Namibia has dropped on the International Budget Partnership’s global rankings on budget transparency and accountability. The Open Budget Survey is the world’s only comparative, independent, and ongoing assessment of public budget transparency, oversight, and public participation in 120 countries.
Namibia’s transparency rating fell from 51 in 2019 to 42 in 2021. A score of 61 is regarded as the bare minimum for fostering an informed public debate on budgets. In the OBS 2021, the global average transparency score for Namibia was 45.
Namibia completed six of the eight required public documents within the timeframe specified by the Survey.
The drop in Namibia’s transparency score is primarily due to the government’s failure to publish its Accountability Report on time in 2020, while the Auditor General’s report on government finances was published too late to be considered.
The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was a mitigating factor in the Accountability Report’s late publication.
Namibia’s drop in score comes against a backdrop of progress in other parts of the world. Because of increased digitalisation of information and institutionalisation of accountability practices, most countries were able to maintain, and in some cases build on, earlier gains in accountable spending practices despite the pandemic.
Namibia’s score on the Survey’s budget oversight component increased from 46 in 2019 to 48 in 2021. Namibia’s parliament and the Auditor General’s Office are thought to provide limited oversight during the budget process.
Namibia continues to perform poorly on the survey’s public participation component, registering a 0 score because the government, parliament, or the Auditor-office General provided no formal opportunities for meaningful public participation.
The Ministry of Finance held budget consultations with civil society and other sectors in 2021, but this was outside the time frame for the Open Budget Survey, which had a December 2020 deadline. As a result, the public participation score in future surveys should rise.
“Namibia could make strides in budget transparency by improving the timing of audit reporting and making sure the Accountability Report is published within 12 months of the year under consideration,” said Graham Hopwood, Executive Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which conducted the research for Namibia.
“Setting up formal opportunities for different sectors of society to give their input and comments during the budget cycle would also ensure Namibia’s public participation score is boosted,” Hopwood said.
Namibia could also improve its ranking by submitting its budget proposal to parliament at
least two months before the start of the budget year and allowing a Parliamentary Standing Committee to scrutinise the proposal, Hopwood concluded.