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Transparency for what? The usefulness of publicly available budget information in African countries

Research report

Written by Paolo de Renzio

Research report

Advocacy and civil society groups around the world are increasing their calls for governments to publish budgets and expenditure reports, not least in Africa, where budget transparency remains low by global standards.

However, while governments are often praised internationally for the number and type of budget documents they release, less attention is given to the content of these documents and whether they allow for meaningful budget analysis. This note considers whether the budget documents released by African governments are sufficiently comprehensive to answer basic questions about budget policy and performance. It spotlights those African governments surveyed in the Open Budget Survey with the strongest transparency records, examining:

  • whether their budget reports are accessible online;
  • the number of years for which reports are available;
  • the coverage and detail of these reports; and
  • the comparability of the budget data across countries.

While the national budget is but one of the many reports and documents citizens need to scrutinise government performance, it is an important foundation for other performance information, as it allows stakeholders to understand how their local concerns fit into the broader canvas of revenue collection and resource allocation. Improving the usability of national budget information should therefore be of interest to both international and domestic stakeholders.

Rebecca Simson & Paolo De Renzio