The Open Budget Survey is part of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Initiative, a global research and advocacy program to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.
Why an open budget survey?
All people in a country should have access to relevant information on how public resources are raised and spent, opportunities to contribute to policy decisions that affect their livelihoods and futures, and assurance of robust budget oversight by independent well-informed legislatures and audit institutions.
First launched in 2006, the Open Budget Survey is the world's only independent, comparative, and fact-based research instrument to measure these essential aspects of governance and accountability:
Transparency: is comprehensive budget information from the central government available to the public in a useful time frame?
Participation: are there formal and meaningful opportunities for the public - including the most disadvantaged - to engage in the national budget process?
Oversight: are oversight institutions - the legislature, the national audit office, independent fiscal institution(s) - in place and enabled to function properly?
The survey is not an opinion poll or a measure of perceptions; rather, it is based on a rigorous objective methodology subject to independent peer review.
Open Budget Survey Methodology
The survey results are based on a questionnaire of 228 questions that is completed by researchers typically based in the surveyed country. Almost all of the researchers come from civil society organizations (most of whom have a significant focus on budget issues) or academic institutions.
- Scored questions: 145 of the questions are scored and include 109 questions that assess the public availability of budget information, 18 questions that assess opportunities for the public to participate in the budget process, and 18 questions that assess the role of the legislature and the supreme audit institution.
- Unscored questions: the 83 unscored questions help to complete the OBS research by collecting background information on key budget documents and explore different characteristics of a country's public finance management.
Each country's completed draft questionnaire is also reviewed by an anonymous independent expert, as well as - in the great majority of cases - a representative of the country's government.
Budget transparency score (also known as the Open Budget Index): assesses the public availability of the eight key budget documents, that taken together provide a complete view of how public resources have been raised, planned, and spent during the budget year. To be considered "publicly available", documents must be published online, in a time-frame consistent with good practices, and must include information that is comprehensive and useful. A score of 61 or above indicates a country is likely publishing enough material to support informed public debate on the budget.
Participation score: the survey assesses the degree to which the executive, the legislature, and the supreme audit institution each provides opportunities for the public to engage during different cycles of the budget process.
Oversight score: the survey also examines the role that legislatures and supreme audit institutions play in the budget process and the extent to which they are able to provide robust oversight of the budget. Supplementary information on the existence and practice of independent fiscal institutions is also collected by the survey, but these questions are not scored.