March 6, 2019 Print

Atlas Network’s partner México Evalúa discovered that Congress’ approved budget was different from the one enacted. In order to address this, they developed a microsite called Black Box in order to inform all Mexicans about the budget process and expenditures.

In 2016, the government spent 500 billion pesos more than what was approved by Congress. However, this overspending was partly hidden since the incriminating information was difficult to find. If the average Mexican wanted to learn about the national budget they would have to submit official information requests, which would take time and when answers arrived, they were not always informative and often confusing. The other alternative was to wait for the Treasury Secretary to publish information, and sort through the data themselves.

Black Box puts information about the state budget in one place and communicates it so that people can easily understand what is going on in their own government.

“This project has a significant influence on the dialogue regarding public expenditure and federal budget processes,” says Erin Leyson, institutional development officer at México Evalúa. “This is because the Black Box offers data as well as data-stories that the public can use to easily understand the budget exercise and which journalists and Congress members can use.”

The value of making this information readily available has already been demonstrated when it helped to drive the dialogue involving government spending that targeted members of different political parties.

In July 2018, Atlas Network published a story on the work México Evalúa did to inform the public about Branch 23. Branch 23 was a part of the budget used to transfer funds to states. However, the important part of Branch 23 is how fund transfers to states of the same political party as the national government were increased and those that were of opposing had their fund decreased. It was México Evalúa and their Black Box project that publicized this information and led to an investigation of corruption within the ruling party.

With the success of Black Box and Branch 23, México Evalúa has shown the importance of making their findings accessible. Thanks to their vision, Mexicans will have a greater understanding of the budget process and as well as the tools they need to work for lasting reform.

To learn more about Branch 23, check out the story here.