On this Africa Anti-Corruption Day, International Center Policy and Conflict (ICPC) is calling for the opening up of budgeting formulation process to deter corruption.
Kenya is facing a daunting task of curbing theft of public finances and fraud by government officials. Budgeting process is the epicenter where corrupt deals are budgeted for and implemented at the tendering and procurement stage.
For Example on the outcry of Kenyans on MPs’ salaries and allowances, Budget Parliament, which allocates budget lines to pay Members’ salaries and allowances, is opaque and never subjected to public scrutiny. Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) formulates and budget for Parliament Budgetary Estimates with little or no public scrutiny and transparency.
Majority members of the PSC are Members of Parliament including the Speaker of the National Assembly. There is no independent review mechanism of the Parliament. This is conflict of interest in the exercise of the Parliament constitutional power of the purse.
Budget transparency is first line of deterring corruption because citizens can access information and provide feedback on government revenues, allocations, and expenditures. Opening up budgets is a first step toward democratizing the budget process and giving citizens a say in policy formulation and resource allocation.
Budget transparency, while not a goal in itself, is a prerequisite for public participation and accountability. A budget that is not transparent, accessible, and accurate cannot be properly analyzed. Its implementation cannot be thoroughly monitored nor its outcomes evaluated.
Budget transparency entails numerous benefits but four stand out. First, budget transparency and oversight over how resources are allocated and spent are powerful disincentives for officials to misuse or misappropriate funds, reducing the likelihood of corruption.
If budgets are open to the public and effective legislative scrutiny, there is also less room for deviation from policy decisions and reversal of budget allocations.
Additionally, budget transparency allows citizens to provide feedback on the quality and adequacy of services and infrastructure provided. This feedback, combined with reduced corruption, results in more efficient use of resources.
In many cases, high levels of corruption and the opaqueness of operations lie at the heart of citizens’ distrust of their governments. Opening up their books of account is likely to lead to more trust in governments. Finally, budget transparency can help generate higher revenues for governments since citizens are more likely to pay taxes if they trust that their money will be well spent.
Controller of budget
The Controller of Budget must step out and be at the forefront in stemming out corrupt and flawed processes.
The office is key is enforcing budget transparency. It has not been very effective is exercising its constitutional superintendence powers and control of budgeting process. Budgetary and fiscal transparency is fully entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 as fundamental component to curtailing corruption and building equitable and fair democratic systems in the public finance management.
Government budgets are at the core of development. By establishing public spending priorities, they are the government’s most powerful economic tool to meet the needs of its people, especially those who are poor and marginalized. Whether it is about health, education, or pensions, the most well-meaning public policy has little impact on poverty until it is matched with sufficient public resources, and unless those resources are used effectively to provide public services.
We assert that development planning, budgeting, fiscal and implementation transparency is essential to fight corruption, which predominantly hurts the poor and marginalized. Transparency and broad-based public participation – as opposed to lobbying by elites behind closed doors – are important determinants of whether public infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, roads, electricity and water supply are well planned, well built, and well maintained; public services are of good quality and generally deliver what the public wants; and tax officials are honest in their dealings with taxpayers.
Budgetary and fiscal transparency is fully entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 as a fundamental component in curtailing corruption and building equitable and fair democratic systems in the public finance management. Policy formulation, planning and budgeting processes form the epicenter upon which corrupt deals are anchored through flawed and opaque processes.
In full compliance with the Constitutional right to information, Access to Information Act 2016 and Courts’ decisions on right of citizens to access information held by state and its agencies, the entire policy, formulation, planning, budgeting and implementation processes must be demystified and made open to public scrutiny and accounting.
All information touching on all governmental ministries, departments and agencies on their macro-economic assumptions for the budget year; expenditure data for all programs; nonfinancial data on program performance; tax expenditures; detailed information on off-budget activities and all debts, must be made available to the public, published and publicized. This must also happen in procurement processes.
Making this information available to the public and the legislature is a crucial step in ensuring accountability. It furthers the principles and values of open governance in all spheres of government and state institutions as well as creates and enhances mechanisms for better citizen participation which is critical in ensuring public engagement in oversight of government. In policy development, ensuring inclusive and participatory legislative and decision-making processes are key in ensuring that the legislative wing of government becomes more transparent, responsive and accountable.
[The writer is the Executive director International Centre for Policy and Conflict-ICPC]