Kenya records improvements in budget transparency, utilisation

L-R: James Muraguri CEO Institute Of Public Finance (IPF), Dr. Shaheen Nilofer UNICEF Kenya Country Representative & Stephen Masha Deputy Controller Of Budget during open budget survey 2023 Kenya country launch. [Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

Heightened debate on the Finance Act 2024 has informed Kenya’s improvement in budget transparency which now stands at 55 per cent in the latest survey.

While public participation still lags, with a ranking of 31 per cent, the score on budget transparency could improve further as more Kenyans become aware of how the government collects and uses revenue owing to President William Ruto’s intention to deepen and expand the revenue basket.

The Open Budget Survey 2023 by the Institute of Public Finance (IPF) in partnership with the International Budget Partnership shows budget transparency score for the country has improved from 50 per cent in 2019 and 2021 to 55 per cent in 2023.

The Open Budget Survey measures public access to information on how the national government raises and spends public revenue.

It assesses the availability, timeliness, and comprehensiveness of key budget documents using over 109 equally weighted indicators and scores out of 100. The survey indicates that a score of 61 per cent or above suggests a country is likely to publish enough material to support informed public debate on the budget.

“More documents are becoming available for citizens and stakeholders to engage on,” said IPF Chief Executive James Muraguri.

He said the country’s legal framework for public participation is solid, adding that the State is making efforts to institutionalise the same according to the law. “The more people participate the more the transparency,” he noted.

Mr Muraguri said public participation should move to the next level of feedback and encourage individuals to participate in the budget process. For example, if someone’s view is not adopted, then there should be an explanation.

“This will enable people not to feel disappointed and have many participate. We cannot continue encouraging tokenistic participation just to tick the boxes,” he said.

The survey recommends that the National Treasury should expand mechanisms during budget formulation to engage any civil society organisation or member of the public who wishes to participate. “Actively engage with vulnerable and underrepresented communities, directly or through civil society organisations representing them,” reads the survey in part. Additionally, the Parliament should allow members of the public or civil society organisations to testify during its hearings on the audit report.

Mr Muraguri said transparency and participation in the budget process are associated with improvements in the quality of the budget, such as a lower deficit, more targeted budget priorities, and increased operational efficiency.

“These values can also lead to better governance and redirection of spending to marginalised communities,” he noted. He said engaging citizens at all stages of budget-making improves public trust in government, increases civic participation and political know-how, increases tax revenue, and leads to better development outcomes.

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