BudgIT Calls for Implementation of the Recommendations Contained in the 2023 Open Budget Survey Report

Jun 3, 2024 - 10:38
Jun 3, 2024 - 10:39
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BudgIT Calls for Implementation of the Recommendations Contained in the 2023 Open Budget Survey Report

By: Blamo Toe/Contributing Writer

Monrovia: BudgIT has called for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the 2023 Open Budget Survey Report, which revealed a low mark of 35% score by the government in budget oversight.

BudgIT is a fiscal transparency civic society institution that simplifies data to inform citizens for active participation in the governance of the country.

At a major press conference over the weekend in Monrovia, the Country Lead for BudgIt, Abraham Varney disclosed that the 2023 OBS was conducted by the International Budget Partnership, a global civil society organization that promotes accountability and transparency in governance.

According to him, the government’s score of 35% in Budget Oversight indicates a weak oversight by the Liberian Legislature and adequate and significant oversight by audit.

He added that the International Budget Partnership conducted the survey in partnership with the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREED).

“We call on the National government to work in addressing the various recommendations made in the 2023 report to improve openness not only for the next reporting period but a commitment to promoting transparency, accountability and public participation to the Liberian people,” the BudgIT Liberia boss said.

In the recommendations, BudgIT through its Country Lead called on the government to publish the pre-budget statement and audit report online in a timely manner.

Mr. Varney wants the national government to ensure that the pre-budget statement should be published at least one month before the Executive's Budget Proposal is presented to the legislature.

The CSO stressed that the audit report should be published online within 18 months of the end of the corresponding fiscal year and produce and publish the Mid-Year Review online in a timely manner.

“The Mid-Year Review should be published within three months after the midpoint of the corresponding fiscal year. Include in the Year-End Report comparisons between planned non-financial outcomes and actual outcomes and comparisons between the original macroeconomic forecast and actual outcomes and further improve the comprehensiveness of the Citizens Budget,” Abraham Varney noted.

At the same time, BudgIT said the government scored 15% in Public Participation in the budget process which is consistent with the global average score and 150$ increase as compared to 6% in 2021.

The Country Lead indicated that this milestone can be attributed to the collective efforts from both the government and Civil Society Organizations in disseminating budget information to the public.

Quoting the report, Abraham Varney also intimated that the Liberian Government scored 52% in transparency, a slight increase above the global average score of 45%.

To further strengthen public participation in the budget process, BudgIT recommends to the government to pilot mechanisms to monitor budget implementation; expand mechanisms during budget formulation to engage any civil society organization or member of the public who wishes to participate.

“We note the Fiscal Transparency Advisory Working Group established by the Government and encourage continuous invitation, consultation and deliberations with citizens during budget formulation to discuss social spending plan, policies, macroeconomic forecasts, revenue, expenditure and other budget issues,” the statement added.

The group also called on the government to actively engage with vulnerable and underrepresented communities, directly or through civil society organizations representing them.

It acknowledges the establishment of public hearings related to the approval of the annual budget by the legislature, but the group urged the National Legislature to allow any member of the public or any civil society organization to testify during its hearings on the budget proposal prior to its approval and on the audit report.

In furtherance, BudgIT called on the General Auditing Commission to establish formal mechanisms for the public to assist in developing its audit program and to contribute to relevant audit investigations, adding that this will improve public participation in the budget process.

The CSO emphasized that the legislature provided weak oversight during the planning stage of the budget cycle and weak oversight during the implementation stage.

To improve oversight, the institution urged the legislature to debate budget policy before the Executive’s Budget Proposal is tabled and approve recommendations for the upcoming budget, adding that the Executive’s Budget Proposal should be submitted to legislators at least two months before the start of the budget year.

It wants the legislative committees to examine the Executive’s Budget Proposal and publish reports with their analysis online, noting that the august bodies of both Houses of Senate and Representatives should approve the Executive’s Budget Proposal before the start of the budget year.

According to the CSO, among other things, a legislative committee should examine in-year budget implementation and publish reports with their findings online.

“In practice, ensure the legislature is consulted before the executive shifts funds specified in the Enacted Budget between administrative units; spends any unanticipated revenue; or reduces spending due to revenue shortfalls during the budget year,” the institution indicated.

To strengthen independence and improve audit oversight by the Liberia General Auditing Commission, BudgIT recommends that the GAC ensure the supreme audit institution has adequate funding to perform its duties, as determined by an independent body and also ensure audit processes are reviewed by an independent agency.

Meanwhile, BudgIT said it is open to working with the Government of Liberia in addressing these recommendations to enhance its next reporting score and to increase public trust in the governance.

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