During the official launch of the 2021 Open Budget Survey, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) intimated journalists and other key stakeholders of public financial management that Sierra Leone has improved slightly on public access to budget information in terms of regular assessment of transparency, oversight and public participation in public budget among 120 countries.
In his statement, the Policy Analyst for Budget Advocacy Network Abu Bakarr Tarawally, revealed that Sierra Leone’s transparency scored increased from 39% out of 100% in 2019, to 45% out of 100% which is the global average score. He however noted that despite the slight gains made, citizens still have limited access to the information they need in order to participate in decision making and hold government accountable. He added that the publication of the citizens budge in a timely manner contributed to the slight improvement in the transparency score. He said budget oversight also slightly improved from 42 out of 100% to 46 out of 100% which is more than two folds the global average (14 out of 100)
“Sierra Leone is making some strides towards improving transparency and budget oversight by way of having a strategy to improve the Open Budget Scores. More needs to be done to ensure that citizens have access to adequate information that will enable them to participate in decision making and hold government to account by providing more detailed information on the Executive Budget Proposal, publishing the Mid-Year Review Report and Pre-Budget Statement on time”, he said.
Abu Bakarr Tarawally also revealed that the survey also unearthed that the legislative oversight has declined adding that, some executive government have found ways to undermine Supreme Audit Institutions. He furthered that 31% of countries provide sufficient detailed information in order to understand how their budget addresses poverty whereas, only 14% present their expenditures by agenda.
Presenting the report, the National Coordinator for Budget Advocacy Network Abu Bakarr Kamara, intimated that the Open Budget Survey assesses the formal opportunities offered to the public for meaningful participation in the different stages of budget process. He said the Open Budget Survey also examines the practices of central government’s executive, the legislature and the Supreme Audit Institution using 18 equally weighted indicators that is aligned with Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency.
Abu Bakarr Kamara also continued that the Open Budget Survey also examined the role that legislative and supreme audit institutions play in the budget process, and the extent to which they provide oversight. He added that each country is scored by scale from 0-100 based on 18 equally weighted indicators.
He maintained that the legislature and the supreme audit institutions in sierra Leone, provide limited oversight during the budget process, with a composite oversight score of 46% out of 100%. He added that the legislative oversight is very weak with a 33% whereas, the audit oversight performed very impressively with a score of 72% out of 100%. “Sierra Leone Parliament provides weak oversight during planning stage of the budget cycle and weak oversight during the implementation stage”, he said.
He therefore, recommended that the legislature should debate the budget policy before the Executive’s Budget proposal is tabled, and also approve recommendations for the upcoming budget. He added that the debate should also use pre-budget statement which should be published at least one month prior to the tabling of the Executive Budget Proposal. He also recommended for the amendment of the Public Financial Management Act in order to ensure that the Executive’s Budget Proposal is submitted to legislators at least two months before the start of the budget year.