Open Budgets: Transparency, Participation, and Accountability

Cover: Open Budgets

Revised/Updated – June 2015

Transparency for What? The Usefulness of Publicly Available Budget Information in African Countries. Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership; and
Rebecca Simson, Overseas Development Institute. December 2013

This report considers whether the budget documents released by African governments are sufficiently comprehensive to answer basic questions about budget policy and performance. It spotlights those African governments surveyed in the Open Budget Survey with the strongest transparency records.

Corruption Fatigue. Karen Hasse. African in Fact (The Journal of Good Governance Africa). April/May 2015Open budgets: Transparency alone is not enough to combat graft

Logic tells us that transparency in government empowers citizens. Access to budget documents should allow people to hold their leaders accountable, improving service delivery and reducing corruption. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. In theory. In practice, matters are muddier. Transparency is only the first step in making governments accountable. For openness to lead to liability also requires the rule of law…

….Transparency is just the first step. When official corruption is uncovered, wrongdoers must be punished and voted out of office. When corruption becomes public knowledge and wrongdoers remain in power, leaders develop a sense of impunity and citizens develop “corruption fatigue”. This is already the case in Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Uganda and too many other African nations.

Open Budgets. Transform Lives. (Video). International Budget Partnership. April 2015.

In this video three IBP partners share their compelling stories of how they used budget analysis and monitoring to improve government spending and policies to help the poorest and most marginalized people in their country.

From Numbers to Nurses: Why Budget Transparency, Expenditure Monitoring, and Accountability are Vital to the Post-2015 Framework. Budget Brief. International Budget Partnership, Development Finance International, and Oxfam America. October 2014.

The post-2015 framework will contain the most ambitious set of development goals ever agreed and will require a significant increase in the effectiveness and efficiency of government spending. Bringing together available evidence and new quantitative analysis, this brief shows that budget transparency, expenditure monitoring and accountability can contribute to increases in spending towards, and better results related to, development goals. Whether or not this occurs crucially depends on data availability, space for civil society engagement, political will, and government capacity.

Ensuring positive outcomes in the post-2015 agenda requires a “data revolution” in tracking government spending, aid and results. This can be facilitated by:

  • Promoting budget transparency and access to information on spending targeted to development goals, including an indicator in the post-2015 framework.
  • Monitoring government spending on the goals as part of the “means of implementation”.
  • Increasing support for strengthening government systems to publish detailed budget information.
  • Increasing support for building the capacity of citizens, the media, parliaments, and government officials to strengthen budget accountability.

Transparency for Development: Examining the Relationship Between Budget Transparency, MDG Expenditure, and Results. Rebecca Simson. November 7, 2014.

Using new datasets on public expenditure and budget transparency, this paper examines the relationship between budget transparency, budget allocations, and outcomes towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Open Budget Survey 2012

Examines 100 countries from around the world, measuring three aspects of how governments are managing public finances:

  • Budget transparency – the amount, level of detail, and timeliness of budget information governments are making publically available. Each country is given a score between 0 and 100 that determines its ranking on the Open Budget Index.
  • Budget participation – the opportunities governments are providing to civil society and the general public to engage in decisions about how public resources are raised and spent.
  • Budget oversight – the capacity and authority of formal institutions (such as legislatures and supreme audit institutions) to understand and influence how public resources are being raised and spent.

Open Budgets: The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability

Open Budget Initiative – International Budget Partnership. April 2013

Decisions about “who gets what, when, and how” are perhaps the most important that any government must make. So it should not be remarkable that around the world, public officials responsible for public budgeting are facing demands—from their own citizenry, other government officials, economic actors, and increasingly from international sources—to make their patterns of spending more transparent and their processes more participatory.

Surprisingly, rigorous analysis of the causes and consequences of fiscal transparency is thin at best.Open Budgets seeks to fill this gap in existing knowledge by answering a few broad questions: How and why do improvements in fiscal transparency and participation come about? How are they sustained over time? When and how do increased fiscal transparency and participation lead to improved government responsiveness and accountability?

– See also: The IBP Releases New Landmark Book on the Causes and Consequences of Budget Transparency. Paolo de Renzio. Openbudgetsblog.org

More publications from the International Budget Partnership

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