No budget transparency in East Africa

Countries of East Africa give too limited information about their budgets to the public. They fail to publish key budget documents and provide little information in the documents that are published and released. Countries also largely ignore public voice in the budget process. In this way they make it virtually impossible for citizens to hold their governments to account for the way tax money is spent.

The above analysis is presented in a policy brief with the title “Can people follow their money? Budget transparency in East Africa”. The brief demonstrates that East African countries covered in the Open Budget Survey 2010 (Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan and Kenya) perform poorly in budget transparency scoring only 34 points out of a 100. Compare this to South Africa (92 points) or even the global average(42 points).  In terms of individual country performance, Uganda outperforms the other four East African countries, scoring 55 points while Rwanda and Sudan are at the bottom.

The analysis shows that oversight bodies, the National Audit Offices and Parliaments in East Africa have great difficulty to perform their duty of holding the Executive to account. The Supreme audit institutions score on 45 points out of 100 in terms of effectiveness of their engagement in the budget process, while Parliaments score even less: 39 points out of 100. It shows how these institutions only play a moderate role in overseeing the budget process on behalf of citizens. Kenya and Rwanda have somewhat oversight institutions (scoring above 50 points) compared to the rest of the countries.

Without information about budget allocations and execution, citizens are left clueless on how their tax money is spent. And when oversight bodies cannot effectively perform their role, ample space is created for waste, misplaced priorities and, sometimes, outright corruption. 

The brief notes that countries of East Africa can change this situation through some simple steps. The simplest would be to start publishing documents that are being produced but which are not public released. Countries could also start to create space for the public to engage with the Parliament and the National Audit Offices in the budget process.  In addition, efforts should also be taken to enhance the comprehensiveness of budget documents, and to strengthen oversight institutions

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