Depending on the context, the outcomes of the budget analysis and tracking processes and the focus of work, the range of actions may be very different. Action include:
Producing alternative budgets (influencing the formulation process);
Producing and analysing statistics (to inform budget process and monitor impact);
Influencing the budget cycle (to create more space for civil society participation).
Producing alternative budgets:
The focus and process of this activity will depend on whether the group you are working with is formally involved in the budgeting process or not. Clearly, if you are working with the SMC, and budget management is part of their mandated role, this process will focus on ensuring that the budget allocation process is a ‘good process’. That is, that it is based on reliable information, linked to annual plans and priorities, is predictable, time-bound and transparent. More complicated perhaps, is ensuring that the budget is pro-poor; that it contributes to achieving rights to, and rights in, education. This will involve linking budget production to good quality research on the numbers of children in and out of school; and the issues blocking children from accessing schooling as well as an understanding of the ingredients for quality education. All this information should consider the different needs and contexts of different excluded groups. However, it through focusing on the budget in this way the group may also become aware of the short-falls in income. Key questions include: Is the money sufficient for quality education? If you had more money what would you spend it on? What are the relative costs of different education inputs? Which elements are needed for quality education? Action here might include lobbying the district education office or national government for increased allocation. It will also be important to look at issues which are constraining government expenditure on education.
If you are working with a group not directly involved in the budget management process (for example a mother’s group, Reflect circle, PTA or student group), this work will also involve looking at strategies for influencing the formal budget process. If the relationship with the school is good, this could be through developing information and accountability mechanisms to ensure that the wider community is involved during the budget production process. If the relationship is not so positive it could be through using a range of advocacy tools, raising awareness of the budgeting process in the local community, and linking to other local bodies (local government, CBOs, the media) as appropriate. Here the pressure would be on the SMC and other decision-makers to open up the budgeting process.