Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2017

Originally published by Kerosi Dotcom

On Tuesday 30 January 2018 the International Budget Partnership released the long awaited Open Budget Survey (OBS) results for 2017.

This is a report that looks into how 102 countries around the world performed in terms of transparency, public participation and budget oversight.

The status of those parameters is measured and the countries are ranked accordingly. It’s based on how countries raise and spend their resources.

The OBS 2017 has revealed that the level of budget transparency has declined from 45 out of 100 to 43 out of 100.

This is a sad reality because it means that global citizens will not be able to hold their governments into account because they do not have access to adequate information. In economics 101 professor would refer to this situation as “information asymmetry.

In this article, I’ll review how Kenya was ranked and then later compare it with a few other African countries. This is to ensure that you understand what is happening in terms of public participation on the budgeting process.

Kenya was ranked based on data collected by the Institute of Public Finance Kenya which has its headquarters in the capital city Nairobi.

Uganda’s  ranking was based on data collected by Uganda Debt Network while Rwanda’s Ranking was based on detailed information collected by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) of Rwanda.

The report was written by Dr. Jason Lakin formerly of IBP_Kenya. A man from whom I owe much of the skills and knowledge on public budgeting and policy.

On Transparency, Kenya was scored 46 out of 100 hence an under-performance considering that the “pass mark” was set at 60/100. On this parameter, Kenya was advised to pull up the socks by:

  • producing and publishing the “Mwananchi Guide” which is a non-technical version of the big document.
  • Providing all budget documents on a timely manner

On Public Participation, Kenya lagged behind many other countries which were evaluated. It scored 15/100. The researchers pointed out that,

“Kenya provides few opportunities for public to engage in budget process.” OBS 2017.

On this matter of public participation, the researchers recommended that the budget and appropriation committee hold more public hearings to collect input which will inform the annual budget.

Finally, they recommended that the Office of the Auditor General (supreme institution for audit) should, “establish formal mechanisms for the public to assist the OAG in formulating its audit program & to participate in relevant audit investigations.” – Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2017.

This was eye-opening. When you see the Auditor General, Robert Ouko, ask him when he is going to organize for public forum for you to advise him on better ways to do his work of auditing Ministries, Departments and agencies.

On Budget Oversight, Kenya scored 50 out of 100. Not so bad after all. The worry is that the legislature which is supposed to lead from the front only provides their oversight services during the budget formulation process. Afterwards, their efforts dies down. Too bad. They are even needed more during the project implementation process. Members of national and county assemblies should ask the executive the “difficult questions” on budget and policy. The relevant legislative committees should conduct analyses on public spending and publish their findings online. Important.

We also expect that the Office of the Auditor General will do more to deliver value to you the tax payers.  The national assembly should take a step in 2018/2019 to ensure that this supreme institution on all matters audit is well funded. The OAG is already one year behind schedule in production of their audit reports. This should change as soon as now.

The budget and appropriations committees at the national assembly and Senate should upgrade their game by taking appropriate action on those audit reports once submitted/tabled with them.

Crack the whip honorable members!

Elsewhere in Morocco, public participation is a vocabulary which has no meaning. In that North African country as well as in Sudan the OBS 2017 shows that there is no public participation.

Finally, South Africa serves as a good example to borrow best practices from. This rainbow country “provides the public with extensive budget information.” Secondly, the legislature plays their role well during the entire budget cycle. Finally, the supreme audit institution scored 100 out of 100 in terms of providing adequate oversight budget information. At last audit offices around Africa have a peer to learn from.

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