The Bulgarian government will spend over BGN 63 billion in 2022. For the first time, Bulgarian citizens can track the spending of their funds on a daily base in an accessible, interactive, and easy to use application.
In addition, the tool developed by the IME and “Data for Good” teams allows for tracking of every payment of every government institution from the beginning of 2019 until today, with various breakdowns. Public spending in Bulgaria has never been on display in the way it is today.
Every year, state institutions receive funds from the budget in order to carry out their activities. All public institutions and budget organizations, including the National Social Security Institute and the National Health Insurance Fund report payments made through a special system called the Electronic Budged Payment System (SEBRA). SEBRA’s daily reports have long been publicly available, but the information in them is fragmented and too voluminous for analysis.
The “Data for Good” team, with the help of experts from the Institute for Market Economics, accepted the challenge to summarize this information and present it using a special tool. This tool makes it easier for anyone who is interested into what and how much of taxpayer’s money is spent by each institution.
The tool includes the data from all daily reports of the budged organizations in SEBRA from the beginning of 2019 until now and that data is updated automatically. In practice, this is the easiest and at the same time the most up-to-date tool for tracking government spending in any direction, bringing to light the day-to-day management of funds.
The tool, for example, makes it relatively easy to track public spending in great detail in the first month of the new year. For a sample of payments for over BGN 3.8 billion in January 2022, nearly 1/3 of these expenditures were settled on January 7th 2022, when pensions were paid through the budged of the National Social Security institute in an amount of over BGN 900 million.
Other large payments in January 2022 with a total of BGN 570 million transfers to municipalities include mainly delegated state activities, as well as over BGN 400 million from the National Health Insurance Fund.
The new application allows to trace many cases that otherwise shy away from public attention. In 2021, for example, cash withdrawals by budget organizations amount to over BGN 12.5 million. Nearly BGN 4.9 million of these funds were concentrated in the National Assembly.
It turns out that the National Assembly regularly withdraws large amounts of money to make cash payments. In 2020, these funds amounted to BGN 9.9 million and most likely the lack of a functioning parliament in the major periods of 2021 is the reason for the contraction of the funds last year. For the first two months of 2022, the National Assembly reported cash withdrawals of about BGN 500,000.
IME sent an inquiry to the five institutions that reported the largest amount of cash withdrawals in 2021. As expected, parts of the cash payments are for salaries, business trips and entertainment expenses, but there are also a number of funds that are reported under the “other” tab.
The National Assembly report, for example, notes for over BGN 3.4 million in cash payment under the “other expenses” tab.
Here you can find the answers of the institutions in question: see the reports from the National Assembly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Constitutional Court, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and Supreme Judicial Council.
The example of the cash payment is specific enough in order to illustrate the possibilities of control and surveillance by citizens through the new instrument. The expenditures of each institution can be tracked on a daily basis with a delay of only a few days. Only the expenses of the municipalities are not visible in SEBRA.
In 2022, however, Sofia Municipality became the first municipality in the country to be invited by the Ministry of Finance for a pilot inclusion in SEBRA. This means that the budged funds of Sofia Municipality are serviced by Bulgarian National Bank, as the system allows to make inquiries about the movement of money at any time.
See a detailed description of the functionalities of the new application (in Bulgarian): https://data-for-good.bg/blog/sebra-visualization-bg