The roll of shame: Governments that won’t tell the public what they spend money on

Mar 03, 2009

The 2008 Open Budget Index reports that 25 of the 85 countries that it surveyed, provide no or minimal information to the public about the money that they spend.

Why does the public need to know what governments spend? Budgets only tell us what governments plan to spend. Not what they actually spend. Many governments do not stick to the budget that they develop at the beginning of the financial year. Many underspend on important items like AIDS drugs – to disastrous effects. Others move funding around in order to overspend on presidential slush funds or military hardware.

If governments do not tell the public what they actually spend, oversight institutions like the media, civil society and parliament have no way of holding governments to account for what they are actually doing with public funding.

Of the 25 countries that don’t publish their expenditures, 20 have this information, but do not release it to the public. So these  governments know what they spend on a quarterly or monthly basis.  There is no lack of financial management capacity as far as the generation of these figures go.

At least once every three months the treasuries in these countries report to donors and the powers that be on what they have spent. But they will not share this information with the public in their countries.

And who is on this Roll of shame?

Some of the members of this club will not surprise you:Bolivia,  Costa Rica, Venezuela, Romania, Namibia, Algeria,  Angola, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Sao Tome e Principe and Sudan.

But there are also countries such as South Korea, Uganda and  Senegal that fall into this category.

It is easy for these governments to get off this list. They have this information. Most of them have websites.  They just need to put their actual expenditure information on their websites!

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