The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is part of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Initiative, a global research and advocacy program to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.

As governments launch massive spending measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest Open Budget Survey (OBS) points to weak transparency and oversight of government spending.

Completed just before the pandemic hit, the latest survey provides a telling snapshot of government practices in 117 countries related to budget disclosure, opportunities for public engagement, and checks and balances on the budget process.

Four out of five of the 117 governments assessed in the OBS 2019 failed to reach the minimum threshold for adequate budget transparency and oversight, and even fewer provided opportunities for the public to participate in shaping budget policies or monitoring their implementation. But there are signs of progress.
Advances on budget transparency are encouraging but not sufficient to allow for meaningful public dialogue on budget priorities.
  • OBS 2019 finds modest improvement in budget transparency scores globally, reversing the decline seen in the last round (OBS 2017), and restoring the upward trend shown since the survey began in 2006. 
  • But faster global progress is constrained by failure in many countries to sustain improvements in transparency practices over time or by stagnation at low levels of budget transparency in other countries.
Three quarters of the 117 countries surveyed do not have sufficient levels of budget transparency.
  • The global average score in OBS 2019 is 45 out of 100, when a score of 61 is considered the minimum threshold to foster an informed public debate on budgets. 
Problems associated with a lack of budget transparency are compounded by gaps in oversight by the legislature and supreme audit institutions.
  • Countries tend to score higher on audit oversight as compared to legislative oversight, but only 30 of the 117 surveyed countries score at adequate levels of oversight from both institutions.
Few countries provide meaningful opportunities for the public to participate in the budget process, which undermines the public’s ability to effectively use available budget information.
  • But innovative practices in some countries demonstrate how governments can initiate and strengthen public engagement.
Rapid progress toward reform on these issues is possible, but will require all stakeholders to unite around a common agenda.