A Guide to Transparency in Public Finances: Looking Beyond the Budget

Oct 5, 2011

For more than a decade, civil society organizations around the world, as well as international financial institutions, have been pushing for governments to provide the public with more comprehensive budget information. The International Budget Partnership’s (IBP) Open Budget Survey examines the accessibility in countries around the world of eight key budget reports that governments should publish in order to enable civil society, oversight institutions, and members of the public to participate effectively in budget processes and hold governments accountable for how they use public money. In two companion guides to the briefs listed below — the Guide to Transparency in Government Budget Reports: Why Are Budget Reports Important, and What Should They Include? and the Guide to Transparency in Government Budget Reports: How Civil Society Can Use Budget Reports for Research and Advocacy — IBP describes the importance of each key budget report, the information that it should contain, and how civil society organizations can use them.

This guide is a compendium of five briefs that goes beyond the eight key budget reports covered in the guides to examine other areas of public finance that are less well understood and especially vulnerable to efforts to shield them from public scrutiny:

1. Extrabudgetary Funds

2. Tax Expenditures

3. Quasi-Fiscal Activities

4. Contingent Liabilities

5. Future Liabilities

All of the briefs examine the following questions:

1. What are these issues or activities, and why are they of interest?

2. What information should the government include in budget documents and other reports on these issues in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the government’s fiscal position and increase the public’s understanding of how their money is being utilized?

3. How can civil society groups use information contained in these documents to achieve their research and advocacy goals?

4. Where can further information, country examples, and “model reports” be found?

The briefs are based on existing guidance and practices related to these areas of public finance gathered from various sources. In some cases, concrete examples are scarce, as these are new and complex areas of public budgeting.

Click here to read the combined document that includes all information from the above five guides. You may also read the combined guide in Spanish and in French.