Can people follow their money? Budget transparency in East Africa
Uwazi-Twaweza in partnership with Internation Budget Partnership
Without information about budget allocations and execution, citizens are left clueless on how their tax money is spent. Public scrutiny of the budget process is an important element of any system of checks and balances. How do countries in East Africa fare in this regard?
To assess how accessible or 'open' budget processes are to citizens, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) has implemented the Open Budget Survey (OBS) for several years now. This survey follows a rigorous methodology of measuring budget practices and presents the only available independent and comparative measure of government budget processes. The survey comprises two sets of questions, totaling 123 altogether. The first set (92 questions) assesses the transparency of a country's budget to citizens and collects information about the availability, timeliness and comprehensiveness of budget reports. The remaining set of questions assesses the strength and effectiveness of institutions that oversee the budget process, the Legislatures (Parliaments) and the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).
Using data from three OBS survey rounds (2006, 2008 and 2010), this brief presents eight facts on budget openness in East Africa, covering Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda (information for Burundi is not available). The brief reveals a trend towards more openness, but also shows that the level of budget transparency remains poor and that oversight institutions are weak. It is further found that governments fail to publish key budget documents and that the documents that are published provide only limited information.
It is clear that countries of East Africa could significantly improve their budget transparency. Doing so does not have to be difficult. Some measures are as simple as making public documents that are already produced for internal government use or for donor agencies. Other measures, such as strengthening the role of oversight institutions, Parliaments and the Supreme Audit Institutions may be more challenging, but successful East African examples can provide guidance on how to go about it.