Zimbabwe ranks high on budget transparency

George Guvamatanga

HARARE – Zimbabwe has been ranked number three in Africa in terms of budget transparency by the Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2019, a dramatic confirmation of the reforms of the Second Republic in its first full year.

The country has a transparency score of 49 out of 100, and comes third after South Africa which has a score of 87 and Namibia 51.

The ranking has excited both Government and economic commentators since the OBS is the world’s only independent, comparative and fact-based research that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to central government budget information, formal opportunities for the public to participate in the national budget process, and the role of budget oversight institutions such as the legislature and auditor in the budget process.

In terms of transparency, the OBS measures public access to information on how government raises and spends public resources. It also assesses the online availability, timeliness, and comprehensiveness of eight key budget documents using 109 equally weighted indicators and scores each country on a scale of 0 to 100.

A transparency score of 61 or above indicates a country is likely publishing enough material to support informed public debate on the budget.

This 7th edition of the OBS covers 117 countries and the survey helps local civil society to assess and deliberate with government on the reporting and use of public funds.

Secretary for Finance and Economic Development Mr George Guvamatanga told The Herald last night that the rise in rankings on budget transparency was a major achievement.

“For us to really to be ranked number three in Africa in terms of budget transparency is quite a significant achievement especially if you look at where we are coming from as a country,” he said.

“It actually means that our budget processes are very transparent and that the use of public funds is done in a manner where the taxpayers have access to the information. It just shows that our Government structures are working, are improving and they are working effectively.”

Economist Mr Persistence Gwanyanya, who has participated in several budget consultations, said it was “unsurprising” that Zimbabwe has been ranked third in Africa.

“If you look at the budget processes, including going to Victoria Falls last year, even the work done by our Parliament in terms of consultations, it is unsurprising that we are ranked third.

“It doesn’t mean our budget is beautiful, but we follow due processes,” said Mr Gwanyanya.

The positive ranking comes after Zimbabwe improved its Ease of Doing Business rankings by 15 places for 2020, driven by good performances on starting a business, streamlining approvals for construction permits and a reduction of the business licensing fee by Harare Municipality.

Zimbabwe moved from position 155 to 140 out of the 190 listed countries, a move that pushed the country into the exclusive list of top 20 reformers globally.

Since the coming in of the Second Republic, there has been a deliberate effort by Government to remove all obstacles to doing business, to hunting down corruption, to ensuring that all processes follow best practices and are accessible to all citizens .

President Mnangagwa’s administration focuses on reforming laws and ways of doing business for the good of the country and to attract more domestic and foreign investment in pursuance of an upper middle income economy by 2030, as well as ensuring that everyone benefits from open and transparent government. – Herald