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.

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

Doing Accountability Differently in India

By Ryan Flynn, International Budget Partnership— Dec 01, 2016

Public service delivery is complex, and problems are rarely confined to a particular school, locality, or government institution. But a myopic focus on isolated service delivery problems risks mistaking the symptoms of accountability breakdowns for the causes. The solution? We need to start doing accountability differently. Reformers need support to forge diverse coalitions that are able to navigate this complexity and drive change. But what does this look like in practice? Two recent IBP case studies documenting the work of Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) and Samarthan in India provide some insights.

International Budget Partnership Case Studies India

Accountants With Opinions: How Can Government Audits Drive Accountability?

By Vivek Ramkumar, International Budget Partnership— Nov 07, 2016

Supreme audit institutions (SAIs) are essential to accountable governance. Yet, as the Open Budget Survey has revealed time and again, SAIs face serious limitations in many countries. Audit reports are withheld from the public, hearings on audit findings take place behind closed doors, and findings are not acted upon. IBP recently convened a group of leading experts and practitioners from the field of government auditing to discuss how to make audits more impactful. The group came up with some bold new ideas for how auditors can better fulfil their crucial function of holding the powerful to account.

International budget partnership audit workshop

High-Level Officials Discuss Budget Transparency in Francophone Africa

by the International Budget Partnership— Oct 27, 2016

On 6 October 2016 the International Budget Partnership and the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance co-convened a high-level event on budget transparency that brought together Ministers of Finance and senior finance ministry officials from eight Francophone African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Republic of Guinea, and Senegal). The meeting was held on the side lines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Fall Annual meetings with the aim of discussing recent progress on budget transparency in the region and encouraging participating governments to make policy commitments to further deepen transparency reforms.

High-Level Officials Discuss Budget Transparency in Francophone Africa

Kenya’s Equity Week: The Discussion on Fairness Just Started

by John Kinuthia, Program Officer, IBP Kenya— Oct 18, 2016

When Kenyans decided to adopt devolution as part of the country’s 2010 constitutional reforms, many believed that the way public resources were being distributed was set to radically change. So how is Kenya doing in practice? To encourage public discussion on the meaning of equity in resource allocation and on how Kenya could more fairly distribute resources across and within counties, the International Budget Partnership Kenya and its partners recently hosted Equity Week, a series of events aimed to widen discussions on equity beyond policymakers.

Kenya Equity Week International Budget Partnership

Doing Accountability Differently: How the Vertical Integration of Civil Society Can Drive Impact

by Jonathan Fox, School of International Service, American University— Sep 01, 2016

Civil society advocates have long argued that greater transparency leads to greater accountability. Put more information in the public domain and it will be used to hold governments to account. Yet the causal chain between transparency and accountability may be only as strong as its weakest link. While a steady stream of evidence from the mushrooming domain of transparency and accountability initiatives show progress on information disclosure, traction toward greater accountability has been quite limited. That’s without even addressing the challenge of shrinking civil society space. Yes, “it’s too soon to tell.” But the challenges of civil society organizations using government information to improve accountability appear to lie deeper.

civil society driving accountability impact

The Importance of When: How Timely is the Publication of Key Budget Documents Across the World?

By David Robins, International Budget Partnership— Aug 16, 2016

The Open Budget Index – the part of the Open Budget Survey that measures transparency – assesses the public availability of eight key budget documents. To be considered publicly available, a document must be published by the government within an acceptable timeframe. For example, unless an Executive’s Budget Proposal is published before it is enacted into law, citizens have no chance to influence its content, and it would therefore not pass the threshold of public availability. A deeper dive into the Open Budget Survey 2015 data reveals a number of interesting findings regarding the availability and timeliness of budget documents.

What Has the Open Budget Survey Taught Us About Progress and Challenges to Improving Budget Transparency?

Joel Friedman, Senior Fellow, IBP— Jul 21, 2016

The Open Budget Survey 2015 finds that budget transparency has improved modestly over time, particularly for countries that were ranked among the least transparent in previous rounds of the survey. While these findings correspond with those of earlier surveys, the 2015 results also expose the fact that relatively few countries have improved to the point where they are publishing sufficient information to enable CSOs, oversight institutions, and members of the public to participate effectively in the budget process. A critical question for IBP going forward is: why do countries have trouble moving above this threshold?

budget transparency 2015

Strategies in Using Budget Work to Improve Maternal Health

by Rebecca Warner, International Budget Partnership— Jul 14, 2016

Two IBP case studies, one from Tanzania and another from Uganda, examine civil society campaigns to engage governments and hold them to account in providing maternal health care to their citizens. Both feature the advocacy work of the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), an informal coalition of NGOs, donors, and their global partners dedicated to achieving safe and healthy childbirth for all women. WRA’s chief strategy has been to hold governments accountable by mobilizing citizens to demand decent healthcare for all pregnant women. Yet the coalition used two quite different approaches to push for improvements in maternal healthcare in Uganda and Tanzania.

What Are We Learning About How to Engage with the Executive?

by Jessica Taylor, Program Officer, IBP South Africa; John Kinuthia, Program Officer, IBP Kenya; and Jason Lakin, Country Manager, IBP Kenya— Jul 07, 2016

Productive, collaborative relationships with the executive are crucial to effective civil society budget advocacy. What is called “the executive” actually comprises a complex mix of political and technical leadership, and members of the executive derive their legitimacy from various sources. This essay from IBP’s 2015 Annual Report looks at what we are learning from our experiences in South Africa and Kenya about the nature of working with the executive.