Transparency in core budget processes is important to all sectors of the transparency and accountability movement.
Although a young sector, budget monitoring has made some clear gains over the past decade. A variety of civil society organisations (CSOs) in over 100 countries now work on the issue and have learned from experience what works and what does not.
Some of their activities have made a difference. Positive changes have been witnessed on budget institutions, policies, allocations and the quality of expenditure. Evidence shows that change is stronger in middle-income countries but there are also important examples of meaningful progress in low-income and challenging environments including Chad, India, Malawi, and Pakistan.
This paper provides a review of initiatives – particularly by non-state actors – that aim to promote transparency and accountability in the budget, expenditure and procurement arena. It presents an analysis of progress and trends in this field and suggests specific initiatives to enhance both the external and internal pressures on governments to improve budget transparency.
The review argues that new initiatives should focus on changing the external and domestic incentives for governments to make budgets more transparent. It sees the creation of a set of international standards for budget transparency and participation as key to this as it would establish a point of leverage for both domestic CSOs and international actors. It also recommends civil society organisations promoting budget transparency engage more with formal oversight institutions, and push for oversight systems that allow CSOs to participate. Addressing the funding and skills gaps facing CSOs will also help to ensure better impact and longer-term, more sustainable funding for the sector will assist in doing this.