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Cynthia Romero
Communications Director  

 

 

 

I’m excited to introduce you to this latest edition of our newsletter for two reasons. First, it’s an opportunity to say hello to our readers. I recently joined IBP as the Director of Communication. Second, I'm pleased to share our 2020 Annual Report, which is full of rich stories about our partnerships with movement builders and change makers around the world. The people in these stories are what drew me to IBP. 

Partners like Lourdes Molina underscore the resilience, innovation and solidarity that got us through a tough and unprecedented year. When she says “I have researched enough to know that every cent lost in corruption means the loss of opportunities and rights for the population,” her words resonate. Unfortunately, as we highlighted in our previous newsletter, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated accountability gaps in public spending, which makes it harder to ensure that relief gets in the hands of those who need it most, not special interests. Yet, around the world, we are also seeing an explosion of civic engagement against the backdrop of the pandemic. People are making demands for their voices to be heard and for public monies to be spent in the public interest.  

Our annual report highlights the value of having citizens at the table on fiscal policy decisions that are deeply consequential to their communities and their ability to thrive. Budgets are moral documents—they say a lot about who we value in society. What communities are resourced, and how, has always been deeply political and decisions about resource allocation have historically perpetuated systems of oppression. 

That’s what is so transformative about IBP’s work. Combining cutting edge research like the Open Budget Survey and strategic partnerships with mass movements, we equip communities with the tools to analyze and inform resource decisions that are being made at all levels— from their informal settlement to their national capital to global fora. Armed with the numbers, these change agents can drive demands for justice and be seen and heard in the halls of power. 

As we move toward post-COVID recovery and renewal, these stories provide valuable lessons about how budget advocacy can build community power and advance democracy. In reading them, I hope you feel as inspired as I do by the promise of open budgets to spark a more just and freer world. 

 


In this section, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we are sharing reflections and insights about our collective work from a host of partners featured in our 2020 annual report

Why citizens and civil society should care about government budgets: 

“Government budgets are a very important component of our lives and impact us hugely, every single day... it is our economic right, and we as taxpayers should be completely aware of how the government is putting it to use.” - Vara Prasad, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), India 

When people ask for a better state, they are in fact asking for better spending. And when people ask for less abuses, they are in fact asking for more transparency... No matter if your focus is on democracy, inequality or social services, open budgets are critical to your work.” - Jeannette Schiess von Wolfersdorff, Observatorio Fiscal, Chile 

On the strength of our partnerships: 

“Having the support of an ally like IBP was key to generating fruitful dialogues with government and connecting with other organizations that work on tax justice in Latin America.” - Julieta Izcurdia, the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ) Argentina 

“When you hold a role of leadership in your organization you need ‘soft skills’ that no one teaches you in university. [IBP’s] Leadership Development Institute gave me the tools to understand what I need to do to help ICEFI during this difficult period.” - Lourdes Molina, Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (ICEFI) Guatemala 

On the value of opening up budgets: 

“We strongly support fiscal transparency and public participation in budgeting because they are critical to ensuring government accountability and responsiveness to needs of their citizens...We have signed a memorandum of understanding with IBP and GIFT to advance the open budgets agenda in Liberia.” - Johnson William Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Liberia 

“The richness of the Open Budget Survey was that it helped us identify gaps in information and internal coordination challenges, that turned into changes in processes, better data quality for decision-making, and even improving citizen engagement for better service delivery.” - Lorena Rivero del Paso, Fmr. General Director of Performance Monitoring, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico 

  • IBP’s Vivek Ramkumar penned a letter to the editor at the Financial Times on why we need to double down on local solutions and actors (auditors, civil society, legislatures) as the antidote to corruption (subscription required). 

  • IBP’s support of women smallholder farmers was referenced in a Nigerian Tribune story and The Nation on the challenges they face in making a living and supporting their families. 
  • Business Day article talks about the South African government’s participation in IBP’s pilot project to build the technical capacity for governments to implement effective mechanisms for public participation in fiscal policies. 

  • IBP’s report, “Managing COVID Funds: The Accountability Gap” continues to garner global coverage. Below are few pieces:

    • Australia’s The Conversation covered the report and the government’s performance as “one of only four countries... whose processes were assessed as having 'adequate' accountability."
    • A CBGA India opinion piece about the increasing momentum around global changes to taxation references the report as evidence of the “continuing injustices of the international tax system.”
    • El Diario reported on the government’s COVID spending in Argentina.
    • The Fiji Times covered the report and the country’s performance on transparency, oversight and participation. 
 
  • IBP’s 2020 annual report, Every Voice Counts, is out and highlights our work from last year, including the strength of our partnerships with civil society, governments, auditors and other accountability stakeholders, and showcases the remarkable resilience and creativity of our partners in Afghanistan, Argentina, Côte d'Ivoire and Guatemala.
     
  • IBP is working with partners in 23 countries to strengthen the capacity of civil society groups to actively engage in budget processes and advocacy to build the conditions for transparent, inclusive and accountable public budgeting. The Collaborating for Open and Accountable Budgets initiative began in 2019 and we’re eager to share our learnings so far. This month we’re spotlighting how IBP and Gambia Participates – our civil society partner in The Gambia – have collaborated, building a dialogue with the government that led to both remedial action on COVID emergency health spending and a longer-term roadmap for improved transparency, participation, and oversight in The Gambia. Read the story.
     
  • IBP Kenya released a study, Fiscal Discipline: Are national and county governments adhering to budget ceilings?, which focuses on whether national and county governments have been able to adhere to all the budget ceilings set out in Kenya’s fiscal laws. It also explores why some counties complied with the fiscal rules set out in the Public Finance Management Act 2012 – and others did not.

Spotlight on COVID-19 Accountability Scorecards

 
Our report, Managing COVID Funds: The Accountability Gap, continues to ripple across civil society groups with robust discussions about how governments have managed COVID-19 emergency funds. A few highlights include:
  • The Institute of Public Finance in Croatia issued an analysis note on Croatia's performance on the scorecard and how governments must ensure that crisis measures are adopted and implemented in a more open and higher-quality manner.
     
  • Two civil society groups in Venezuela held multiple events focused on the results of the report, including Transparencia Venezuela, which held an online training to build the capacity of organizations to design, monitor or demand more transparent budgets, and Freedom House, which held a live event.
     
  • FUNDE in El Salvador held a Facebook Live event delving into the country’s performance in the report.
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