This post was written by Babacar Sarr, Program Officer for the Open Budget Initiative at the International Budget Partnership.
Francophone countries in West and Central Africa have introduced significant reforms in their systems of public financial management (PFM) over the last decade. On June 2009 and on December 2011, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) each adopted a number of new Directives for PFM reform. Transposition of these Directives into national law in member countries is mandatory. Based on the principle that governments need to make budget information publicly available, the Directives aim to ensure that member countries adopt best practice and international standards for PFM. The Directives are available here and here.
Unfortunately, member countries have not been timely in implementing and transposing the regional Directives. To overcome this, each regional commission has organized communication, awareness, and training campaigns. One such campaign is the awareness-raising and dissemination events for the Directives that CEMAC held last March in Gabon. WAEMU has also conducted campaigns throughout the subregion, and member countries, as well as civil society organizations, have organized national initiatives.
How are member countries doing?
Considering the slow rate at which the Directives are being transposed into national law, one would be hard pressed to say that these campaigns are paying off. Indeed, only Senegal has implemented all of the WAEMU PFM Directives. The Malian government has implemented two of them, and Burkina Faso has transposed one. This shows that the majority of member countries are not complying with the law.
The Directives must not only be transposed into national law, they also have to be implemented
By analyzing the current state of budget transparency in both geographic areas, which is one of the most important components of the ongoing reform, it can be seen that the WAEMU and CEMAC member countries have performed far below other African countries.
The findings for the countries in the region from IBP’s Open Budget Survey 2012, a biennial assessment of budget transparency, strength of formal oversight institutions, and public participation, are abysmal. The average Open Budget Index score (drawn from the Survey, the Index gives each country assessed a score between 0 and 100 on its level of budget transparency) of the seven countries studied (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Senegal) is 14, compared to 31 for other sub-Saharan countries studied and the average of 43 for all 100 countries. Even more disappointing is these countries’ level of citizen participation in the budget process. The average regional score for participation is only 7 out of 100. A more detailed analysis of the Directives and the results of the Survey for Francophone African countries will be available soon on the IBP website.
It should be noted that despite these low scores, all these countries’ scores have improved between the last two rounds of the Survey. It is too early to judge whether this improvement is related to the adoption of PFM Directives, but they do contain all the necessary tools to allow governments to be more transparent, so we recommend their quick implementation.
One critical factor that is not in the Directives is citizen engagement in the budget process. We urge WAEMU and CEMAC to adopt additional provisions to the Directives that promote public participation. Transparency is necessary but insufficient; citizens must be engaged in the budget debate and oversight to improve the quality of the government’s decisions and the implementation of those decisions.