The governments around the world are reducing the number of information on the collection and consumption of public funds available to the public, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the countries that recorded the largest decline in transparency of the state budget, according to the results of the Open Budget Survey for 2017 (OBS), carried out by the International Budget Partnership (IBP).
After 10 years of documenting the gradual process of increasing the availability of budget information, the IBP says OBS 2017 showed that a moderate drop in average estimates for budget transparency around the world has occurred, from 45 (out of 100) in 2015 to 43 (out of 100) in 2017 for 102 countries participating in both research cycles.
This reversal of transparency is particularly discouraging, as approximately three-quarters of the rated countries did not deserve to have their publication of their budget information deemed sufficient.
Warren Krafchik, Executive Director of the IBP, says, “The decline in budget transparency is troubling, especially if we look at it in relation to a larger picture that includes rising inequalities, limiting the work of the media and civil liberties, and weakening trust between citizens and their governments.”
Launched in 2006, the OBS is the world’s first independent, comparative measure of the three pillars of public budget accountability: transparency, oversight and public participation. The sixth cycle of this measure, conducted every two years, the 2017 survey carried out an assessment of 115 countries on six continents, including 13 new countries compared to a survey conducted in 2015.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been participating in the OBS since 2008, and the results of a survey conducted in 2017 show a fall in the ranking list of the Open Budget Index (OBI), which uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a rating for transparency on a scale of 100. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Open Budget Index (OBI) fell from 43 in 2015 to 35 in 2017. This means that authorities have made it harder for citizens to have access to information about what happens with the public money and they made it more difficult for them to hold authorities accountable for what has been done.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina fell on the ranking list due to the untimely publication of Quarterly Reports on Budget Execution, due to failure to publish the Citizens’ Budget and the Biannual Budget Review, and a Budget Proposal publication containing only minimum budget information,” said Aleksandra Banović, Project Coordinator at the Foundation “Centre for the Promotion of Civilian Interests” (CPI Foundation), which conducted research for BiH. “In the first place, the authorities should publish budget documents on time and on official websites they should publish budget documents, then draft a Citizens’ Budget and a Biannual Budget Review, and publish a Budget Proposal that contains comprehensive information and expenditure figures, debt and fiscal position of the Government.”
The OBS 2017 also revealed that most countries were not able to provide significant public opportunities for participation in the budget process – both in terms of information on decisions about the way governments collect and allocate funds, as well as the possibility for the public to hold the authorities responsible for implementation of these decisions. None of the 115 participating countries provided an opportunity for participation that would be considered adequate. The average global score is only 12 points out of 100, where 111 countries scored a low score (lower than 41). Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved a score of 9 out of 100 points for the opportunities that the authorities provide to the public to participate in the budget process. Without the possibility for active citizen participation – especially citizens belonging to marginalized or vulnerable groups – budget systems can only serve the interests of elites possessing power.
In addition to assessing transparency and public participation, the OBS also assessed the role of institutions that provide formal oversight, such as Supreme Audit and Legislative Bodies. The survey found that the legislative bodies of only 32 countries (28 percent) had adequate monitoring practices, 47 countries (41 percent) had limited control practices, while 36 countries (31 percent) had poor control practices. For comparison, the OBS estimated that 75 out of 115 countries (65 percent) had the basic requirements needed to provide adequate oversight by the Supreme Audit Institutions. Independent oversight institutions that have adequate funding are crucial for better budget planning and execution.
When it comes to formal institutions for supervision in Bosnia and Herzegovina and their strength, the legislative rating is 52 (in the planning / adoption phase) and 47 (in the execution / audit phase), and it has limited oversight during the budget cycle, while a rating for the Audit Office is 95, and the Audit Office provides adequate supervision.
“BiH should be concerned about the decline in transparency and the minimum number of opportunities for public participation in the budget process, as well as limited supervisory practices by legislative bodies,” said Aleksandra Banović. “The situation could quickly be improved if the government: would ensure that the Budget Proposal is submitted to the parliament at least two months before the beginning of the budget year; publish a more comprehensive Budget Proposal; timely and online publish Quarterly Reports on Budget Execution; draft a Citizens’ Budget and a Biannual Budget Review; test and secure mechanisms that would enable citizens and holders of executive functions to exchange views on the state budget during budget preparation and supervision of its implementation.”
“Transparency assessments in this research cycle show that all governments, regardless of region or culture, can become more transparent,” Krafchik said. “The vast majority of the world’s countries would quickly improve transparency if the existing documents would be made available to the public. Most countries that do not publish budget documents on their official websites already have the practice of publishing different documents so that the publication of all necessary documents would be very simple.”
A full text of the report, including recommendations and other resources, such as data specific for each country, can be accessed at www.openbudgetsurvey.org.
The report can be downloaded in the PDF format at the following link: Open Budget Survey 2018 – Bosna i Hercegovina. (Taken from www.cpi.ba)