Budget monitoring and policy influence: lessons from civil society budget analysis and advocacy initiatives

Budget monitoring and policy influence: lessons from civil society budget analysis and advocacy initiatives

Lessons for civil society groups and donors interested in undertaking applied budget work

This study examines the issues of budget accountability and budget policies. Within budget acountability it looks at budget groups’ impact on levels of budget transparency, public literacy and awareness of budget issues, and public engagement with budget processes. Budget policy includes for example investigation into the improvements in budget systems and shifts in allocations. It argues that budget groups that develop wider networks within and outside the government, and with more strategic collaborations with different actors are most successful in achieving policy influence. The study outlines a number of lessons for civil society groups and donors interested in undertaking applied budget work.

Lessons for civil society include:

  • there are some inherent limitations linked to the nature of budgets and budget literacy
  • budget work can be used in different environments, by identifying and exploiting various entry points in the policy process
  • any organisation can successfully engage in budget work
  • structural change in budget processes and policies requires a long-term strategy and commitment
  • the basis of effective budget work is accurate, accessible, and timely analysis
  • effective budget groups have built relationships with a broad range of stakeholders that can influence government behaviour
  • internal challenges faced by budget groups include building and retaining capacity, and ensuring effective leadership.

Issues for donors agencies who play two main roles: (i) they influence government budget policies through their support of government programmes and the policy dialogue; and (ii) they provide financing for civil society organisations engaged in applied budget work. To improve the environment for budget work donors should:

  • push governments to increase budget transparency, and to make budget information widely available
  • support the work of oversight institutions and the media in fostering a climate of transparency and accountability
  • provide more and better information on their own aid flows contributing to public expenditure
  • recognise that civil society participation in budget processes is a core component of effective Public Finance Management (PFM) systems, contributing to deeper budget accountability and better budget policies
  • work in ways which strengthen domestic accountability.

To improve support of civil society budget work donors should:

  • avoid over-burdening civil society organisations with fragmented, small-scale, project-specific support
  • develop sound criteria for selecting civil society proposals worthy of financing.
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