countries ranked in rapid assessment of accountability in COVID spending practices.
people gain access to new or improved public services by 2021.
secured in increased allocations across 7 countries.
people across 21 countries participated in a foundational online curriculum on budget advocacy.
As IBP celebrates its 25th anniversary, it’s important to reflect on our journey and evolution. Just a quarter century ago, the very idea of including the public in public finance decision-making was widely rejected. International institutions warned that open budget processes would unsettle markets and encourage unsustainable spending and debt. Governments argued that open budgets would undermine their authority.
Open budgeting practices are now seen as essential by international institutions and increasing numbers of governments to bolster fiscal governance and ensure critical government services reach those who need them the most. I am immensely proud to be part of a global organization and network that has made a major contribution to shifting norms and practices around the world to more just and equitable management of public money.
Partnerships have been at the heart of our work since IBP’s founding. Working deeply with in-country social movements and citizen groups, we’ve helped 5.1 million people across seven countries gain access to new or improved public services by 2021. We began with a simple question to our partners: what service gap was holding them back the most? We then worked with them to build coalitions centered around their priorities to collect data, open doors and secure reforms to improve service delivery. These coalitions drove 37 policy changes and increased allocations worth at least $352 million.
As a result, rural communities in Nigeria have secured much-needed investments to repair healthcare centers. Informal settlement residents in Senegal have cleaner and safer sanitation facilities and flood management infrastructure. Fisherfolk in Indonesia are working with government to cut through red tape and facilitate access to subsidies. Most importantly, our partners have a seat at the table influencing game-changing resource decisions and systems for their communities.
This year, we also leveraged our data and insights to make the case for why inclusive and accountable spending is so urgently needed at a time of widening inequality wrought by the global pandemic. We launched a rapid assessment of COVID-19 spending, which examined over 500 emergency fiscal packages from 120 countries. Our findings sounded the alarm that most countries were not being as transparent and accountable as they could be in managing their relief spending, putting at risk vital resources to help communities bounce back better. Our ability to turn around this assessment quickly complemented our in-country advocacy to ensure civic groups and social movements had the right information at the right time to advocate for better, more equitable COVID spending that would directly benefit their communities. Our work also had a global impact by ensuring that international institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF, had independent, comparative governance data to evaluate and develop much-needed global standards on emergency spending.
As the pandemic hopefully eases, our work is more urgent than ever. Countries face a triple fiscal whammy of spiraling debt, massive recovery expenditure needs and widening inequities. History teaches us that when governments face intense tradeoffs over spending priorities, too often social services are the first to get cut at the expense of historically underserved and excluded communities. To build a more inclusive and equitable path out of the pandemic, we need to ensure that communities have a say in decisions around how to manage public resources needed for recovery. Democracy and justice depend on this. Thank you to our Board, staff and donors for a fantastic year.
Over the last 25 years, IBP, in concert with civil society partners and international allies, have played a leading role in building a global movement to put the public into public budgeting. When we were founded, public finance management was an elite space and the idea that the public had a right to access public budget information was resisted by most international organizations and country governments. Our collective efforts with partners have led to a new international consensus supporting the public’s right to engage in budget processes and guided significant improvements in open and accountable budgeting practices in a wide range of countries around the world.
In 2021, IBP continued to deepen its partnerships and bolster its network of people globally that can engage meaningfully in public budget processes. We drove this work forward by: 1) Tackling service delivery improvements, 2) Strengthening the capacity of our country partners and 3) Producing actionable data.
Working with large, powerful civic organizations representing the most marginalized communities in seven countries (Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa), we are pioneering a new approach to effective and inclusive budget advocacy. While each of our movement partners have strong representation and legitimacy among their constituents, and political power, they struggle to shift the budget resources that would gain them access to critical services governments had committed to provide them. In each country, IBP is working intensively with these community organizers to uncover the budget challenges—and solutions to—their service delivery gaps.
Our aim is to build up budget champions within these organizations and work with them to add budget advocacy tools to further leverage their collective power for change. Our work focuses on service delivery in order to build momentum by tackling issues that directly impact constituents’ daily lives. Our partners set the advocacy campaign agendas based on their needs. We then work with them to build informal coalitions of reform allies with aligned interests—such as budget groups, advocates, journalists, frontline workers and government reformers—to provide technical assistance, increase visibility and open doors to decision-making spaces.
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Collaborating for in-country advocacy
To broaden the movement for fiscal accountability, IBP provided in-depth and tailored capacity-building to civil society in 23 countries with little previous history of engagement in budget processes. In each country, we targeted a diverse pool of organizations, including faith-based organizations, youth groups, media-focused organizations and civil society organizations focused on health, women’s rights and anti-corruption. In 2021, 450 representatives from 241 organizations participated in a foundational online curriculum that provided an introduction to the basic concepts and tools of budget work. This curriculum, with country-specific materials and facilitator notes, will soon be made publicly available to enable a broader set of civil society groups to use them.
