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September 26, 2011 at 6:56 am

Open Budget and Open Data on Public Policies

Open budget and open data on public funding are two fundamental aspects of transparency and accountability. Here two indexes are compared: the Open Budget Index by the International Budget Partnership and the index based on the 8 principles of Open Government Data that measures the transparency of the lists of beneficiaries of European Regional Policy

Transparency of public budgets and public policy are key elements to get an effective and accountable government. Access to information on the use of public money is crucial to ensure an effective participation, and to generate trust, credibility of public choices – even in hard times – and the effectiveness of the interventions.
It’s interesting to compare two composite indicators on openness and transparency of public funding in Europe:

  • the Open Budget index (OBI), released by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) every year, analyzes budget transparency in 94 countries all around the world (here is the full report 2010). The index is composed by two pillars (“Availability of Budget Documents” and “Executive’s Budget Proposal”) and 92 qualitative variables that are aggregated by using a simple mean. The data are collected through a questionnaire by a network of independent organizations.
  • droppedImage (1)the index of transparency of EU Regional Policy (Structural Funds) that I put forward in this paper published in the last issue of the European Journal of ePractice. It measures the openness and transparency of the data on the beneficiaries of the European funds that all regions and member states acting as Managing Authority of the policy must publish on the web. The evaluation is based on the Eight principles of Open Government Data.

While the Structural Funds transparency index is calculated for all Europe, the OBI index is available for only 14 European countries, which include almost all main member states.

The first thing to note is that there is no correlation between the two indicators, at all. The best-performing countries in one index are the worst-performing countries in the other. France is maybe an exception, with very good results in open budget and a quite good score in Structural Funds transparency (mainly due to a centralized platform that provides information about all beneficiaries of regional programmes across the country).
This non-correlation can be explained by taking into consideration the different phenomena that the two indicators aim to describe. OBI methodology mainly focuses on quantity and detail of information disclosed, while the index on transparency of EU policy mainly considers the quality and the format of the data.

Secondly, at least two groups of countries seem to emerge. A first group (in green) is located at the top left of the graph and includes UK, France and Sweden. All the other countries (in red) show lower values of OBI index and quite similar values of the Structural Funds indicator, with the exception of Czech Republic and Slovakia that got very high scores.
While the green group has a pretty long tradition of being open and accountable, the very good performances of the newcomers Eastern Europe countries are probably due to the positive role that the European Commission is playing in that region to push transparency of the programmes funded by EU policies.

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