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Sierra Leone News: Salone fails on budget transparency

The Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2017, released yesterday, 30 January 2018, in Freetown, reveals a significant drop in basic standards of transparency with the national budgets. The country has dropped from 52 in 2015 to 38 in 2017.
Sierra Leone’s research in completing the country’s OBS was undertaken by Budget Advocacy Network (BAN). At the launch of the report, BAN’s Coordinator, Abu Bakarr Kamara, said that the entire research process took approximately 18 months between August 2016 and January 2018 and involved about 300 experts in 115 countries.
The transparency Open Budget Index (OBI) decline score by the country means that the government has made it more difficult for citizens to get information about what is being done with public money and to hold them accountable.
The report is produced every two years by the International Budget Partnership (IBP), based on an independent comparison of budget transparency and accountability around the world.
”The OBS 2017 assesses only events, activities or developments that occurred up to 31 December 2016,” said Kamara.
The accountability ecosystem looked at transparency, participation and oversight of the Budget processes.
These indicators assess whether the government makes eight key budget documents available to the public in a timely manner. The documents are: Pre-Budget Statement, Executive’s Budget Proposal, Enacted Budget, Citizen’s Budget, In-Year Reports, Mid-Year review, Year-End Report and Audit Report.
Sierra Leone’s score of 38 out of 100 is near the global average score of 42, with a score of 6 out of 100 on public participation lower than the global average score of 12. “Transparency alone is insufficient for improving governance. Public participation in budgeting is vital to realize the positive outcomes associated with greater budget transparency,” said Kamara.
To measure the public participation, the OBS assessed the degree to which the government provides opportunities for the public to engage in budget processes. Such opportunities, the report says, should be provided throughout the budget cycle by the executive, legislature and the supreme audit authority.
The 2017 Survey also identified a negative trend in the legislative oversight. “The legislature provides weak oversight during the budget cycle,” the report reads. This score reflects their role during the planning stage of the budget cycle and weak oversight during the implementation stage of the budget cycle. With a score of 28 for formulation/approval and 26 for execution or audit out of 100.
The country’s supreme audit institution was rated adequate with a score of 72 on budget oversight. “However, the supreme audit is provided with insufficient resources to fulfil its mandate and its audit processes are not reviewed by an independent agency that reports on their findings,” the report states.
The country score is in part affected by the change in definition of “publicly available” which from OBS 2017 only recognizes those documents that are published online on the relevant government body’s official website as available to the public. Online availability is now considered a basic standard for the publication of government information. As a result of this change the country no longer receives credit for the Year-End Report, which is published only in hard copy.
Since 2015, the country has failed to make progress in the following ways, not making the Pre-budget Statement and the Mid-Year Review available to the public.
The OBS is the world’s only comparative and independent assessment of fiscal transparency, oversight, and participation at the national level. The survey is carried out by independent researchers who respond to a set of factual questions in each of the 115 countries assessed. Each country’s results are then reviewed by an anonymous expert, and governments are also given an opportunity to provide their comments.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Wednesday January 31, 2018.

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