An international organization called Open Budget Survey in collaboration with the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) has released its 2019 report, with the Liberian government recording appalling scores in its performance on the national budget.
Mr. Harold Marvin Aidoo who released the report told a press conference Monday, 4 May at IREDD’s office that the survey helps local civil society assess and confer with their government on the reporting and use of public funds.
He claims that the Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the world’s only independent, comparative and fact-based research instrument that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to central government’s budget information and formal opportunities for the public to participate in the national budget process, among others.
“This 7th Edition of the OBS covers 117 countries. This part of the OBS measures public access to information on how the central government raises and spends public resources,” he explains.According to Mr. Aidoo, OBS’ 7th Edition assesses the online availability, timeliness, and comprehensiveness of eight key budget documents using 109 equally weighted indicators and scores each country on a scale of 0 to 100.
A transparency score of 61 or above indicates a country is likely publishing enough material to support informed public debate on the budget, and Liberia has a transparency score of 38 percent out of 100 percent, Mr. Aidoo says.The Open Budget Survey through IREDD suggests that the government produces and publishes the audit report online in a timely manner.
It also suggests that the government includes the executive’s budget proposal, debt and macroeconomic information, as well as publishing interest payments on the outstanding debt and estimated total debt burden at the end of the year.Further, OBS recommends that the government publishes the composition of total debt, not excluding interest rates on the debt, the maturity profile of the debt and whether the debt is domestic or external.
Aidoo notes that transparency alone is insufficient for improving governance, as he suggests that inclusive public participation is crucial for realizing the positive outcomes associated with greater budget transparency.
“The OBS also assesses the formal opportunities offered to the public for meaningful participation in the different stages of the budget process. It examines the practices of the central government’s executive, the legislature, and the supreme audit institution (SAI) using 18 equally weighted indicators,” he says.
Aidoo acknowledges that the Liberian Legislature has established public hearings related to the approval of the annual budget, but recommends that it also allows any member of the public or any civil society organization to testify during hearings on the budget proposal prior to its approval.“Allow members of the public or civil society organizations to testify during its hearings on the Audit Report,” he says.
He wants the General Auditing Commission to also prioritize the establishing of formal mechanisms for the public to assist in developing its audit program and to contribute to relevant audit investigations.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Edited by Winston W. Parley