The budget is the government’s most important economic policy tool and affects the lives of allcitizens, particularly the poor. A good budget will include measures to support povertyalleviation while a bad budget can ignore the poor or even actually work to their detriment.Transparency and public participation in financial management are the cornerstones of effectiveand accountable governance and are central to ensuring that a national budget reflects thepriorities of the citizenry. Without access to information, legislatures, SAIs, the media, andcitizens cannot effectively participate in decision-making nor hold their governmentsaccountable for the use of public resources. Transparency and effective public participation arecentral to enhancing the credibility of policy choices and the effectiveness of policyinterventions. On the other hand, lack of transparency can lead to the selection of inappropriateand unpopular programs and allow corrupt and wasteful spending to occur.The
Open Budget Survey 2008 provides an in-depth set of measures that assess the individualperformance of national governments against international best practices in transparency andoversight. It also points to the steps that governments can take to improve their practices byexpanding the amount of information available to the public and, concomitantly, by providingnew opportunities for the public to participate in budget implementation.Evidence shows that when citizens have access to information and opportunities to participate inthe budget process, the allocation of scarce public resources is more equitable and effective. Forexample:
In Mexico, Fundar, a nongovernmental organization, found the budget did not allocate fundsto combat the loss of lives during childbirth and successfully argued for funds for emergencyobstetrical care, especially in rural areas.
In India, Mazdoor Kisan Shakarti Sangathan, an organization of farmers with smalllandholdings and daily wage workers, uncovered corruption through their examination of budget-related documents. Among other types of corruption, they found that the names of dead people and fictitious names were recorded on payrolls and that payments were made forwork never done.
At the urging of the Uganda Debt Network, which monitors local spending, Uganda officialsidentified substandard work in school construction and evidence of corruption by localofficials and eventually denied payment to a construction firm.
In the Philippines, Government Watch has used budget information since 2000 to monitor thedelivery of school textbooks, the construction of new schools and other infrastructure, andthe distribution of disaster relief funds. With the cooperation of other groups, the G-Watchefforts have dramatically cut the cost of textbooks to the government, improved the quality of the books, and substantially lowered the percentage of “no-show” contractors who previouslyfailed to deliver contracted books.
Public Service Accountability Monitor in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province has usedbudget reports and other information it obtained to monitor the misuse of and irregularities in