series of prioritized and quantifiable objectives and keeps citizens apprised of the progress of delivery of the objectives.
The project, coordinated by the General Secretariat and International Relations Secretariat, contributes to aligning priorities within the city government by improving coordination and efficiencies of internal processes, promoting transparency, and presents an opportunity to grow a culture of accountability and open data within the city government.
To view the list of commitments, with the relevant targets, trajectories, indicators and data go to www.buenosaires.gob.ar/compromisos.
The Government Commitments initiative is a core component of the Buenos Aires city government’s mission of making administrative and decision-making processes more accessible to citizens. The main objective is to strengthen people’s trust in public agencies and promote a more open, transparent and efficient government by detailing what is being done and how it is being done and what difficulties are encountered in the process.
By establishing well defined priorities, Government Commitments provide order and makes internal administration processes more effective providing them with a common goal and shared vision.
On February 22, 2016, after a research and consultation period, the Chief of Government announced 20 prioritized objectives, all specific and measureable and with a set timeline of achievement.
In August 2016, the Chief of Government announced an additional 15 commitments and launched the website buenosaires.gob.ar/compromisos as a central accountability tool. The website publishes detailed and up to date information on the goals and objectives of each commitment and reports periodically on the progresses of each.
In February 2017, during a public accountability event held at government headquarters with citizens, deputies, ministers and journalists in attendance, the Chief of Government announced a further 15 commitments. Currently, there are 50 Government Commitments which can be monitored at buenosaires.gob.ar/compromisos
After assuming office in December 2015, the Mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced his plan for the prioritization and accountability of certain policies and assigned the General Secretariat to coordinate the Government Commitments program.
Commencing in January 2016, the General Secretariat’s Delivery Unit was in charge of preparing and collating commitments proposals to be approved by the Mayor. During this process, both electoral campaign proposals and ministerial projects were taken into account. The aim was to merge them with previously set Government Plan Pillars of “Social Integration”, “Creativity”, “Coexistence and Enjoyment” and “Human Scale” and achieve a balance between them.
A key step during the selection process was balancing two fundamental dimensions within public policy: impact and feasibility. The goal was to create a set of public commitments with enough impact but also feasible to achieve in terms of government budget and technical capabilities. This pre-selection process resulted in approximately 80 proposed commitments. The Chief of Government selected 20.
Planning and setting of compliance for targets was a thorough process led by the Delivery Unit which included:
- Identifying the indicator of compliance and who is responsible for its measurement.
- Constructing a “pathway of compliance” (meaning expected performance for the indicator over time) for the identification and planning of all the actions and programs that contribute to reach the goal.
- Defining the “chain of compliance” which entails identifying responsible parties for each activity and program that contribute to the achievement of the commitment.
Once the planning phase was completed, the Delivery Unit started working on monitoring, evaluating and providing further support for the achievement of each commitment. In order to do so, it used data from the reports and presentations in follow up meetings that each area periodically presents to the Chief Cabinet Minister. During follow up meetings, all areas report on the progress of their projects, with special focus on the Government Commitments.
With the information available, compliance conditions for each commitment are evaluated and possible risks and potential benefits are identified. In cases where further work on a commitment is needed, bilateral meetings are arranged with the responsible area and further support services are provided.
Furthermore, the Delivery Unit conducts periodical meetings with the Chief of Government and the Secretary General of Government, where overall progress of the Government Commitments is reported.
The Government Commitments program also includes opportunities for citizens to participate by monitoring and evaluating the progress of commitments through different channels and methodologies:
- periodical meetings with neighbours carried out by the Chief of Government.
- the project’s website buenosaires.gob.ar/compromisos.
- specific events held to present the initiative to relevant public organizations, representatives of the academic sector and representatives of international organizations.
- through independent evaluations from public organizations (for example the organization, Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas - Public Policy Lab - compiled and shared a report based on their own field study regarding the compliance to improve the Subway waiting time).
The lead agency for the project is the city of Buenos Aires. The city government fully funds the project via the annual operating budget. Management, co-ordination and administration support is provided by the General Secretariat and International Relations Secretariat.
The Government Commitments website enables citizens to track the progress of each commitment and view the data and instruments used to verify progress against goals.
The implementation of the Governments Commitments program has significantly strengthened the relationship between the city government and citizens. Citizens are now more informed of government policies, processes and programs and can participate in discussion and decision making.
The implementation of the Government Commitments has significantly transformed the governance of the city by instilling a culture of transparency and accountability. Additionally, in fostering collaboration between government programs, it has improved the efficiency of public resource allocation by preventing different government areas form working in isolation. Continual follow-up and supervision ensures productive use of resource allocation.
The main challenge for the Government Commitments program is increasing the numbers of citizen who participate. The city government is currently developing strategies to achieve more involvement in the creation and monitoring of the commitments by citizens. These include:
- periodical meetings with citizens conducted by the Chief of Government and other Government representatives (mainly ministries and secretariats).
- the improvement of the program’s website (buenosaires.gob.ar/compromisos).
- increasing the involvement of public agencies to include NGO’s.
- making the public aware and encouraging the use of user-friendly spaces for engagement, thus, enabling citizens to see how this engagement can help shape and inform government actions.
Defining a set of government priorities allows for the systematic and periodic monitoring of policy performance and delivery which contributes to the improvement of key government interventions. This periodic review process enables early detection of delivery deviations and challenges.
The use of data as evidence is fundamental in tracking the Commitments, and allows for necessary refinements in terms of challenges or risks in delivery. The methodologies employed to deliver the Commitments has the potential for replication by other city governments.
The use of geo-referencing in the monitoring and review of the Commitments’ delivery allows for a geographic visualization and analysis of their impact, and for any limitations of spatial range to be addressed. It also facilitates the process of recommendations on improving efficiencies in the actions of each government area, and feeds into and strengthens internal communications on the progress of each Commitment. The city government uses several tools which allow the identification of success/progress indicators, detection of patterns in statistics and processes, and the analysis of empirical data.
The Government Commitments program is currently being replicated in other jurisdictions of Argentina which seek to adhere to results-based management, public commitment to the citizenship and transparent communication of government policies.
In 2016, the city government created the “Cities Collaboration Center” to assist other sub national governments in Argentina with the implementation of Government Commitments and other key programs. The Pilar City Government (in the Buenos Aires Province) was the first sub national government that participated in this process and launched its own Government Commitments in April 2017 (For more information see: http://www.pilar.gov.ar/inicio/gobierno-municipal/compromisos/).