Why you should read the Open Budget Survey 2010

Oct 19, 2010

The IBP launched the 2010 Open Budget Survey yesterday.  A few things for you to look at:

Key findings

Country Rankings

A Press Release

And why should YOU read it?

According to Chairman Howard Berman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives:

“Democracy works best when citizens have accurate information about public finances and spending. Openness in budgeting not only guards against waste, fraud and abuse but enables citizens to hold their governments accountable and builds confidence in political processes.In the case of foreign assistance, such transparency is important not only for the citizens of donor countries, who want to ensure that their tax dollars are invested wisely, but also for the intended beneficiaries, who can monitor and assess whether the funds are reaching those who need it and achieving their intended purposes. The Open Budget Survey is therefore an excellent reference and useful resource for understanding the comparative openness of budget systems around the world.”

According to Dr. Atiur Rahman Governor,  Bangladesh Central Bank

“Open Budget really reduces cost for the citizen and also improves the accountability of the government. OBI [Open Budget Index] is a very useful tool for ensuring good governance as well as it reduces corruption and enhances people’s participation.”

According to Ambassador Anda Filip of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

“The budget law is perhaps the most important piece of legislation that parliaments need to vet thoroughly, as it sets the stage for a myriad of other policy decisions across the board. Yet there are huge variations in the way parliaments are involved in the budget process: in many countries, modest capacities and limited powers of the legislative branch come in the way of making sure that public funds are appropriately allocated, and that a full accounting is performed afterwards. In order to address this evident gap in parliamentary oversight of the budgetary process, the joint efforts of a variety of actors will be required. IBP is one such actor. Its survey series on budget transparency and accountability, of which this is another exciting installment, is an important resource to anyone wanting to understand this problem and look for clear and practical solutions. At the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we have valued and utilized this information, particularly as part of efforts to assist parliaments in aid recipient countries to bring more aid on budget in order to ensure accountability and better results. The survey‟s country data is invaluable to help tailor parliamentary assistance programmes to those most in need or to those facing particular challenges. There is a compelling story here that needs to be heard, one that will hopefully help propel much-needed reforms forward.”

According to Aruna Roy Founder member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan:

“The Open Budget Survey is an important tool to empower activists to identify specific shortcomings in budget transparency and accountability systems in their countries. It creates grounds for demanding that their governments institute reforms, to facilitate citizens‟ participation and informed oversight in decision-making, vital to a healthy democracy.”

According to Jamie Drummond, Co-Founder and Executive Director, ONE International

“Ensuring that the leadership of a country is accountable to its people is the most important way to eradicate poverty and disease. To hold governments accountable, the public in every country requires access to timely, credible information about government programs, including how the public funds are raised and spent through the budget. Budget transparency is, therefore, fundamental to accountability and to ensuring that every cent of public funds — whether derived from foreign or local taxpayers — is used as effectively as possible with minimal leakages. In this context, the Open Budget Survey [OBS] is a critical instrument for governments and the public. Produced by independent experts in each country, the OBS sends a direct message from the public to their governments: Public funds are our funds and we will hold you accountable for how you raise and use these funds. The OBS also shows governments how they might respond through practical, inexpensive methods to greater openness.”

According to Amnesty International:

“Amnesty International welcomes the launch of the Open Budget Survey 2010 as an important initiative that focuses on how governments ensure (or fail to ensure) that people in a country know how a government has allocated its resources. It is important to know how resources, including international assistance, are being allocated and to ensure that aid is being used for the purposes it was intended to address. The right to information is critical to ensuring that people in a country can hold their government accountable if that money is lost due to corruption or inefficiencies and so that people understand how the government is prioritizing its expenditures.”

According to Rakesh Rajani , Twaweza East Africa

“Many governments [in East Africa] regularly claim to be transparent about their budgets, but it is often difficult to assess how well they are doing in practice. The OBI [Open Budget Index] provides a rigorous measure of progress to governments and citizens alike to see how they fare against both standards and other countries. Its rankings, comparisons and independent analysis can be powerful trigger for change.”

According to Ann Florini Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution

“If we want effective, competent, accountable governments, we need to start by ensuring that sunlight shines on the most fundamental of government processes — budgeting. This survey is key to understanding what information is needed and where it is or is not available. With its rigorous evaluations and clear language, the survey is more than an invaluable research tool. In showing how easily countries can improve their budget transparency practices, the survey deprives recalcitrant governments of any excuse for inaction.”

