Sierra Leone has been ranked with a score of 39 out of 100 on the Open Budget Index (OBI) 2012.
The open Budget Survey is a fact-based research instrument that uses easily observable phenomena to assess what occurs in practice.
The Open Budget Survey 2012 is the only independent, comparative, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world.
The Open Budget Survey uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale called the Open Budget Index.
Higher scorers for the 2012 edition include New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil, and South Korea, while the worst performers include Nigeria, Soa Tome & Principe, China, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia and others.
Giving findings of the Survey, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) Coordinator, Abu Bakarr Kamara at the launching of the Survey Results at the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown on Friday said that Sierra Leone’s score is 39 out of 100, which is below the average score of 43 for all the 100 countries surveyed. He added that it is also lower than the scores of its neighbours Ghana and Liberia but above those of its neighbours Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Sao Tome e Principle.
Kamara stated that Sierra Leone’s scores indicate that the government provides the public with minimal information on the national government’s budget and financial activities during the course of the budget year.
Abu Bakarr Kamara reiterated that the Open Budget Survey assesses whether the central government in each country surveyed makes eight key budget documents available to the public, as well as whether the data contained in these documents is comprehensive, timely, and useful. The survey uses internationally accepted criteria to assess each country’s budget transparency developed by multilateral organisation such as the International Monetary Fund(IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSIA).
The Coordinator maintained that with a score of 39 out of 100 on the OBI 2012, the government has the potential to greatly expand budget transparency by introducing a number of short-term and medium-term measures, some of which can be achieved at almost no cost to the government.
The International Budget Partnership recommends that Sierra Leone undertake the following steps to improve budget transparency: publish pre-budget statement and a mid-year review, which are currently produced for internal uses only; produce and publish a Citizens Budget; increase the comprehensiveness of the Executive’s Budget Proposal; and increase the comprehensiveness of the Enacted Budget by providing program-level details.
He stated that the Survey assesses whether supreme audit institutions are empowered to provide effective budget oversight by using the following four indicators, authority to remove the head of the supreme audit institution, legal power to audit public finances, financial resources available, and the availability of skilled audit personnel.
He recommended that the executive should consult with members of the legislature as part of its process of determining budget priorities; the legislature should have a formal pre-budget budget policy debate prior to the tabling of the Executives’s Budget proposal.
Clerk of Parliament, Honorable Ibrahim Sesay said that the budget for 2013 was presented to Parliament on the 21st December 2012 with 130 copies submitted to Parliament and 124 was distributed to the Speaker, Clerk and to Parliamentarians. This he said is a problem in terms of accessibility of information to the public, adding that they are yet to receive the budget estimate.
The key component of the budget, Hon Sesay said is the resource element, saying that the 2011 and 2012 finance bills were never presented to Parliament, and are yet to see whether the 2013 finance bills will be presented to Parliament again .He said that the government Budgeting and Accountability Act of 2005 needs a review, as some of the provisions no longer finds it way in the Agenda for Prosperity.
In his keynote address, Dele Jones, from FJM Management and Consultancy said in 1960 Sierra Leone was not far away from Singapore’s economy, adding that Singapore makes use of its resources to achieve economic development.
Today, Singapore has income ahead of Sierra Leone, noting that Sierra Leone’s income is lower.
He said a country which cannot provide increasing standards for its people is not a country, but a collection of individuals.
According to the Deputy Auditor General, Adama Renner said that lack of transparency leads to abuse and sometimes the misappropriate use of government funds.
By Abibatu Kamara