Monday, February 2, 2009

Open Budget Index 2008

The Open Budget Initiative published Open Budget Index 2008, which evaluates the quantity and type of information available to the public in a country’s budget documents. According to the report France, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US provide extensive information about annual budget to the public. The average score for 85 countries surveyed is 39 (out of 100= extensive information). Countries like China, Cambodia, DRC, Nicaragua, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria have poor index value, which shows that they provide scant or no budget information to the public. This alone shows how accountable are these governments their people! The report notes that in Nepal, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Croatia the process became much transparent due to pressure from the civil society. The role of civil society in this process is very important, especially in the developing countries.

Key findings:

  • 80 Percent of Governments Don’t Account for Spending

  • The worst performers tend to be low-income countries and often depend heavily on revenues from foreign aid or oil and gas exports.
  • Many poor performers have weak democratic institutions or are governed by autocratic regimes.
  • Almost all countries publish the annual budget after it is approved by the legislature.  However, in China, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, the approved budget is not published, completely preventing the public from monitoring its implementation.
  • Most countries provide much less information during the drafting, execution, and auditing stages of the budget process.  This prevents the public from having input on overarching policies and priorities, improving value for money and curbing corruption.
  • In many countries the supreme audit institutions do not have sufficient independence or funding to fulfill their mandate, and often there are no mechanisms in place to track whether the executive follows up on audit recommendations.
  • In Croatia, Kenya, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, significant improvements either were influenced by the activities of civil society groups or have created opportunities for greater civil society interventions. Important improvements in budget transparency were also documented in Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, and Papua New Guinea.