February 1, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Coordinator for Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), Abubakarr Kamara, has urged the government of Sierra Leone to increase public information on budgeting in order to improve on transparency and accountability.
The BAN coordinator, who was speaking to Concord Times yesterday in an exclusive interview, said government should consistently publish a mid-year review, end of year report, a pre-budget statement online, produce and publish an enacted budget and increase information provided in executive budget proposals, among others.
He noted that it was due to those indicators that the country dropped 14 places in the 2017 Open Budget Survey (OBS) on Global Budget Transparency scores, which BAN unveiled Tuesday, January 30.
The OBS is the world’s only independent and comparative assessment of the three pillars of public budget accountability: transparency, oversight and public participation. The 2017 survey evaluated 115 countries across six continents.
Kamara said the country’s score was affected by the change in definition of “publicly available information” in which the 2017 OBS only recognised documents that were published at the official website of relevant government authorities.
“Online availability is now considered a basic standard for the publication of government information. As a result of this change, Sierra Leone no longer receives credit for the End-of-Year Report which is published only in hard copy,” he said.
The BAN coordinator said the OBS uses 109 equally weighted indicators to measure budget transparency, which they use to assess government as to whether they make the eight key budget documents available to the public online in a timely manner and whether the documents present budget information in a comprehensive and useful manner.
“The country scored 6% in terms of public participation and mind you transparency alone is insufficient for improving governance,” he said.
He said public participation in budgeting was vital to realising positive outcomes with greater budget transparency, adding that the OBS survey assessed the degree at which government provides opportunities for the public to engage in budget processes.
He said the executive, legislature and supreme audit institution should ensure that such opportunities are provided throughout the budget cycle.
He said the OBS does not only examine the role played by the legislature, supreme audit institutions, and independent fiscal institutions throughout the budgeting process, but also the extent at which they are able to provide effective oversight on the budget.
“The main barriers to effective legislative oversight are: a debate on budget policy by the legislature which doesn’t take place prior to the tabling of the Executive‘s Budget proposal,” he explained.
However, the BAN boss said government has made some progress in some of the recommendation BAN has been proffering over the years, thus urging the latter to up their game.
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Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) is a network of civil society organisations in Sierra Leone committed to working on budgets and budget policies to enhance policy making and implementation for sustainable and equitable development.