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New Zealand retains top rank for fiscal transparency in latest 2015 Open Budget Survey, even though it falls short in Parliamentary oversight and public participation.
Results from the recently released 2015 Open Budget Survey (OBS) show a strong institutional framework supporting “extensive” public availability of budget information, which have helped New Zealand retain its top ranking for transparency, a position first claimed in the preceding 2012 OBS assessment.
The OBS is a comprehensive, independent assessment of budget transparency and accountability covering over 100 countries, produced by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) since 2006. Research for the latest OBS assessment also found New Zealand falling short on other essential “pillars” of public sector governance and financial accountability, including both Parliamentary oversight and public participation. Parliamentary oversight is assessed as “limited” for budget planning and “weak” for budget implementation, with a composite score for legislative oversight of just 45 out of 100. Formal mechanisms for public engagement across stages of the budget cycle are also assessed as “limited”, scoring 65 out of 100, with particular concern about lack of opportunities for public participation in processes involving Parliament and the Office of Auditor General (OAG).
In addition, while New Zealand retained its top rank for the OBS component focused on measuring public availability of budget information, scoring 88 out of 100 on the Open Budget Index, the country’s performance stands to be improved regarding two key elements of budget transparency. More specifically, 2015 OBS results point to a need for the Government to improve the scope and quality of “citizens’ budget” documentation, that provides information which is readily accessible to the general public. Results also indicate a need for more rigorous reporting of “tax expenditures” (for example, tax concessions such as exemptions, preferential tax rates, deferrals and offsets for specific entities, groups or activities).
The 2015 OBS results reinforce key findings and implications arising from other recent public sector governance assessments and ongoing global initiatives targeting budget transparency and accountability.