By Sylvester Samba
Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) has in a press release dated Tuesday 31st May, 2021, confirmed that Sierra Leone has improved slightly on public access to budget information. This, the release said, came out in the Open Budget Survey 2021 report done by International Budget Partnership (IBP). “The Open Budget Survey is the world’s only comparative, independent and regular assessment of transparency, oversight and public participation in public budgets in 120 countries”, the press release noted
It further explained that Sierra Leone’s transparency score increased from 39 out of 100 in 2019 to 45 out of 100 in 2021, which is the global average score.
Reading the release on behalf of BAN, Mr. Abu Bakarr Tarawally said this means that citizens still have limited access to the information they need to participate in decision making and hold the government to account.
Mr. Tarawally maintained that the publication of the citizens’ budget in a timely manner contributed to the slight improvement in the transparency scores. He added that Budget oversight also slightly improved from 42 out of 100 to 46 out of 100. “More importantly, Sierra Leone’s participation (31 out of 100) is more than two folds the global average (14 out of 100)”, he noted.
The Coordinator of Budget Advocacy Network, which conducted the research for Sierra Leone, Mr. Abu Bakarr Kamara stressed that Sierra Leone is making some strides towards improving transparency and budget oversight by way of having a strategy to improve the Open Budget scores.
Mr. Kamara however pointed out that more needs to be done to ensure that citizens have access to adequate information that will enable them to participate in decision making and hold government to account by providing more detailed information on the Executive Budget proposal, publishing the Mid-Year Review Report and the Pre-Budget Statement on time.
The Head of Open Budget Survey, Anjali Gary said accountability systems are still weak globally, but several countries like South Africa, Mexico and the likes are showing that where there is political will, progress is possible.
The Head of the Survey noted that open budget practices are a winning proposition-they -build public trust that governments can deliver and can lead to lower borrowing costs at a time when global debt and inequality is at all-time high. “We hope more countries will be emboldened to open their budget process to public consultation and scrutiny to ensure scare resources reach those who need them most.
Somewhat surprisingly, the release noted that the pandemic did not undo hard-fought gains in transparent and accountable spending practices worldwide. Most countries were able to maintain, and in some cases build on earlier gains, thanks to increased digitalization of information and the institutionalization of accountability practices. The average transparency score has increased more than 20 percent since 2008. The Open Budget is the world’s only comparative, independent and regular assessment of transparency, oversight and public participation in public budget in 120 countries.