(Originally posted here)
The International Budget Partnership released today the Open Budget Index (OBI). The UK scores first on the provision of budget information to its public, followed by South Africa, France, New Zealand and the United States. On the other hand, 80% of the surveyed governments fail to provide sufficient information on the budget to its public.
The study takes into account an important aspect which is the release of a simplified and accessible version of the budget (citizen’s budget). In this case, only 17 countries provided such budget information in a format accessible to the broader population.
A major finding of the survey is the fact that, even though most governments produce budget information that would be crucial to public involvement in the budget process, these same governments fail enormously when it comes to releasing the information: 51 out of 85 governments surveyed produce at least one major document that is not released to the public.
This is particularly striking given that governments could easily – and with low costs – improve their transparency by releasing this information through the Internet. As the report shows, even though most governments (68) disclose their enacted budget on the Internet, the majority fails to provide other relevant information such as a pre-budget statement. In fact, as has been pertinently underlined, much of the information considered to be “publicly available” (criteria of the study) can be obtained only upon request or the payment of a fee.
An interesting remark concerns how civil society organizations specialized in budget issues can enhance the performance of legislatures in the budgeting process. The OBI report also provides examples of good practices in the processes of budget formulation, approval, execution and audit.
Given the magnitude of the report, the study has its limits: the OBI index evaluates publicly available information on the budget issued by central governments only, leaving aside the subnational level where, in many cases, much of the action takes place.
Nonetheless, it is still a monumental work of the International Budget Partnership.
To access the full report and other relevant information click here.