How to Bridge the “Participation Gap” in Government Budgets

By Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership— May 17, 2016

Government budget transparency has historically received a lot more attention than citizen participation in the budget process. Yet budget transparency alone is not sufficient to bring about positive change. Civil society organizations need to be able to use fiscal information to put pressure on governments, which often happens through institutionalized participation channels. If there are few avenues for participation, budget transparency may end up being irrelevant. On the other hand, participation without transparency risks being ineffective if demands and debates around budgets are based on limited information. What can governments do to improve this “participation gap”?

budget transparency and participation

What Civil Society Should Know About How Governments are Disclosing Budget Information Online

By Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership, Jorge Romero Leon, independent researcher, and Fundar’s Diego de la Mora and Liliana Ruiz— May 09, 2016

When governments first started publishing documents online, budget analysis still required searching large PDFs and patiently compiling the data for analysis. But more recently, with increasing emphasis on fiscal transparency and citizens’ right to information, things got even easier. Many governments are now using so-called “transparency portals” to host large amounts of budget data in machine readable formats. How widespread are these changes? What are some of the emerging good practices? And how can civil society organizations (CSOs) best take advantage of this new opportunity to enhance budget accountability?

Beyond Wish Lists: Budget Deliberation, not Empty Participation

by Jason Lakin, IBP Kenya— Apr 27, 2016

The term public participation has lost meaning in the context of budget making and a higher standard is needed if public participation is to deliver on its promises. Should public deliberation, a concept rooted in theories of deliberative democracy and moral philosophy, be the new standard? IBP Kenya’s Jason Lakin explains how public deliberation can help instill confidence in government decisions and engender an informed public.

Opening Up the Discussion on Public Finance in India: A Tool for Budget Analysis

by Gaurav Godhwani and Rohith Jyothish, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA)— Mar 30, 2016

In the world of government budgets it pays to move fast. React too slowly and the national conversation around budget priorities has already moved on. This is why the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) publishes an analysis of India’s Union Budget within 24 hours of it being presented to parliament each year. This analysis helps to facilitate an informed budget discussion, particularly around sectors and issues relevant for the poor and vulnerable sections of the population. This year, alongside the traditional analysis, CBGA decided to launch an online Budget Analysis Tool.

CBGA India Budget Analysis Tool

Ugandan Government Commits to Civil Society Participation in the Latest Budget

By Carol Namagembe, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG)— Mar 24, 2016

The Government of Uganda has promised to incorporate proposals from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) into the 2016/17 National Budget. This was revealed by the State Minister for Finance, Fred Omach, during a pre-budget dialogue with CSOs in Kampala on March 18, 2016. “We shall pick the highlights and the best you have,” Omach said after acknowledging the critical role CSOs play in influencing government policies.

Great Ideas for Open Government Partnership Action Plans: Opening Budgets

By David Robins, International Budget Partnership— Mar 04, 2016

The budget is the single most powerful tool that a government can use to improve the lives of its citizens. It is where policy meets public resources — where decisions about raising and spending public money turn promises and commitments into real investments in programs and services. Not only do the people have the right to know how their government is spending their money, they can play an essential role in improving budget decisions, implementation, and accountability. In other words, if open and effective governance is your goal, countries must have open and accountable budgets.

Open Government Partnership IRM reports

What Do Scandals in Brazil and South Africa Tell Us About the Link Between Transparency and Corruption?

by Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership— Feb 01, 2016

Without budget information it would be almost impossible for people outside government to spot and denounce cases of mismanagement and corruption. That’s why countries lacking transparency also tend to perform poorly on corruption indicators and, more generally, governance-related ones. As our research has shown, governments have a variety of motives for disclosing fiscal information that have little to do with the fight against corruption. And, for transparency to help tackle it, a number of additional factors need to be in place — from an active civil society, to an independent media, to effective oversight and accountability institutions.

Checking In On Open Government

By Joseph Foti, Program Manager, Open Government Partnership— Jan 29, 2016

Every two years, the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) team releases progress reports that assess how well OGP countries are achieving their open government commitments. The reports are released a year into the national action plan cycle and developed by national researchers and international experts with inputs from civil society and government. Throughout February 2016, 36 countries will receive their progress reports. What can we learn from these reports, and what are the next steps?

Open Government Partnership IRM reports

Introducing AGORA, the Portal for Parliamentary Development

by Lotte Geunis, ‎Parliamentary Development Officer, United Nations Development Programme— Jan 13, 2016

Since its launch in 2010, the AGORA Portal for Parliamentary Development has worked with over a dozen global, regional, and national partners to support parliamentary development actors across the globe. Following extensive partner and user consultations, AGORA was re-launched in 2013 to accommodate the increasing demand for interactive learning and capacity building and now hosts a state of the art e-learning portal with courses designed for parliaments, parliamentary staff, and practitioners.

AGORA Parliament Development Portal