Saturday, March 21, 2009

SA ranks 2nd in budget transparency index

02 February 2009

South African budget processes are among the most transparent in the world, according to the 2008 Open Budget Index.

Images by Gallo Images / With a score of 87%, South Africa ranked second in the index for openness, just behind the United Kingdom (88%), tie with France, and ahead of New Zealand (86%) and the United States (82%).

The biannual index conducted by the International Budget Partnership measures the openness of global governments according to the quantity and type of budget information made available to the public.

In 2006 South Africa previously ranked 4th in the index, with a score of 85%.

Overall the 2008 survey found that 68 of the 85 countries surveyed—80 percent—did not provide the public with the comprehensive, timely, and useful information people need to understand, participate in, and monitor the use of public funds.

Only the top five countries scored above 80%, earning them a place in the “Provides Extensive Information” category.

The index report states: “South Africa’s score on the open budget index shows that the government provides the public with extensive information on the central government’s budget and financial activities during the course of the budget year. This gives citizens tools to hold government accountable for its management of the public’s money.”

South Africa was praised for making available the seven key budget documents that are issued in a budget year; these include pre-budget statements, executive budget proposals, mid-year reviews and an audit report.

“Furthermore, it is fairly easy to track spending, revenue collection and borrowing during the year,” said the report.

To illustrate how access to budget information contributes towards change, the report cites South Africa’s Public Service Accountability Monitor as an example of how independent organisation’s can hold government to account.

The Grahamstown-based Public Service Accountability Monitor uses budget reports and other information to monitor the misuse of funds budgeted for essential services, often blowing the whistle on corrupt activity.

“The strong showing of South Africa [in the index] … demonstrates that developing countries can achieve transparency given sufficient willingness of their governments to be open and accountable to their people,” said the report.

Despite SA’s good ranking, the report says that the country could be made more open. Recommendations included increased opportunities for citizen participation in budget debates and the putting into place of formal mechanisms through which the public can engage with SA’s Supreme Audit Institution.

Visit Open Budget Index for more information.