Twaweza partner, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) has launch its 2012 Open Budget Survey, a biennial survey of budget transparency, participation, and accountability. It is the only independent, comparative, and regular survey of budget transparency and now comprises the largest database on budget transparency information globally. The survey covers 100 countries this year. Two years ago Twaweza worked with IBP to create an East African brief from the survey. This year we will again be working to collate the findings for East Africa into a briefing note Can people follow the money?
The latest survey results show mixed progress. The state of budget transparency around the world is dismal. The average score is 43 out of 100. Of the 100 countries surveyed, 40 provide their citizens with minimal, scant or no information on the government budget. 21 countries do not even publish the budget proposal. Compounding this problem is the fact that the vast majority of countries provide minimal, if any, opportunities for citizen engagement in the budget process. The average score for participation is just 19 out of 100. In addition, while legislators and Supreme Audit institutions have reasonable levels of legal powers, in practice levels of autonomy and resourcing undermine effective oversight.
But, this is just one side of the story. There has also been a consistent improvement in the scores of 40 countries that IBP has been tracking since 2006. Scores for this group have increased by an average of ten percent over this period, and even higher for several countries that previously scored at the bottom of the index. Further, while natural-resource and aid-dependent countries in Africa and MENA tend to score low on the index, there are good performers in each of these categories and regions (Mexico, Botswana, South Africa, Jordan.) Most countries already produce considerable data for internal purpose or donors that they do not release to their citizens. Any country can do well on budget transparency – and it can improve reasonably quickly and at modest cost - if it has the political will to do so.
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