SA loses winning spot for budget

2013-01-25 16:45 - Sapa
The country was a world leader in budget transparency and openness despite losing the top spot, says Idasa. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Picture: AFP) ~ AFP

Johannesburg - South Africa has been dethroned as the country with the most open and transparent government budget system in the world, the Institute for Democracy in SA (Idasa) said on Friday.

South Africa came second to New Zealand in the Open Budget Index, conducted among 100 countries by the Washington-based International Budget Partnership.

The country received 90 points out of a possible 100 in the index, which has been published every two years since 2006.

In the last edition, South Africa took the top spot. It was one of only six countries in the world which released extensive budget information to its legislatures and the public in general, said Idasa researcher Russell Wildeman.

This year, the United Kingdom was third, Sweden fourth and Norway fifth.

Idasa works on the index in partnership with the International Budget Partnership.

It is regarded as the only independent, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world which is produced by experts not beholden to national governments.

It measures how well governments around the world ensure budget information is publicly available, thereby encouraging citizen participation in the national budget process.

"South Africa continues to do well because of the strong foundation provided by the National Treasury... and a realisation that open budgets are a necessary condition for our vibrant democracy," said Wildeman.

However, he said it would be unfortunate if people viewed the 2012 results in a negative light, because South Africa was a world leader in budget transparency and openness.

Wildeman said the introduction of the financial capability programme for departments was an excellent step forward, and demonstrated the seriousness with which the government viewed public finance reforms.

Thembinkosi Dlamini, another Idasa researcher, said civil society organisations should be encouraged to continue building the capacity of citizens to meaningfully engage with the national, provincial and local government budgets.

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