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Call for reforms in transparency of fiscal information

KATHMANDU: The Open Budget Survey (OBS), 2021 findings were discussed on the occasion of the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

At a programme ‘Access to Fiscal Information and Dissemination of OBS, 2021 Findings’ held in the capital on Tuesday, various stakeholders highlighted the need of inculcating values of open budgeting and access to information for systemic changes.

The biennial survey assesses public access to central government budget information.

measures three aspects of open budgets: transparency of how public resources are raised and spent, opportunity for participation in budget policy decisions and oversight by legislatures and aduit institutions.

According to the 8th edition of OBS covering 120 countries, Nepal scores 39 (out of 100) in budget transparency assessment which is below the global average of 45.

Nepal obtains 24 (out of 100) on citizen participation in budget process and gains a composite score of 44 (out of 100) in the assessment of the strength of formal oversight institutions (legislatures and audit institutions), the biennial survey report states.

As a key note speaker, Chief Information Commissioner Mahendra Man Gurung stressed the urgency of wider level of advocacy on participatory formulation of fiscal policies and their implementations at all three tiers of the governments.

He urged the civil society organizations and media to further deepen the movement of Right to Information in a way that the grassroots level people can also use the constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental right to claim the State-sponsored facilities and entitlements.

“The analysis of sectoral budget has become a pressing need to show transparency gaps on the budgetary allocations and spending”, he said, adding the CSOs can play effective role in gathering fiscal information and analyzing the trends in an empirical manner.

Gurung also asked the government to assess as to how its obligations on statutory right to information have been fulfilled and seriously own the agenda for better governance.

Likewise, Chairperson of Nepal’s Federation of Right to Information Umid Bagchand said transparency of fiscal information was weaker in province and local levels so such initiatives should also be trickled down. “There is no option but to spur information requests to make public agencies accountable tot heir decisions and actions”.

Former Deputy Auditor General Ramu Prasad Dotel highlighted the Office of the Auditor General’s approach to enhance citizen participation in audit process. “A small initiative can build different image of the country. The Citizen Participation in Audit has enhanced Nepal’s good image among the community of practice in the globe”.

He further noted that the OBS has shed light on the status of Nepal on budget openness so it should be taken as an empirical evidence to design and deliver reforms in different sectors of the public finance management.

Also on the occasion, Deputy Audit General Chandrakanta Bhandari stressed the need to implement the statutory provisions of the laws for continuous reforms in fiscal governance. “We have strong legal regime but implementation aspect is withered”.

He also underscored the importance of developing Citizen Budget which is merely a simplified presentation of the executive budget. “It is not a big deal for the government. But the need is will power”.

Under-Secretary of Ministry of Finance Nirmal Dhakal underlined the need of overhauling changes in multiple sectors whether that be the state and non-state sectors. “The stakeholders should collaborate for advancing fiscal discipline coupled with value for money aiming at building a just society through budgets”.

Rekha Upadhyay from Finance Committee of the Federal Parliament said the legislative committee would plan and place measures for improving parliamentary oversight score in next round of budget survey.

Taranath Dahal, Executive Chief of Freedom Forum –a host organization – expressed willingness to collaborate with the PFM stakeholders, including Ministry of Finance to better Nepal’s performance on open budgeting.

On the occasion, Open Budget Survey Researchers Suad Hassan and Krishna Sapkota presented the OBS global, regional and national findings and recommendations. RSS

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