Budget transparency ‘generally dismal’ worldwide

23 Jan 13
Only a minority of governments publish significant information on their budgets and even fewer provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the process, according to a survey published today.

By Nick Mann | 23 January 2013

Only a minority of governments publish significant information on their budgets and even fewer provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the process, according to a survey published today.

Of the 100 countries covered by the Open budget survey 2012, carried out by the International Budget Partnership, just six make ‘extensive’ information available to citizens. Almost half (41) provide minimal or no budget information.

Countries’ budget transparency was scored out of 100, depending on how much information they make available in eight key budget documents, such as a pre-budget statement and an audit report. New Zealand scored highest, with 93 out of 100, with the other five countries providing ‘extensive’ information including South Africa, the UK, Sweden, Norway and France.

The average score was 43 out of 100, with three countries – Equatorial Guinea, Burma and Qatar – making no budget information available. China scored just 11 out of 100, indicating it makes ‘scant or no’ information on its spending plans available to its citizens.

Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership, said: ‘Absent information and a lack of participation opportunities mean citizens can neither understand the budget nor hold their governments accountable.

‘It also opens the door to abuse and the inappropriate and inefficient use of public money, undermining equitable economic development at a time when public resources and services are already dwindling due to the financial crisis. This has major implications for the quality of life for millions of people around the world.’

In terms of public participation in the budget process, the average score among the 100 countries was 19 out of 100. South Korea, which scored 92, was the only country to provide extensive opportunities for public engagement at different points in the budget process. Over eight out of ten (83) countries surveyed provide limited or no opportunities for public involvement.

UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening described the results of the survey as ‘highly concerning’. She added: ‘Transparency is one of our most powerful weapons against corruption, waste and bad governance, providing the basis on which people can hold their politicians to account and demand change where change is needed.’

The report said progress had been made by some countries since the last Open Budget Survey was carried out in 2010. But at the current rate of improvement it would take at least a generation for the vast majority to provide significant levels of budget transparency.

Krafchik added: ‘The combination of inadequate budget information with the restrictions on public participation will make it far more difficult to monitor progress against the current and next generation of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. World leaders should realise that they must also promote fiscal transparency and participation if these goals are to be achieved.

‘Reforms can be accomplished at little to no financial cost and can benefit billions of people. Good budget practices have been identified and standards have been set. Substantial technical assistance is available. The framework to improve exists – all that is typically missing, in many individual governments, is the political will to act. That must change.’

Did you enjoy this article?

Related articles

Have your say

Newsletter

CIPFA latest

Most popular

Related jobs

Most commented

Events & webinars