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Budget Information Bomb for Transparency and Accountability?

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Budget Information Bomb for Transparency and Accountability?

April 24 th.

 

I have today been privileged to attend a meeting organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs in partnership with the International Budget Partnership and graced by civil society organizations, some members of parliament and other stakeholders. This comes in the wake of the ongoing preparations for the 2014/2014 fiscal year National Government Budget. It was appalling to learn that actually Uganda does provide more detailed budget information than Kenya in expenditures on goods and services!

Budget information can be a time bomb in promoting transparency and accountability. If the people know who, where, when, why, what and above all how their taxes were being spent, they would be more accustomed to ask questions, probe and press for more accountability. This begs the questions: is this information accessible and not available in the most accurate, reliable, timely and are citizens making use of it? I also learnt in the meeting that what MPs know is not what the public consumes. Often, the budget estimates are not updated on ministry`s websites or no concerted efforts to enhance its proactive disclosure. This has affected even what the media reports, and usually this marks the basis for citizen participation.

Need for Benchmarks

It is not known yet how much information can be sufficient to the public, but my take is that all relevant and as accurately possible data ought to be published. But we need to benchmark ourselves against a public owned document in order to measure progress and success. Who is the public? Which language and tools can we use to share the information with them? What have we been doing? What are the best practices and approaches elsewhere?

One of the recommendations which I deeply share is the implementation of Program Based Budgets (PBB) focusing not only on meeting the formal requirements of new budget formats but on the needs of users of budget information. It is now sleeves up as we keenly watch this process take shape both at the National and County levels in the inquest for transparency and accountability.

 

By: Jacob Orina

Jacob Orina works with Transparency and Accountability Habitat through Information and Communication (Tachicom-Kenya) and his views expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the Habitat.

 

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