• Eswatini scores 2 out of 100 when it comes to public participation in the national budget
  • The country scores 31 out of 100 in national budget transparency
  • Meanwhile, neigbhouring South Africa scores 86 out of 100 in budget transparency

Photo Credit: CANGO

By Ntokozo Nkambule

The Kingdom of Eswatini scored 2 out of 100 when it comes to public participation in the country’s national budget. This is according to the Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2021 edition. The OBS is the world’s only independent, comparative, and fact-based research instrument to measure essential aspects of governance and accountability. It is funded by organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, European Commission, among others.

The independent body worked closely with the Coordinating Assembling of Non-Government Organizations (CANGO) when compiling information on Eswatini for the 2021 edition. The OBS 2021 edition focused on three main areas, namely; public participation, budget oversight, and transparency. When it comes to public participation, Eswatini scored 2 out of 100. The report notes that in this area it looks at formal and meaningful opportunities for the public, including the most disadvantaged, to engage in the national budget. “Meaningful public participation in the budget process is essential for making sure decisions reflect how the public wants government funds raised and spent. Formal opportunities for public engagement throughout the budget process can improve the effectiveness of government priority-setting and decision-making. Public participation will be critical to making sure post-pandemic policies and programs address inequalities and do not just benefit elites” notes the report. It further states that for a country to realize the full benefits of public engagement, governments should establish meaningful public participation opportunities throughout the stages of the budget cycle.

Eswatini scored 41 out of 100 when it comes to budget oversight. When it comes to budget oversight OBS considers institutions such as the legislature, the national audit office, and independent fiscal institutions. The million dollar question is, are they in place, and are they allowed to operate freely and properly. This is an impressive score for Eswatini considering that the average score for all surveyed countries was 52 out of 100. The Survey observes that it is imperative for each institution to be highly effective for the others to succeed.  “The work of these oversight institutions can reinforce each other, failure to have adequate oversight by both bodies weakens the checks and balances in the overall accountability system” notes the report.

Lastly, when it comes to transparency, Eswatini scored 31 out of 100. The OBS under this segment considers if there is comprehensive information from the central government available to the public in a useful timeframe. The survey adds that without transparency, the public cannot influence budget decisions or monitor budget implementation. Moreover, the average global budget transparency score for 2021 is 45 out of 100, indicating that the public availability of budget information is limited in most countries. Interestingly, South Africa under this segment scored a whopping 86 out of 100, which the report notes are because the country is publishing enough material to support informed debate on the national budget.

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