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Accountable Governance

The biology of budgeting: to strengthen accountability, think ecosystems

Paolo de Renzio's picture

There are few better ways to reveal whether a government’s rhetoric matches reality than examining how it raises and spends public money. Are funds being spent on the things it said they would be? Are these investments achieving the outcomes that were intended? In short, are government budgets accountable?   

The traditional model for how accountability functions is rather simple. "Horizontal accountability" describes the oversight exerted over the executive arm of government by independent state bodies such as parliaments and supreme audit institutions. "Vertical accountability" describes the influence citizens hold through the ballot box. 

Between elections and outside of formal institutions, however, opportunities for influencing how governments manage public resources are limited. As a consequence, this simple vertical/horizontal model has proved increasingly inadequate for capturing how budget accountability works (or doesn’t) in the real world; this is especially true in developing countries, where democratic processes and formal oversight institutions can be somewhat fragile and ineffective. 

It’s all about inclusion, but how?

Alina Rocha Menocal's picture



Inclusion
is the new buzzword in international development. From promoting citizen empowerment to fostering pathways out of fragility, it is all about political processes that are more inclusive and representative‎.

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals are perhaps the most ambitious articulation of this consensus, with Goal 16 in particular calling for building more “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

And there are good reasons for this call-out. Two findings from research that I undertook for a paper I wrote recently on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion are particularly striking in highlighting the centrality of inclusion:

Reinvigorating Health Services: An Agenda for Public Finance Management

Matthew Jowett's picture



At the recent “New Directions in Governance” meeting it was suggested that future meetings should bring governance advisors together with sector-specific colleagues. The different language we use in our respective disciplines is a serious barrier to taking forward an agenda of real importance and  hence this message seemed particularly pertinent. I came to the meeting with a number of thoughts on how public finance management (PFM) rules often hinder health system performance, some of which I outline below.

Over the past three decades a major focus in low- and middle-income countries has been to seek new revenue sources for health services to overcome strict controls over the use of budget funds which were seen as inefficient but difficult to address. Community-based health insurance schemes have been widely introduced, as were patient user charges and payroll tax-funded social health insurance schemes. These various developments reflected a belief that governments were unlikely to increase funding to health, or to introduce the flexibility in budget funds required to incentivize improvements in service delivery.