By Mark Simeone
Fiscal transparency is critically important to fostering good governance and accountability. The U.S. Department of State works with government and civil society partners globally to advance this principle. A transparent approach to budget planning and implementation strengthens relationships between public institutions and the people they are meant to serve, helps decision-makers prioritize the use of scarce public funds, and illuminates a pathway for countries to thrive socially and economically.
The U.S. Government launched the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF) in 2012 to support global efforts to improve fiscal transparency and encourage citizen participation in budget processes. Through FTIF, the Department of State and USAID provide grants, in cooperation with U.S. embassies overseas, to develop and manage projects globally. These range from programs to train civil society and the media on budget transparency to projects that provide technical assistance to governments to strengthen budgeting and auditing processes.
FTIF grants have helped enhance transparency in over 60 partner countries through both bilateral engagements and regional programs. In Ecuador, the U.S. Embassy in Quito partnered with local civil society organizations Participacion Ciudadana (PC) and the Corporation for Development Studies to facilitate pro-transparency legislative reforms at the local and national level. These organizations developed a Fiscal Transparency Bill, presented it to the National Assembly for consideration, and are continuing to advocate for the law’s approval and effective implementation. Since 2018, PC has trained 363 public officers from 28 local governments in nine provinces on fiscal transparency and access to information, helping local governments reach more than 90 percent compliance with the country’s Organic Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information.
In Bangladesh, FTIF is improving citizen engagement in the budget process. With a FTIF grant, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka partnered with U.S.-based not-for-profit organization the Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) to organize consultations with the government and civil society organizations to review the budget process and develop a strategy to increase public engagement. As a result, the government of Bangladesh developed a more accessible Citizens Budget to engage civil society and the public in the budget process.
In Nepal, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu worked with local officials in Nepalgunj province to establish digital message boards that display important budget information and collect citizens’ feedback. These message boards present content in a simplified manner using infographics and local language translations. The FTIF-funded project facilitated a better fiscal transparency ecosystem by emphasizing communication between officials and constituents. It also helped enable city officials to organize town halls, conduct meetings with experts, and engage the community. These achievements have inspired other local governments to implement similar changes nationwide.
In The Gambia, the U.S. Embassy in Banjul partnered with the International Republican Institute (IRI) to strengthen the government’s public financial management capacity. FTIF supported work with the National Assembly, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, National Audit Office, and civil society and media to enhance budget transparency and improve transparency in natural resource management. With the help of FTIF, the government and civil society improved dissemination of national budget details through a citizens’ budget, radio programs, and social media, and engaged in a first-ever national conversation on the management of natural resources.
Amid the global COVID health crisis, transparency and accountability are more crucial than ever to economic prosperity, political participation, and social welfare. While the crisis demands swift and decisive action, it also requires honesty, transparency, engagement, and public trust.
The work of U.S. embassies in promoting fiscal transparency and good governance demonstrates that not only is change achievable, but that progress pays dividends for citizens and governments alike. With the support of programs like the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund, governments and organizations around the world are opening budgets, prioritizing spending, and finding ways to improve lives.Top