Publication: Financial Management Information Systems and Open Budget Data : Do Governments Report on Where the Money Goes?

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Min, Saw Young
In recent years, the topics of budget transparency and open data have been increasingly discussed. Most discussants agree that for true transparency, it is important not only that governments publish budget data on websites, but that the data they disclose are meaningful and provide a full picture of their financial activities to the public. Most governments have made substantial investments in capacity building and technology for the development of Financial Management Information Systems (FMIS). This study is the first attempt to explore the effects of FMIS on publishing open budget data, identify potential improvements in budget transparency, and provide some guidance on the effective use of FMIS platforms to publish open budget data. Overall, there are only 48 countries (24 percent) where civil society and citizens have the opportunity to benefit from Public Finance (PF) information published on the web to monitor the budget and hold their governments accountable. In many countries, external audit organizations do not appear to be using the FMIS platforms effectively for monitoring the government's financial activities or auditing the budget results. Governments in high-and middle-income economies publish budget data dynamically in various formats, mainly from centralized systems, while many lower-income economies tend to publish static budget data, mostly through documents posted on PF websites. The study shows that only a small group of countries provide good access to reliable open budget data from underlying FMIS solutions. Many governments publish substantial information on their PF websites, but the contents are (not always) meaningful to provide adequate answers to the question, 'Where does the money go?' Therefore, the main conclusion of this study is that when it comes to government PF websites, what you see is (not always) what you get. Many governments need to make additional efforts that will build confidence in the budget data they disclose. As citizens and civil society increasingly demand access to open data about all financial activities, governments around the world are trying to respond to this democratic pressure. The outputs of this study are expected to provide a comprehensive view of the status of government practices for publishing budget data around the world, and to promote debates around the improvement of PF web publishing platforms to support transparency, accountability, and participation by disclosing reliable information about all financial activities.
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Dener, Cem; Min, Saw Young. 2013. Financial Management Information Systems and Open Budget Data : Do Governments Report on Where the Money Goes?. World Bank Study;. © Washington, DC: World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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