September 28: Stakeholders discussed the findings of the Open Budget Survey (OBS), 2021 on the eve of the International Day for Universal Access to Information which falls on September 28.
During the interaction on 'Access to Fiscal Information and Dissemination of OBS, 2021 Findings' held in the capital on Tuesday, various stakeholders highlighted the need of open budgeting system and access to information for systemic changes.
The biennial survey assesses public access to information related to the central government’s budget. It measures three aspects of open budgets: transparency on how public resources are raised and spent, opportunity for participation in policy decisions related to budget and oversight by legislatures and audit institutions.
According to the 8th edition of OBS which covered 120 countries, Nepal scored 39 (out of 100) in budget transparency assessment which is below the global average of 45.
Nepal obtained 24 (out of 100) on citizens’ participation in budget process and gained 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 keynote speaker, Chief Information Commissioner Mahendra Man Gurung stressed the urgency of wider level of advocacy for participation in 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 people at the grassroots level can also use the constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights to claim the state-sponsored facilities and entitlements.
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 is 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 for their decisions and actions," said Bagchand.
Former Deputy Auditor General Ramu Prasad Dotel shed light on the approach of the Office of the Auditor General to enhance citizens’ participation in audit process.
"A small initiative can build different image of the country. The Citizens’ Participation in Audit has enhanced Nepal's good image in the world community."
On the occasion, Deputy Auditor 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."
Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Nirmal Dhakal underlined the need of overhauling changes in multiple sectors whether that be the state or the non-state sectors.
"The stakeholders should collaborate for advancing fiscal discipline coupled with value for money aiming at building a just society through budgets," said Dhakal.
Rekha Upadhyay from Finance Committee of the Federal Parliament said the legislative committee would plan and place measures for improving parliamentary oversight score in the 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