Is there evidence that the following factors lead to improved budget accountability and participation: (a) transparent budgets and budget processes; (b) civil society organisations (CSOs) engaged in budget accountability activities; and (c) the international policy community actively promoting budget transparency, accountability and participation?
Is there evidence that improved government budget accountability and participation leads to more efficient, effective and equitable budgets?
Experts agree that the evidence base on budget transparency,
accountability and participation is limited and underdeveloped. However
there are a growing number of case studies and meta-analyses covering a
wide geographic scope and diverse contexts, with a variety of methods
and gender sensitivity.
Key findings from the evidence include the following:
- There are examples of significant success thanks to budget
transparency, but positive impacts remain far from systematic or
definitive. Four main factors contribute to improvements in
transparency, accountability and participation: processes of political
transition; fiscal and economic crises; cases of corruption; external
influences (Khagram et al, 2013).
- Evidence on civil society budget work is growing; case studies show
how CSO budget activities have been able to improve fiscal
accountability and participation, but experts caution that it is
premature to reach universal generalisations.
- To date there is little systematic evidence tracing the impact of the
(relatively new) international policy community’s activities on
outcomes. Case studies are starting to record the impact of the
International Budget Partnership and the Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative on improved transparency, accountability and
- Evidence on longer-term outcomes is much harder to come by. Some
experts caution there is no guarantee that improved accountability and
participation will result in more developmental policies. Others
highlight that there is a growing body of evidence that supports the
relationship between public sector transparency and better economic
and social outcomes, proving that the best way to manage funds
effectively and equitably is through accountable and participatory
Carter, B. Budget accountability and participation (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 973). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 29 pp.