During fiscal deficits and recessions, when the pressure on the economy is profound, governments face budget shortfalls. The negative impact of a recession can also be amplified when a country, like Zimbabwe, faces overvalued exchange rates that mask the extent of underlying price pressures. Furthermore, a recently elected government has created substantial public expectations of change, and demand for greater transparency and accountability.
In October, hundreds of representatives of civil society organizations, public and private sector representatives, journalists and international organizations gathered in Copenhagen for the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference. This annual conference is viewed by many as a leading forum in the field of anti-corruption.
A few weeks ago, The Economist published an article on economic governance that discussed the importance of public sector accounting. It recognized the importance of maintaining existing public-sector assets and investment in new ones. These assets, according to an IMF study, account for a significant portion of GDP. But, the article asserts, filling potholes and repairing bridges are not as politically appealing as flashy new infrastructure, and few economies engage in robust public-sector accounting that demonstrates the net worth of these assets.
Maybe if governments and citizens understood the value of their public assets, they’d be inclined to invest in their maintenance – avoiding waste and even catastrophic accidents when poor infrastructure fails?
A healthy mix of innovation, continuous engagement, and effective implementation can bring about sustained transformation in public procurement. A more effective and transparent procurement system frees up public money for achieving more and better development outcomes and improving the delivery of public services.
Almost daily, headlines in the world’s leading newspapers are full of examples of public sector failures: public money is mismanaged or outright misused; civil servants are not motivated or are poorly trained; government agencies fail to coordinate with each other; and as a result, citizens are either deprived of quality public services, or must go through a bureaucratic maze to access them.
I get stirred up by all types of governance data, so in honor of the International Day for Universal Access to Information, I though I’d highlight a few efforts to measure access to information. Information on access to information, if you will.
Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.
In many developing countries, this remains a remote aspiration. Corruption, lack of staff motivation and poor performance are both popular stereotypes and real-world facts. For many decades, international aid programmes have invested in civil service reform to change this reality. The track record of these reform programs has unfortunately been poor.
Performance budgeting (PB) has a deep and enduring appeal. What government would not want to allocate resources in a way that fosters efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability? However, such aspirations have proven poor predictors of how performance data are actually used.
The potential benefits of identifying and tracking the goals of public spending are undeniable, but have often justified a default adoption of overly complex systems of questionable use. Faith in PB is sustained by a willingness to forget past negative experiences and assume that this time it will be different. Without a significant re-evaluation, PB’s history of disappointment seems likely also to be its future.
How can governments ensure that they get their money’s worth when they embrace open government reforms?
Ongoing research suggests that open government reforms—those that promote transparency, participation, and accountability—may lead to better development outcomes if properly implemented by governments. However, governments must navigate the myriad of initiative options as they strive to improve citizens’ quality of life and achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without a rough idea of the potential costs and benefits different reforms might offer, how can governments allocate their resources efficiently?
Multiple stakeholders are collaborating to answer this question. The Research Consortium on the Impact of Open Government commissioned a study to determine the financial costs associated with particular open government initiatives.