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Asia: Survey Highlights Need for Budget Transparency
Source: futuregov.asia
Source Date: Friday, October 29, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs
Created: Nov 01, 2010

Governments should publish all national budgets online and invite public participation in reviews of spending, according to a global survey into transparency.

The 2010 Open Budget Survey, which is compiled every two years by The International Budget Partnership, found 74 of 94 countries assessed failed to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability when it comes to their national budgets.

Of those surveyed 40 countries release no meaningful budget information. Even when budget documents are made public, essential information is often absent, the survey found.

Only 17 of the countries examined provide comprehensive budget information on policies intended to alleviate poverty.

“Governments can improve transparency and accountability quickly and easily by publishing online all of the budget information they already produce and by inviting public participation in the budget process,” said Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership.

“In the long term, we would like to see the international community establish a set of global norms for budget transparency.”

New Zealand was ranked highest in the Asia Pacific region with a score of 90 in the Open Budget Index (OBI), in front of South Korea (71) and India and Sri Lanka, which both scored 67 on the Open Budget Index. South Africa was ranked highest with 92 points.

The OBI score reflects whether countries publish eight key budget documents and the nature of the information contained within them.

Philippines (55), Papua New Guinea (57), Indonesia (51), Bangladesh (48), Thailand (42) and Malaysia (39) were all rated average for producing some public information on spending. Neither Singapore or Australia were featured in the survey.

More than 40 of the 94 countries surveyed provided no information on extra-budgetary funds in their Executive’s Budget Proposals.

“In Indonesia, there is no In-Year Report made available to the public, and there is no Year-End Report and Citizens Budget,” said Siti Fatimah, a researcher from the Institute of Governance Studies in Indonesia.

“We believe that these three documents are really important to conducting public debates on the budget. And why is public debate important? It’s important because the budget is not the government’s; it has to spend the public’s money on the public’s needs.”

Countries that receive a significant amount of donor aid tended to perform poorly on budgetary transparency, the survey found.

However, significant progress was recorded in some countries. Afghanistan’s OBI score increased from 8 in the 2008 survey to 21 in 2010, a jump of 13 points.

The worst performers included Cambodia (15), Vietnam (14), China (13) and Iraq (0.5), which provide little to no information to their citizens about how the government is spending the public’s money.

“Greater transparency enables better oversight, better access to credit, better policy choices, and better service delivery,” Krafchik said.

Only 7 of the 94 countries surveyed release extensive budget information, including South Africa, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.

The IBP said that at the very minimum, countries that currently provide no or scant budget information should publish their Executive’s Budget Proposal, Enacted Budget, and Audit Reports.

Legislatures should begin to organise public budget hearings prior to approval of the budget.
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