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Uganda beats Kenya on transparency in global budget index

IBP country manager Jason Lakin at the Stanley in Nairobi on September 10, 2015. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI
IBP country manager Jason Lakin at the Stanley in Nairobi on September 10, 2015. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI 

Uganda has beaten Kenya in budget transparency and accountability in a new global survey.

The Open Budget Index (OBI) carried out by International Budget Partnership (IBP), an NGO monitoring public finance across the globe, shows Kenya scored 48 against Uganda’s 62. Nairobi’s place in the rankings was, however, slightly above the global average of 45.

Other countries in the East African region scored lower than Kenya, with Tanzania placed 46 and Rwanda 36. Conflict-prone Burundi was not ranked.

Experts noted that though management of Kenya’s public finance has improved in the past few years, it still does not make public some of the budget documents.

“We have certainly performed better since 2012/13 Budget, but we are not there yet. The programme-based budgeting improved the way the Budget is presented but we still can’t link the narrative with what is put in the accompanying tables,” said Jason Lakin, the IBP country manager.

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Dr Lakin said there was not enough information on appropriation-in-aid (A-I-A), the money collected by ministries and agencies themselves and spent on their operations without going through the National Treasury.

One of the recurrent problems with A-I-A has been accountability whereby it is sometimes impossible to ascertain whether collection was actually done and if so, how it was used.

The survey released on Thursday was the third to be carried out, with the first one having been done in 2010 and the second in 2012. However, the methodology was changed along the way, making it impossible to compare previous rankings with the latest one.

Kenya was also ranked position 33, slightly above the global average of 25, in terms of public participation in budgeting process. The IBP concluded “the Government of Kenya is weak in providing the public with the opportunities to engage in the budget process”.

“A key issue we have and are currently discussing at the Treasury is how to improve public participation. For one, we have not defined what it is or should be,” said Kenneth Waithiru, an economist at the budget department of the National Treasury.

He said the country had just recently emerged from its undemocratic past where public participation was not encouraged.

“We have come from far from when the Budget was merely an executive role to the current situation where Parliament and the public are involved,” said Mr Waithiru.

One of the weaknesses raised on the programme-based budgeting (PBB) — whereby objectives, inputs and outputs as well as time frames are supposed to be specified — is that it did not indicate wage costs.

Mr Waithiru said the Programme Based Budget (PBB) may have no information on wages, but the line-budgeting structure previously used in budgeting is still released by the Treasury for those interested in details.

In fiscal year 2012/13, key components of the PBB were absent from budget. “It had no narrative, no objectives and no targets,” said Dr Lakin.

John Mutua, programmes officer for public finance at the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs, said the highest-rated document in the entire budgeting process is the Budget Policy Statement for containing detailed information.

In the survey, the top-rated country is New Zealand, followed by Sweden and South Africa. These were considered countries with “extensive” information on the Budget.

Countries with “substantial” information on the budget include Brazil France, the UK, Romania, Germany, Russia and Uganda. Those with limited information included Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Pakistan, Ghana, Spain and India.

Sri Lanka, Zambia, Morocco, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Albania and Nepal were considered to have “minimal” information while those classified as having “scant” information included Qatar, Iraq, China, Algeria, Chad, Egypt and Lebanon.

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