By By David Ssempijja and Mary Kansiime
Uganda holds the first position in East Africa and 18th globally in respect of easy public access to information about the National Budget and financial activities.
The Open Budget Survey 2012 results indicate that Uganda scored 65% ease of access.
Kenya is in the second position with 49%, Tanzania follows with 47% and Rwanda 8%.
Globally, Uganda is ranked 18th out of the 100 countries surveyed, with a score much higher than the average of 43%, indicating that the Government was found to be more vigilant in ensuring that its citizens adequately get access to significant budget information that helps in holding government accountable.
South Africa, the best in Africa, scored 90% globally.
The survey was conducted by the Uganda Debt Network (UDN) in collaboration with the International Budget Partnership (IBP), a US-based independent think tank.
The survey evaluates central governments’ openness to public access to budget information, as well as public participation in the budget process. It also examines the ability of legislators and auditors to hold their governments accountable in respect of the budget.
Presenting the results yesterday at the UDN head office in Kampala, Patrick Tumwebaze, the executive director, said Uganda’s score on the open budget index has consistently improved in each round since 2006.
“Uganda scored 31% in 2006, 51% in 2008 and 55% in 2010. This is an encouraging development about the budget, particularly because of the strength of the legislature and the Auditor General,” he said.
Attributes for Uganda’s excellent performance
The improvement on the country’s performance was attributed to the introduction of accountability platforms (barazas), where citizens are able to freely interact with decision makers in discussing issues of accountability.
The increased demand for accountability by civil society organisations and citizens on the budget issues also had a significant role to play in enabling Uganda score highly.
“One other important aspect is that there has been enhanced responsiveness by ministries in providing information in their libraries and websites, as well as increased media access and coverage about budget matters,” said Tumwebaze.
The survey report indicates that despite Uganda’s improved performance in budget transparency, the documents need to be more comprehensive by revealing information about the public debt contraction in a given quarter, as well as the composition of debt and actual expenditures.
The report also identifies a gap in the Auditor General’s office, where the budgetary report investigations are made public without providing information about the supplementary and specified expenditures and information on whether recommendations of the Auditor General are implemented.
The UDN senior programme officer, Imelda Namagga, noted that although Uganda scored 65%, the country has the potential to further expand by simplifying the budget content such as translating documents into local languages to enable more people understand them.
Uganda ranks high in access to budget information