Expenditure tracking refers to methodologies that civil society organizations (CSOs) can use to examine how public resources flow from one level of government to the next, and eventually to the intended beneficiaries. By identifying places where the system for transferring funds breaks down, as well as cases of mismanagement and corruption, expenditure tracking is yet another tool for CSOs to use to ensure that government budgets are being executed on the ground as intended, and that scarce public resources are being used effectively.
One example of a CSO using expenditure tracking methods is the Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education (CSCQBE) in Malawi. The CSCQBE uses Public Expenditure Tracking (PETS) surveys to measure the quality of education and the extent of leakages in education budgets as funds are transferred from one level of government to another.
Another place where leakages occur, and where expenditure tracking tools can identify these, is during the procurement process. When a government agency needs to purchase goods or services, the following stages are typically involved: 1) the pre-bidding process, 2) the bidding process, 3) issuance of a purchase order, 4) inspection of the goods or services procured, and 5) documentation of accounts payable. Each year, developing countries spend upwards of US $800 billion on procurement-related transactions. These expenditures are critical to enabling governments to deliver goods and services to citizens, but they are also extremely vulnerable to corruption.
Learn more about how IBP partner in the Philippines, Procurement Watch Inc., has developed and used an innovative expenditure tracking methodology (the Differential Expenditure Efficiency Measurement, or DEEM) to analyze procurement documents and hold government agencies accountable for their procurement transactions.
By engaging in Expenditure Tracking, CSOs can:
- Strengthen oversight
- Identify systemic problems in intergovernmental transfers
- Uncover instances of mismanagement, inefficiency, or corruption
- Generate evidence to inform ongoing and future budget debates
Useful Guides and Publications
- Our Money, Our Responsibility: A Citizens Guide to Monitoring Public Expenditures
by Vivek Ramkumar.
This guide from the International Budget Partnership presents thorough descriptions of the stages of the budget process and various tools and methodologies that civil society can use to influence policy decisions, monitor the effective and efficient use of public resources, and assess budget execution and its impacts. The strength of the guide lies in its detailed case studies of civil society budget work throughout the budget cycle and around the world.
- Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys: Lessons from the Field,
by Vivek Ramkumar.
This IBP newsletter article provides an overview of the expenditure tracking methodology and draws some lessons from experiences implementing it over the past several years.