Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

25 January 2013

Namibia Scores 55 On Open Budget Index

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently released the Open Budget Index (OBI) scores from the Open Budget Survey that was carried out in 2012. The aim of this international survey is to provide an index value based on the transparency and accountability of the Budget and its due process. Namibia this year has scored 55 out of 100 which is an improvement from the previous score of 53 in 2010.

Speaking at a media briefing, the executive director of IPPR Mr Graham Hopwood gave an overview of the survey findings. He explained that the survey is a series of 125 questions which are meant to capture the availability of budget related information and also whether such material is accessible to the general public. He stated that the survey is based on eight key documents which outlay government efforts in the budgetary process. Out of the eight key required documents, three are currently not produced within Namibia. Despite this current setback, he stated that Namibia is moving in the right direction with significant improvements in the process. "When we initially started out most ministries were apprehensive when it came to releasing documents and commenting on the budget process. This has changed over the years with more involvement from government officials." Hopwood further attributed the improvement in Namibia's ranking to the introduction of a citizens budget. This is a simplified version of the budget which is made accessible to the general populace.

Speaking to the Economist, Hopwood explained that the survey process is unbiased. He emphasized the fact that the international standards do not necessarily favour any country which is made evident in the performance of developing countries vis a vis developed. "It should be noted that the criteria for the survey are monitored and developed by internationally acclaimed bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. South Africa's performance bears testimony showing that even developing countries can perform well provided the necessary requirements are met in due time." (South Africa is the highest performing African country placed second after New Zealand) "One aspect that Namibia can improve compared to South Africa is the fact that a fixed date should be given for budget announcement." He explaineds that other countries have pre-budget statements and discussions well before the budget is released which assists making budgetary discussions comprehendable to ordinary people.

According to Klaus Schade, also from the IPPR, the budget calender fails to meet certain accountability criteria within Namibia. He stated that the information dissemination process is thus affected when the media and general public fail to receive pertinent dates on valuable budget discussions. He urged the government to ensure that there are regular comprehensive updates on the budgetary process throughout the year. Other recommendations that were made at the media briefing included : publishing of year-in reports, pre-budget statements and mid-year reviews. Furthermore, a call has been made by the International Budget Partnership to ensure that comprehensive and quality audit reports are made available at least by the mid-year of the budget cycle. This is especially vital when accounting for additional budgetary spending that takes place during the year.

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