On October 19, MFAN partner Oxfam and the International Budget Partnership (IBP) co-hosted an event on the release of the Open Budget Survey 2010, an independent measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world. IBP administered a survey to 94 countries that evaluates public access to national budget information. Public access, or availability, is defined in the study as “information as that which any and all members of the public might be able to obtain through a request to the public authority issuing the document.” Each country was assigned a score based on the average of the responses to the 92 questions relating to public availability of budget information. Three key findings of the Open Budget Survey:
1. Of the 94 countries assessed, 74 do not meet basic standards of transparency and accountability in their national budgets;
2. There has been a 20% improvement in the average performance of the 40 countries that have been measured over the three consecutive Open Budget Surveys in 2006, 2008, and 2010; and
3. Governments can improve transparency and accountability quickly by publishing online the budget information they produce and by inviting public participation in the budget process.
Additionally, the survey found a strong correlation between a country’s lack of budget transparency and heavy reliance on oil and gas revenue, dependence on foreign aid, and authoritarian governments. Exceptions to this correlation, such as South Africa and India, illustrate that it is possible for any country to achieve transparency and accountability if its government makes it a priority.
Based on these key findings, IBP has developed a set of four recommendations, two short-term and two medium-term, to help improve transparency and public engagement in the budget process:
o Two Short-term Recommendations:
1. Governments should make public all the documents they produce on the national budget; and
o Two Medium-term Recommendations:
1. Establish global norms on budget transparency; and
2. All aid donors should demand budget transparency in countries to which they provide aid.
Gregory Adams, the Director of the Aid Effectiveness Team at Oxfam America, emphasized the importance of developing tools to hold governments accountable so that a “compact” between citizens and their governments can be established as a foundation for sustainable, country-owed development. Budget transparency can help reduce corruption and increase aid effectiveness. Read more about grass-roots efforts to further anti-corruption measures in Afghanistan here.