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Kenya ‘locks out’ citizens from Budget process

By Paul Wafula | September 10th 2015

Kenya is keeping most of its citizens in the dark over its Budget process, a new report has said. The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey (2015) to be launched today, says that Kenya has failed to increase the amount of national Budget information it provides to citizens enough to be considered sufficiently transparent.

Assessing 102 countries around the world, the 2015 survey found that Kenya has yet to improve enough to move out of the middle category on the Open Budget Index, or OBI, which gives each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale.

For a country to be found to be providing the public with sufficient information, it needs to score above 60 on the OBI. Kenya’s OBI score of 48 out of 100 means that the Government makes limited budget information publicly available.

“Kenya is still weak in providing the public with opportunities to engage in the Budget process thus raising concerns about the lack of progress on improving transparency,” John Mutua, public finance management head at the Institute of Economic Affairs, which conducted the research for Kenya, said.

It is also worth noting that Budget oversight by the National Assembly is still limited. This year, the country is spending over Sh2.1 trillion, a significant rise from the previous year.

Overall, the Open Budget Survey 2015 finds that 98 out of 102 countries surveyed lack adequate systems for ensuring that public funds are used efficiently and effectively. The 98 countries fall short on at least one of the pillars of accountability (transparency, public participation, and strength of oversight); 32 of these fall short on all three.

On the first pillar of transparency, a mere 24 countries—less than one in four—score over 60 out of 100 on the OBI and thus provide citizens with sufficient information to enable them to monitor the government’s use of public money.

More transparent

The remaining 78 countries, including Kenya, that provide insufficient budget information are home to 68 per cent of the world’s population. Seventeen of these countries provide scant or no budget information to their citizens. However, the study found that budget transparency is generally improving—a finding consistent with previous reports. The average OBI score has increased to 45.

Kenya scored 33 out of 100 on the opportunities the Government provides for public participation in Budget processes. With regard to the strength of Kenya’s formal oversight institutions, the score for the legislature was 49 out of 100 and the score for the supreme audit institution was 67 out of 100.

“Kenya’s lack of progress in making our national budget systems more transparent and accountable is of great concern,” said Mr Mutua.

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