Representatives from ODI’s Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure (CAPE) were recently invited to a Collaborative African Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) meeting to present evidence and contribute to the debate on aid transparency mechanisms at country and international level. The workshop was attended by budget and aid department civil servants from over 20 African countries, with the objective being to establish a common CABRI position on aid transparency – endorsed by African governments – in the run up to the fourth High Level Forum in Busan in November this year. Also on the agenda was good financial governance (GFG), and a Declaration from CABRI and its members on definitions and implementation procedures for GFG is nearing completion in advance of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa this April.
Engagement in the aid transparency agenda is gaining increasing momentum at the global level through initiatives such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF) and the tireless engagement of a number NGOs and advocacy organisations including Publish What You Fund and Development Initiatives. Efforts to capture and publish aid information have recently taken off within particular aid-receiving countries following the introduction of aid information management systems including commercial products like the Aid Management Platform (AMP) and Development Assistance Database (DAD), plus some home grown varieties such as those for Cambodia and Mozambique. These tools are valuable in capturing aid information and in many cases presenting it publically. However, invariably they not are designed for direct input into the government budget planning process or integration with core government systems. Currently, users will typically draw information from the databases through broad annual or quarterly reports or by ad hoc request.
While this activity and enthusiasm for aid transparency is commended, there lacks a unified voice. The efforts of CABRI to draw together African countries to both reach a consensus and make a common statement on aid transparency to the global aid community is therefore both ground-breaking in building a true dialogue on the issue, and timely as global processes are emerging.
A final position paper is expected from CABRI after further consultation in the summer, but for the time being the process has built much needed clarity on what donors should be expected to provide in terms of aid information, and what recipient governments must also do to better coordinate and communicate aid and budget information.
Key attributes of aid information discussed in the recent CABRI paper are not new, having been discussed at previous High Level Forums in Paris and Accra: timeliness, reliability, comprehensiveness, usefulness and accessibility. What the final position paper will do is to unpack what these mean for recipient countries and communicate this at the global level.
Donor reform is a core component and requirement of CABRI’s position, but there is a significant amount that recipients themselves must do, and these actions are drawn from the successes and challenges in aid information management to date. Key among these are 1) improving clarity and guidance to donors on institutional roles, the budget process and legal framework for aid; and 2) reforming aid management tools and procedures to be better aligned with country public financial management (PFM) systems.
Improving aid transparency is an important component for fostering a better accountability environment at global and country levels, but importantly it supports the development of stronger PFM systems and allows for better informed budget decisions in developing countries. CABRI’s efforts to support the development of clear and coherent messages from recipient countries on aid transparency is a vital contribution to the aid transparency reform efforts which, while enjoying significant momentum, are still in their infancy and need significant guidance.
CAPE is an enthusiastic partner in this process and over the coming months will be working with CABRI and individual countries to strengthen the position paper and support its recommendations for both donors and recipient countries.