Malawi has improved in the transparency and public access to budget information, climbing up the ladder by five points, according to latest findings of the Open Budget Survey conducted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP).
Malawi has scored 52 out of 100 which is a little higher than a score of 47 on the Open Budget Index (OBI) of 2010.
The findings mean that government is able to provide the public with ‘only some’ information on the national government’s budget and financial activity during the course of the budget year.
The Open Budget Survey assesses whether the central government in each country surveyed makes eight key documents available to the public as well as whether the data contained in the documents is comprehensive, timely and useful.
The documents are pre-budget statement (not produced in Malawi), executive budget proposal (published), enacted budget (published), citizens budget (not produced), in-year-report (published), mid-year review (published), year-end report (produced for internal use) and audit report (published).
“Malawi’s score on the Open Budget Index has increased in each round of the Open Budget Survey, which is an encouraging development for which the government is congratulated,” reads the survey findings in part.
According to the survey results, Malawi’s score in 2012 is a little higher than the average score of 43 for all the 100 countries surveyed, but is below the scores of its neighbours Namibia and South Africa.
IBP laments in its findings that by providing the public with little information, it makes it challenging for citizens to hold government accountable for its management of public funds.
It observes that Malawi has a potential to ‘greatly’ expand budget transparency by introducing a number of short-term and medium measures which, it says, can be produced at almost zero cost to government.
“The Legislature should have a specialised budget research office to assist it with budget analysis, should formally debate the overall budget policy prior to the tabling of the Executive budget proposal and it should have full authority in law to amend the executive’s budget proposal,” the survey has recommended.
The institution has also recommended Malawi to publish a year-end report, citizens’ budget, and a pre-budget statement, increase the comprehensiveness of the mid-year review and the audit report.
Minister of Finance officials were not immediately available for their comment.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Economics Justice Network (Mejn) is scheduled to hold a national launch of the Open Budget Survey 2012 findings in close collaboration with the IBP, in their quest for positive transformation of lives with open budgets.
Mejn executive director Dalitso Kubalasa said in a write-up made available to Business News on Tuesday that the national launch will provide an opportunity for engagement of civil society, government, donors and the media to discuss Malawi’s progress in making the budget process transparent.
The IBP survey uses internally accepted criteria to assess each country’s budget transparency developed by multilateral organisations such as the Internationally Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (Intosai).