The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the only global indicator to measure and compare transparency, public participation, and oversight of the budget process internationally. This study, led by the International Budget Partnership (a Washington think tank) every two years, is conducted in a decentralized manner, with a team responsible for analyzing the national situation in each of the 117 countries participating in this initiative. In Portugal, the partner of this project is the Institute of Public Policy since the 2015 edition.
The conclusions of the OBS are the result of an objective and rigorous survey consisting of 145 research questions assessing three key areas: transparency, participation and oversight. To each country is assigned a score of 0 to 100 in these domains (which determines its ranking in the Open Budget Index), based on the analysis of the publicly available budget documentation.
There are eight budget key documents analyzed: Pre-Budget Statement, Executive Budget Proposal, Enacted Budget, Citizens Budget, In-year Report, Mid-year review, Year-end Report, and Audit Report.
Open Budget Survey 2019
The global average in terms of budget transparency was 45 points. Portugal remains outside the group leaders, but maintains the score from the previous edition with 66 points, allowing it to be qualified as a country that probably publishes enough material to allow a well-informed public debate on the budget. Overall, Portugal is ranked as the 23rd country in the world with the best budget transparency index. Such as the score, the recommendations also remain the same: produce a mid-year review report and publish the Citizens Budget in a timely manner.
However, as evidenced by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) team, transparency on its own is not enough to improve governance: public participation is crucial. Budgetary opening creates an opportunity for civil society to participate in the areas that most affect them, resulting in greater democratic involvement. Despite the “insufficient” score reached globally (14 points), this domain reached its highest score in this edition. The same happened in Portugal, where formal opportunities for public participation in the different stages of the budget process reached 26 points (15 points in the last edition), which still reflects a very significant gap between access to budget documents and its public discussion. Positively, the creation of the Portugal Participatory Budget stands out.
In this area, the recommendations cover the different stages of the budgetary process (formulation, approval, implementation and audit), which include both the executive (Ministry of Finance), legislative (Assembleia da República) and oversight (Court of Auditors) powers. Examples include: expanding the scope and available resources for the Portugal Participatory Budget; actively promote the participation of vulnerable and underrepresented communities; and establish formal mechanisms for the public to assist in the development of audit programs.
In the budget oversight area, OBS examines the formal role of the oversight bodies in terms of their ability to keep the budgetary process transparent, ensuring its implementation in accordance with the established goals. Only 30 out of the 117 countries analyzed were able to achieve a score considered adequate (61 points), Portugal being one of those countries (with 72 points). Thus, it is considered that the Portuguese Parliament and the Court of Auditors, together, perform an adequate oversight during the budgetary process. Nevertheless, it is noted that the Court of Auditors does not ensure that its audit processes are reviewed by an independent institution.
Event launching the OBS results