The International Report Open Budget Survey 2015, to which the IPP actively contributed, has been published.
Despite some progress in recent years and displaying a performance well above the global average, Portugal still has a long way to go in order to improve its budget transparency.
The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the only global indicator for measuring and internationally compare transparency, public participation, and oversight of the budgetary procedure. This study, led by the International Budget Partnership, is conducted in a decentralized manner, with a team responsible for analysising the national situation in each of the 102 countries participating in this initiative. In Portugal, this project is hosted by the IPP and the expert team is led by Paulo Trigo Pereira, the IPP president and professor at ISEG.
The conclusions of the OBS follow an objective and rigorous survey comprising 140 factual questions that assess three key areas: transparency, participation, and oversight. Each country is assigned a score from 0 to 100 in each of these areas. Only four countries revealed an “adequate” level in these three areas simultaneously: Brazil, Norway, South Africa and USA.
The fifth international edition of the OBS (3rd edition in which Portugal participates) points out that, since the creation of this survey, there has been significant improvement overall in terms of budget transparency. However, the report warns that the average level is still quite poor – a third of the documents that should be made available to the public are not, and even when published, they often lack sufficient detail.
As far as transparency is concerned, Portugal is in the 21th position. The increase of 2 points compared to the score obtained in 2012 (from 62 to 64) is mainly due to the publication of the Citizens Budget (which resulted from an agreement signed between the Ministry of Finance and the IPP, responsible for the technical preparation and monitoring of this initiative) and also for improving the comprehensiveness of the approved budget. On the other hand, the absence of a report to assess the budget execution and update the budget forecasts for the remainder of the year (Mid-Year Review) stands out as one of the main gaps. According to the report, the preparation and publication of this report is essential for a better performance of Portugal in this area.
In the public participation ranking, the result is considered “minimal” and coincides with the global average in this category (25/100). According to the OBS, the opportunities for public participation in the budget process promoted by the executive are weak, and opportunities promoted by the audit institutions (‘Tribunal de Contas’, and UTAO) for citizen participation in the audit process are non-existent. This study recommends that Portugal involves its civil society in public hearings on the budget process and in auditing the budget.
In the third area, oversight, the performance of Portugal is considered “appropriate” both in terms of supervision by the legislature (70/100) as the inspection by the audit institutions (namely, ‘Tribunal de Contas’) (67/100). However, the report warns of the need to ensure that the ‘Tribunal de Contas’ is provided with adequate funding to fulfill its mandate independently.
The challenges for the Portuguese-speaking world in terms of budget transparency are significant. Seven of the nine countries of CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries) were analysed in this investigation, and only two achieved scores considered “sufficient”. The best-placed, 6th in the overall ranking, is Brazil. Behind Portugal are, in descending order of score, Timor-Leste (“limited” transparency), Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola (“minimal” transparency), and Equatorial Guinea in the group with the worst performance (“scarce or none” transparency).