In a post last week I showed how PEFA data can be used to illustrate the implementation gap in public financial management reforms. My goal is to use the data that donor agencies employ and show that reforms are often yielding limited results: They make governments look better but often fail to make the governments function better.
Today I am turning my attention to Open Budget Index data (OBI) with the same intention. While I analyze the data I want to make two things clear: 1. I'm not criticizing the data (in fact I know the people who constructed the dataset really well…as with PEFA…and I applaud the fact that we have data to work with—much better than in the past where we had to assume reforms were working); 2. I'm not assuming the data are perfect (in fact I am well aware of the many limits of the data…generally and in particular cases…with OBI, for instance, there are questions about how the data are collected and what they measure). I am using the data in a specific and focused sense and think that this is totally appropriate—to show patterns in the kind of reform results we are getting across developing countries.
To the data.
I have data for 28 African countries from OBI. I looked at the overall scores for these countries, as calculated by the OBI folks themselves and showing how transparent the public financial management systems are in these countries. The scores are shown below. The variation is quite interesting and again shows that 'Africa is not a country'…there's a lot of variation here, folks.
As with the PEFA data, however, one part of the story is pretty consistent across the continent: Most countries have a gap between the scores they get in transparency of budget preparation and transparency of budget execution. Indeed, 63% of the countries have more transparency in budget formulation than in budget execution. (I get here by aggregating the scores on the formulation questions and those on the execution questions…the method has not been vetted but is pretty simple and I hope it is considered uncontroversial). The gap analysis is shown below.
As with the PEFA data, this 'formulation versus execution' gap does not exist in all countries. As with the PEFA data the gap is not evident in a set of countries that almost uniformly fit the category 'Autocratic, resource rich and /or undergoing political unrest'. Importantly, these countries are also uniformly those that score worst on the OBI (the highest scoring country in which you don't see the gap is Nigeria, which got 15 on the OBI overall). So, countries without gaps tend to have very low levels of transparency according to the OBI.
In contrast, countries with higher OBI scores tend to have relatively bigger gaps than the others—so that I am led to believe that countries generally focus on improving transparency in formulation to get better scores (with efforts to make execution getting less attention).