Adopting budgeting methodologies based on missions, goals and objectives represents an important contribution to the confidence that should rule the use of public funds, before the people of Puerto Rico and before Washington.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced that the next government budget, effective July 1, will be driven by performance measures that will allow to have more precise information on how each dollar is being spent.
Precisely, ensuring that spending in each government agency responds to public policy objectives is consistent with fiscal responsibility goals established in PROMESA.
Integrity in public finances is a major obligation amid the current financial precariousness. And it is also a major obligation before tight conditions set by the U.S. to release reconstruction funds for the island.
Certainly, a performance measurement system would help to leave behind decade-long delays in transparency and accountability, which can undermine even the noblest public purposes.
The lack of such a system has resulted in agencies and public corporations failing to provide quality public services. The devastating impact on the most vulnerable is widely documented.
A proper implementation of such a budgeting process would serve to justify increases and cuts in funds for government entities and would also place quality at the core of providing public services. Efficiency would contribute to balance public funds and to prevent corruption practices.
In addition, savings would allow to separate item for obligations and to boost the economy.
The new model would bring a broader and more detailed vision on the usual management of funds, as well as the real future cost of services. To this end, accurate and truthful data from different public instrumentalities must be ensured, a very challenging point since not all of them meet this requirement. Accountability should also involve permanent effective oversight.
Many U.S. jurisdictions are using the performance-based model announced with different results. The Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE) will provide technical support for the design –with government resources- a platform that will remain as state property.
The new budget, with three-year projections, will require agencies and programs to comply with specific metrics that will allow to confirm whether items are sufficient, effective or necessary for the entities to operate.
Governor Rosselló said that the tool will allow to show spending trends of the past ten years, for example, in terms of investment in capital improvements.
The new change proposes five transformation pillars: an accountability tool; planning; a decision-making mechanism and it will recognize and reward results. If materialized, citizens could have new elements to evaluate public management and to see how the money they pay in taxes in used.
These processes that will enable the state to be transparent, accountable – and avoid cyclical patterns of plans without monitoring – have the potential to reduce misuse and strengthen democracy.
However, processes themselves are not enough. It is necessary to build a culture of respect and permanent effective oversight on the compliance with these values.
We trust that merit, metrics and performance, as well as transparency and accountability, will become the norm.