Contents
Transparency:
76
/100
(Open Budget Index score)
Public Participation:
22
/100
Budget Oversight:
83
/100

Government budget decisions – what taxes to levy, what services to provide, and how much debt to take on – affect how equal a society is and the well-being of its people, including whether the most disadvantaged will have real opportunities for a better life. It is critical that governments inform and engage the public on these vital decisions that impact their lives.

The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the world’s only independent, comparative and fact-based research instrument that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to central government budget information; formal opportunities for the public to participate in the national budget process; and the role of budget oversight institutions such as the legislature and auditor in the budget process.

The survey helps local civil society assess and confer with their government on the reporting and use of public funds. This 7th edition of the OBS covers 117 countries.

Transparency

This part of the OBS measures public access to information on how the central government raises and spends public resources. It assesses the online availability, timeliness, and comprehensiveness of eight key budget documents using 109 equally weighted indicators and scores each country on a scale of 0 to 100. A transparency score of 61 or above indicates a country is likely publishing enough material to support informed public debate on the budget.

The United States has a transparency score of 76 (out of 100).

Transparency in United States compared to others

Global Average
45
OECD Average
68
New Zealand
87
Sweden
86
Mexico
82
Brazil
81
Norway
80
United States
76
France
74
Canada
71
United Kingdom
70
Germany
69
0
Insufficient
61
Sufficient
100

United States’s ranking: 9 of 117 countries

0
100

How has the transparency score for United States changed over time?

82
2010
79
2012
81
2015
77
2017
76
2019
0
Insufficient
61
Sufficient
100

Public availability of budget documents in United States

Available to the Public
Published Late, or Not Published Online, or Produced for Internal Use Only
Not Produced
Scroll
Document 2010 2012 2015 2017 2019
Pre-Budget Statement
Executive’s Budget Proposal
Enacted Budget
Citizens Budget
In-Year Reports
Mid-Year Review
Year-End Report
Audit Report

How comprehensive is the content of the key budget documents that United States makes available to the public?

61-100 / 100
41-60 / 100
1-40 / 100
Scroll
Key budget document Document purpose and contents Fiscal year assessed Document content score
Pre-Budget Statement Discloses the broad parameters of fiscal policies in advance of the Executive's Budget Proposal; outlines the government's economic forecast, anticipated revenue, expenditures, and debt. 2019 Not Produced
Executive’s Budget Proposal Submitted by the executive to the legislature for approval; details the sources of revenue, the allocations to ministries, proposed policy changes, and other information important for understanding the country's fiscal situation. 2019 95
Enacted Budget The budget that has been approved by the legislature. 2018 39
Citizens Budget A simpler and less technical version of the government's Executive’s Budget Proposal or the Enacted Budget, designed to convey key information to the public. 2019 Not Produced
In-Year Reports Include information on actual revenues collected, actual expenditures made, and debt incurred at different intervals; issued quarterly or monthly. 2018 96
Mid-Year Review A comprehensive update on the implementation of the budget as of the middle of the fiscal year; includes a review of economic assumptions and an updated forecast of budget outcomes. 2019 85
Year-End Report Describes the situation of the government's accounts at the end of the fiscal year and, ideally, an evaluation of the progress made toward achieving the budget's policy goals. 2017 48
Audit Report Issued by the supreme audit institution, this document examines the soundness and completeness of the government's year-end accounts. 2017 91

The United States’ transparency score of 76 in the 2019 OBS is near its score in 2017.

Recommendations

The United States should prioritize the following actions to improve budget transparency:

Produce and publish a Citizens Budget online in a timely manner.
Include in the Year-End Report comparisons between planned expenditures and revenues and actual outcomes.

Public Participation

Transparency alone is insufficient for improving governance. Inclusive public participation is crucial for realizing the positive outcomes associated with greater budget transparency.

The OBS also assesses the formal opportunities offered to the public for meaningful participation in the different stages of the budget process. It examines the practices of the central government’s executive, the legislature, and the supreme audit institution (SAI) using 18 equally weighted indicators, aligned with the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency’s Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policy , and scores each country on a scale from 0 to 100.     

The United States has a public participation score of 22 (out of 100).

Public participation in United States compared to others

Global Average
14
OECD Average
23
United Kingdom
61
New Zealand
54
Mexico
35
Canada
26
United States
22
Norway
22
Sweden
19
France
18
Brazil
17
Germany
15
0
Insufficient
61
Sufficient
100

For more information, see here for innovative public participation practices around the world.

Extent of opportunities for public participation in the budget process

0
/100
Formulation
(executive)
67
/100
Approval
(legislature)
0
/100
Implementation
(executive)
44
/100
Audit
(supreme audit institution)

few: 0 - 40; limited: 41 - 60; adequate: 61 - 100

Recommendations

To further strengthen public participation in the budget process, the US Office of Management and Budget should prioritize the following actions:

Pilot mechanisms to engage the public during budget formulation and to monitor budget implementation.
Actively engage with vulnerable and underrepresented communities, directly or through civil society organizations representing them.

The US Government Accountability Office should prioritize the following actions to improve public participation in the budget process:

Establish formal mechanisms for the public to contribute to relevant audit investigations.

Budget Oversight

The OBS also examines the role that legislatures and supreme audit institutions (SAIs) play in the budget process and the extent to which they provide oversight; each country is scored on a scale from 0 to 100 based on 18 equally weighted indicators. In addition, the survey collects supplementary information on independent fiscal institutions (see Box).

The legislature and supreme audit institution in the United States, together, provide adequate oversight during the budget process, with a composite oversight score of 83 (out of 100). Taken individually, the extent of each institution’s oversight is shown below:

Legislative oversight

0
78
100
adequate

Audit oversight

0
95
100
adequate

weak: 0 - 40; limited: 41 - 60; adequate: 61 - 100

Recommendations

The US Congress provides adequate oversight during the planning and implementation stages of the budget cycle. To further improve oversight, the following actions are recommended:

Congress should approve annual appropriations before the start of the budget year.
A congressional committee should examine the Audit Report and publish a report with its findings online.

The emerging practice of establishing independent fiscal institutions

The United States’ independent fiscal institution (IFI) is the Congressional Budget Office. Its independence is set in law, and it reports to the legislature. It publishes its own macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts, and its own cost estimates of all new policy proposals.

*The indicators for IFIs are *not* scored

Methodology

  • Only documents published and events, activities, or developments that took place through 31 December 2018 were assessed in the OBS 2019.
     
  • The survey is based on a questionnaire completed in each country by an independent budget expert:
    Robert Keith
    Consultant
    750 1st Street NE, Ste. 700, Washington, DC 20002
    [email protected]
  • To further strengthen the research, each country’s draft questionnaire is also reviewed by an anonymous independent expert.

 

Other years