Exposing Wrongs With the Right to Information: Freedom Forum’s Work With the Media in Nepal

by Ryan Flynn for the International Budget Partnership— Apr 19, 2017

When Freedom Forum, a civil society organization based in Nepal, decided to use the country’s Right to Information (RTI) laws to investigate special funds allocated to parliamentarians, they uncovered a vast array of wasteful projects. Such nebulous spending was being channeled through Nepal’s Constituency Development Funds (CDFs), mechanisms for allocating money from the national coffers for parliamentarians to spend in their local constituencies. Using Nepal’s Right to Information law to investigate CDFs, Freedom Forum painstakingly traced how money was being spent and projects were supposed to be administered. They then worked with investigative journalists to piece together a series of exposés revealing the misuse of public money.

Overseeing Budget Sustainability: A New Tool for Watchdogs

by Daniel Baksa, David Mihalyi, and Balazs Romhanyi— Mar 28, 2017

When optimism fuels public spending and earnings fail to materialize, a country can quickly find itself in fiscal crisis. Civil society has a crucial role to play in ensuring government policies are sustainable, yet interrogating the assumptions underlying budget decisions can be dauntingly complex. For this reason the Natural Resource Government Institute and the Fiscal Responsibility Institute Budapest have developed a tool to help potential watchdogs grapple with these complexities.

Pension Reform in El Salvador

Bridging Political Polarization: Pension Reform in El Salvador

By Rocio Campos, International Budget Partnership— Mar 09, 2017

Building consensus and using evidence to influence policy can be particularly challenging in contexts where political polarization has become entrenched. This was the scenario in El Salvador in 2014, when IBP started working with a diverse group of civil society organizations to influence the debate on pension reform. Tactics included producing evidence for decision makers and working to socialize basic facts about the reform with the wider public.

Making the Most of the Budget Cycle: The Budget Formulation Stage

By Jay Colburn, International Budget Partnership— Feb 28, 2017

Timing can be everything when it comes to influencing government decisions. Luckily budgeting more or less follows a regular cycle throughout the financial year and decisions are often contingent on what has come before. Civil society organizations (CSOs) looking to influence budgets can use their knowledge of the budget cycle to determine the timing and targets of their interventions. This post looks at the formulation stage of the budget cycle and how civil society can most effectively engage in it.

Putting the Government’s Budget Proposal in Context

By by Albert van Zyl, International Budget Partnership South Africa— Feb 23, 2017

Civil society can play an important accountability role throughout the budget process, from formulation to enactment then implementation and audit. Early in the process, civil society organizations can inform the public about the government’s proposals for raising and spending public money and can offer a critical voice that places the proposals in the social and economic context of the country and challenges questionable assumptions. On 22 February 2017 the South African Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan delivered the annual budget speech upon tabling the Executive’s Budget Proposal in parliament. As an example of how CSOs can engage in this stage of the process, IBP South Africa responded with the following assessment of the proposal.

funding basic education in south africa

Decentralized Budget Transparency?

By Carlene van de Westhuizen and Albert van Zyl, International Budget Partnership South Africa— Feb 16, 2017

There is a tendency to assume that budget information is centralized and can be provided by the national Ministry of Finance. Some exploratory work done by IBP South Africa suggests that sources of budget information — specifically the information needed by CSOs for analyzing budgets and monitoring implementation on the ground — can be more decentralized than one might expect.

The Open Budget Survey 2017: Expanding and Improving How Budget Transparency, Participation, and Oversight are Measured

By David Robins, International Budget Partnership— Feb 09, 2017

In late 2016 civil society researchers from 115 countries began the research for the sixth biennial Open Budget Survey, the world’s leading independent and comparative evaluation of the state of transparency, oversight, and public participation in government budget processes. The kick off of the Open Budget Survey 2017 research is an exciting milestone and thus a good opportunity to check in on the survey and take a look at what is to come in the near — and not so near — future.

Ending Extreme Poverty With Domestic Resources: An Interview With University of Sydney’s Chris Hoy

by the International Budget Partnership— Jan 19, 2017

Do developing countries have the scope to raise sufficient domestic resources to end extreme poverty among their citizenry? A recent working paper titled Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways, published by the Center for Global Development found, somewhat surprisingly, that almost three-quarters of global poverty could be tackled through the redistribution of national resources. Co-author Chris Hoy shares more about what this means for those working on government budgets.

Making the Most of Citizens Budgets

By Elena Mondo, International Budget Partnership— Jan 10, 2017

Government budget documents are hardly page-flipping bestsellers. They usually consist of hundreds of pages of numbers and charts accompanied by technical jargon that even readers with advanced degrees find difficult to decipher. No wonder then that most citizens have hard time understanding what government budgets are about, despite the huge impact that they can have on their livelihoods. In many countries civil society and the media play an important role in “translating” budget information for a general audience. But governments should also lead on informing the public about budget processes and policies. One way to do so is to publish Citizens Budgets — shorter, simpler documents aimed at a general audience.

A group of students using Balancing Act. Credit: Engaged Public

Balancing Act: An Online Tool for Capturing Budget Priorities Among the Public

by the International Budget Partnership— Dec 13, 2016

Engaged Public is a consulting firm based in the U.S. that specializes in promoting citizen engagement in public policy, including government budgets. Their online tool Balancing Act was developed to help teach U.S. citizens how budgets work and to capture citizen input on budget priorities. Recently Engaged Public began working with governments and civil society outside the U.S. to trial the tool. While IBP doesn’t endorse any particular tool or approach, we are always interested in understanding new ways of making budgets more open and accessible. We recently talked with Brenda Morrison from Engaged Public about Balancing Act and their work in adapting the tool to different country contexts.