According to Barry Anderson Former head, Budgeting and Public Expenditures Division, OECD

“Despite its critical importance in helping to produce effective public finance systems, budget transparency is all too frequently not given the priority that it deserves, in part because countries don’t recognize its benefits. The Open Budget Survey 2010 can help correct this oversight: it greatly assists the individual countries surveyed identify their most important areas for improving budget transparency; it provides these countries with both general and specific recommendations on how to reform their budget processes; and it provides practical information on what type of societal benefits the countries should be expecting after making these reforms. In addition, the Survey’s authors have made it easy to understand and applicable to other countries not included in the Survey so that they can use its findings and recommendations to improve their public finance systems.”

According to Jill W. Sheffield President, Women Deliver

“The Open Budget Survey 2010 provides evidence that some of the worst performers on budget transparency and accountability are governments which also do very poorly on MDG 5, maternal and women’s health. These dismal results come at a time when investments in girls and women have been determined to be key to the economic health of national economies. A lack of transparency opens up opportunities for inefficiencies, wastage, and corruption. The Open Budget Survey is the tool that can identify the countries where the risk of misuse or mismanagement of public funds is greatest and suggest actions for improvements. In a time of scarce global resources, can we afford to lose any public funds needed for those critical investments that could yield such high returns for a country’s development and its people?”

According to Carlos Santiso Sector Manager, Governance Division, African Development Bank

“Strengthening public financial management is a central thrust of the African Development Bank’s support to governance in Africa. The budget process is a key driver of change and a mirror of a society. It effects people’s aspirations and a country’s priorities. The Open Budget Index by the International Budget Partnership has become an important source of information on people’s perceptions on budget transparency and therefore a useful guide to policy-makers in their reform efforts. Strengthening voice, transparency and accountability in the budget process is central to anchoring good governance and ensuring that public resources are used effectively for the common good. Budget transparency is critical to build capable and accountable states that are able to deliver services efficiently. These issues are even more important today in a global environment marked by recurrent crises which require governments to be able to mobilize domestic resources to finance development.”

According to Simon Taylor Director, Global Witness

“Global Witness exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems in order to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource-linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses. Knowing how governments raise and spend public funds is a critical part of this challenge. Secrecy in public budgeting opens the door to corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the use of public funds and, therefore, can protect and perpetuate corrupt regimes and stoke violent conflict. Greater public access to budget information exposes the real priorities of government, and thereby helps both domestic and international actors to hold governments to account for their use of public resources. As the only independent database on budget transparency and participation, the Open Budget Survey is a critical tool for civil society organizations across the world that are interested in public accountability. It shines the light on where problems are and provides evidence and guidance for improvements within countries.”

According to Kumi Naidoo International Executive Director, Greenpeace International

“Greenpeace was founded on a prophecy from Canada’s First Nation peoples: “There will come a time when the Earth grows sick and when it does a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the world who believe in deeds and not words. They will work to heal it and they will be known as the ‘Warriors of the Rainbow.’ This could just as well be applied to the work of the International Budget Partnership since it seeks to address one of the scourges facing humanity — corruption. Budget transparency is critical for good governance and participatory democracy, addressing development, and moving us in the direction of corruption-free societies. Sadly, the lack of transparency in the most important decision any government makes — determining their budget priorities — is a key gap in moving us to more just societies. Budgets, whether at the local or national government level can tell us how much governments value education, health, women’s rights, youth development. The failure to be transparent about how governments arrive at budget priorities is a fatal missing link in our efforts to seek good governance. This is of critical importance as we face the collective challenge of averting catastrophic climate change and finding development paths that deliver a decent livelihood for all while respecting ecological limits. Greenpeace’s vision of a sustainable society demands that power is exercised fairly and that those in power are held accountable for their actions. Our experience has shown that corruption not only drives climate change but also undermines economic and social development. It does this by privileging those with power and money over citizens and allowing them to profit at the expense not only of the rest of us — but of the planet itself.Existing forms of corruption that can have a negative impact on efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change are not difficult to find, but all such forms need to be duly considered in the development of climate policy that will have meaningful effect on the ground. The Open Budget Survey 2010 by the International Budget Initiative comes at an important time. As an organization that was formed by a powerful idea of Quakerism, “bearing witness” to injustice, Greenpeace supports transparency as key value in promoting vibrant democracies and healthy societies. Encouraging our governments to be transparent about budget making processes is not a nice thing to do, but a critical thing to do — if we are serious about meaningful democracy and if we are seriously committed to eradicating dehumanizing poverty from the face of our planet.”

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