Sri Lanka’s score on the Open Budget Index shows that the government provides the public with substantial information on the central government’s budget and financial activities during the course of the budget year. This gives citizens tools to hold government accountable for its management of the public’s money.
The Open Budget Index 2008 evaluates the quantity and type of information that governments make available to their publics in the seven key budget documents that should be issued during the budget year. One of the most important documents is the executive’s budget proposal. It should contain the executive’s plans for the upcoming year along with the cost of the proposed activities. The proposal should be available to the public and to the legislature prior to being finalized, at least three months before the start of the budget year to allow for sufficient review and public debate.
In Sri Lanka, while the proposal provides substantial information to the public, it does lack some important details, meaning citizens have a somewhat comprehensive picture of the government’s plans for taxing and spending for the upcoming year.
Moreover, it is somewhat difficult to track spending, revenue collection and borrowing during the year. Sri Lanka publishes its in-year reports, but these lack several important details and are not published in a timely manner. It also publishes a mid-year review, but this does not include an explanation for updated expenditure and revenue estimates for the rest of the budget year. It is fairly easy to assess budget performance in Sri Lanka once the budget year is over. A year-end report is produced, allowing comparisons between what was budgeted and what was actually spent and collected, though this too lacks some important details. Also, though Sri Lanka makes its audit report public, no information is provided on whether the audit report’s recommendations are successfully implemented.
Access to the highly detailed budget information needed to understand the government’s progress in undertaking a specific project or activity remains limited. Sri Lanka has not codified the right to access government information into law.
Public Participation and Institutions of Accountability
Beyond improving access to key budget documents, there are other ways in which Sri Lanka’s budget process could be made more open.
Opportunities for citizen participation in budget debates could be increased. For example, the legislature does not
hold hearings on the budget in which the public can participate.
The independence of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Audit Institution is somewhat limited. The head of the SAI may be removed by the executive, and while the SAI has some discretion to decide which audits to undertake, it does not have a budget sufficient to fulfill its mandate.
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The Open Budget Survey
The Open Budget Survey is the only independent, comparative, and regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world. The 2010 Survey finds that 74 of the 94 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability with national budgets. This opens the door to abuse and inappropriate and inefficient use of public money. However, the 2010 Survey also reveals that improvement can, and has happened, in a relatively short time period and in some of most challenging contexts.
The 2010 Survey is the third round of the Survey; the first implementation of the Survey in 2006 covered 59 countries, and in 2008 the Survey evaluated 85 countries.
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