Call for more budget clarity

THE Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) is calling for more budget transparency in the country after the release of the 2017 Open Budget Survey (OBS) results.

The OBS results last year indicated that Fiji had improved in the transparency component, also known as the open budget index (OBI), however, its score still remained below the global average.

This was the most notable improvement for Fiji in the 2017 OBS which measured three key components — the budget transparency, public participation and budget oversight.

CCF chief executive officer Sara Bulutani said Fiji’s scores in public participation and budget oversight still remained comparatively low.

“Many governments around the world are making less information available about how they raise and spend public money, according to the results of the OBS 2017,” Mr Bulutani said.

“Public participation in budgeting is vital to understand the positive outcomes associated with greater budget transparency.

“In this component of the survey, the degree to which the government provides opportunities for the public to engage in budget processes is measured.”

Mr Bulutani said it looked at opportunities for participation provided by the executive, the legislature and the supreme audit institution.

“Fiji scored 15 over 100 in public participation, moving up five points from the 2015 survey round, scoring above the global average of 12,” he said.

“Fiji can improve on participation in its budget process through piloting mechanisms for members of the public and government officials to exchange views on national budget matters during the monitoring of the implementation of the budget.

“These mechanisms could build on innovations such as participatory budgeting and social audits.”

Mr Bulutani said Fiji could also hold legislative hearings on the formulation of the annual budget, during which members of the public or civil society organisations could testify.

“It would also be important for Fiji to establish formal mechanisms for the public to assist the Auditor-General’s office in formulating its audit program and to participate in relevant audit investigations,” he said.

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