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Government Institutions involved in the national budget formation, approval, implementation and audit functions have committed to improve Rwanda’s score in the Open Budget Survey(OBS), which assesses transparency in national budget processes in 120 countries.

The commitment was one of the resolutions from the OBS methodology training and dissemination of 2021 findings workshop held in Musanze District, Northern Rwanda on 7-9 November 2022.

The workshop brought together seven technical staff from different departments including National Budget Department, National Development Planning and Research Directorate, Office of Accountant General and Communication Specialist at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning(MINECOFIN), one staff from the Office of the Auditor General and one staff from the lower chamber of Parliament.

Participants also included two staff from CLADHO, an Umbrella Human Rights Organization which advocates for citizen participation in budget processes in Rwanda and Social Policy Specialist and Economist at the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF-Rwanda) Mr. Emmanuel Munyemana.

The workshop was organized by MINECOFIN and facilitated by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research(IPAR-Rwanda) with financial and technical support from UNICEF. UNICEF has been supporting the OBS since 2017.

Rwanda started participating in the OBS in 2008. The survey is commissioned by the International Budget Partnership(IBP), a non-governmental organization based in the United States of America.

The OBS is the world’s only independent, comparative and fact-based research instrument that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to central government budget information.

The survey assesses 120 countries on their budget transparency. It uses three major indicators which include : Budget Transparency that assesses availability of budget information to the public via digital platforms like website ; Public Participation that assesses the participation of the public in the budget formation, approval, implementation and audit ; and Budget Oversight which assesses the role of the legislatures and supreme audit institutions in the budget oversight.

The survey helps local civil society assess and confer with their government on the reporting and use of public funds.

In Rwanda, OBS is conducted by IPAR-Rwanda while the findings are reviewed by an external expert in Public Finance Management. The findings are reviewed by MINECOFIN before they are published.

The three-day workshop was a milestone by bringing together all the concerned public institutions to discuss the OBS findings and methodology and to adopt measures to improve the scores in the next survey.

Participants during the workshops.

IPAR-Rwanda Executive Director Ms. Eugenia Kayitesi lauded the leadership of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning which was instrumental in bringing together the relevant public institutions to discuss the findings and OBS methodology and commit to working together to improve the scores.

“For the first time, public institutions responsible for budget formulation, approval, implementation and oversight have come together to discuss the OBS findings. This is a very good step forward in ensuring that Rwanda improves its scores in all areas assessed by OBS in the next surveys. I want to thank the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning for leading this process,” said Ms. Kayitesi.

During the workshop, IPAR-Rwanda Research Fellow and the lead investigator on the OBS project Mr. Ismael Byaruhanga presented the OBS 2021 Findings and methodology to the participants.

The findings show that Rwanda’s scores continue to improve but there is still a room for further improvement. On budget transparency indicator, Rwanda scored 45 out of 100. Whereas this score is still inadequate, Rwanda improved from a score of 39 in OBS 2019.

On public participation in the budget processes, Rwanda’s score is 15 out of 100, which translates into limited participation of the citizens in the budget formation, approval, implementation and oversight.

The participants analyzed the underlining cause of inadequate score on public participation in the budget process. The main outcome was that citizens participate in the budget processes but their participation is not documented and disseminated through public communication platforms such as the website of MINECOFIN and parliament.

The responsible public institutions mainly MINECOFIN and Parliament committed to documenting the public participation in the budget process and disseminating the same information on their public digital communication platforms.

On budget oversight, a function which is performed by the Parliament especially the lower chamber and the Office of the Auditor General, Rwanda’s score is adequate but there is still room for improvement.

With a score of 65 out of 100, Rwanda is among the best performing countries on this indicator. Legislative oversight and audit oversight scored 61 and 72 out of 100 respectively.

The three-day workshop concluded with participants reviewing the OBS methodology and questionnaire and developing an action plan for the next survey and committing to work together to improve Rwanda’s score in the next survey.

At the closing of the workshop, Mr. Byaruhanga said : “I would like to request that this time, we should collaborate when we are responding to the questionnaire. We should aim to do what we have discussed in order to improve Rwanda’s score.”

Author : Bosco KAGABA