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In 2021 alone, we secured 21 major budget policy changes to improve service delivery across 7 countries.
Supporting regional networks
IBP has forged regional peer-learning networks where groups that are advancing budget advocacy can hone their skills and share and learn from their collective tactics and strategies. Francophone Africa offers opportunities to improve fiscal accountability, especially through its regional monetary unions, but it also struggles to make progress due to state fragility and other governance challenges. That is why we are building up a diverse network of groups in the region that can advance budget accountability through a mix of small grants and capacity-building support. Our Latin America Tax Expenditure Research, Advocacy and Learning (LATERAL) network is also bringing regional partners together to advance a shared agenda around tax equity in Latin America—a crucial topic for a region that has the second-highest level of inequality in the world. This year, LATERAL partners worked together to influence the agenda of regional institutions on tax expenditures. The network also published a joint paper offering concrete reforms regional governments can take to make tax policy more transparent and accountable, which was presented at a recent international workshop organized by the Addis Tax Initiative.
IBP’s long-standing commitment to better connect civil society and Supreme Audit Institutions reached important milestones this year with civil society/SAI partnerships leading to reforms in government programs to combat Chagas disease in Argentina; strengthened local development projects in Nepal; improved school infrastructure in Tanzania; enhanced water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities at schools in Sierra Leone; and improved school feeding programs in Ghana. Our growing body of evidence for inclusive auditing has informed a global INTOSAI framework that recognizes—for the first time—SAI-CSO engagement as a good practice to enhance accountability and audit impact. We also leveraged our partnerships to collectively advocate for greater transparency and accountability at the global level.
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We convened more than 50 events and peer learning exchanges to share good practices among governments, civil society and international institutions and make the case for the relevance of open budgets to key justice issues such as gender equity and debt relief.
Advancing Women’s Leadership in Public Finance
In March, we held a capstone event for last year’s workshop series on “Advancing Women’s Leadership in Public Finance.” The event drew about 400 participants from 38 countries. On the heels of the event, we placed an editorial explaining the challenges and opportunities for greater representation by women in public finance management leadership roles.
Promoting Equity and Accountability in IMF Special Drawing Rights
In October, we partnered with leading debt relief organizations to co-host an event on the IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The event unpacked the policy implications created by the SDRs allocations and identified opportunities to promote equitable and accountable use of these funds. The event attracted more than 500 people from 55 countries.
As governments around the world mobilized to release massive COVID emergency relief in 2020, we knew that accountable spending practices would be critical to ensuring that resources flowed to those who needed them most. Our team quickly pivoted to conduct the first rapid assessment in early 2021 of how 120 governments were managing their initial pandemic relief packages. Our goal was not only to assess how governments fared, but also to generate actionable lessons on how they could respond better, both to the ongoing pandemic and future emergencies.
Unfortunately, we found that too many governments used the excuse of urgency to be less accountable and inclusive in their relief spending. Our global scorecard found that two-thirds of countries provided limited or minimal public information on the packages they introduced. Almost half of all governments assessed bypassed their legislatures approval to introduce relief packages. Only a quarter of national auditors were able to publish expedited audit reports. Despite these trends, we also documented emergent good practices—from the use of real time audits to gender sensitive policies in a diverse set of countries.
We leveraged our findings to urge governments to embed accountability good practices into their emergency spending moving forward. The report findings were widely used by organizations for global and country-level advocacy. IBP was invited by a number of donors and agencies, including USAID, the European Commission, the IMF and INTOSAI Development Initiative to present the results to their staff and external audiences. We are now working with the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency to convene international institutions and civil society organizations to cocreate and promote norms and standards for countries to follow in their emergency spending practices.
We also worked deeply with country partners to leverage this data for their calls for more inclusive and accountable spending. In Nigeria, we worked with partners to advocate for greater budget transparency at the national level and other reforms to improve service delivery at the state level. Thanks to these efforts, the government disbursed the federal primary health care development fund to 478 primary health care facilities across three states in Nigeria for the first time. In The Gambia, after our partner, Gambia Participates, advocated for the publication of the draft budget proposal, it successfully challenged and struck down in court parliament’s decision to create a line item in the national budget that granted cheap home loans to members of parliament. This was the first year the draft national budget had been published in a timely manner, which in turn enabled a vigilant civil society to catch the shenanigans in parliament in real-time. In El Salvador, IBP and our partners worked to elevate attention among global stakeholders to the need to support domestic accountability actors as the executive began to increasingly clamp down on civic space. As a result, the IMF used our recommendations in its Article IV report and negotiations with the government of El Salvador.
In Jamaica, Jeanette Calder founded the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP) to help citizens track and hold government to account for its management of public money. IBP works hand-in-hand with JAMP, providing online and in-person capacity-building and joint advocacy, to leverage tools such as IBP’s Open Budget Survey to promote more citizen voices in public spending decisions.