Timor-Leste government fails to give citizens information about how it spends their money

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2010

Contact:     Dr. Christopher Henry Samson, Executive Director LABEH
[72-40795]

Timor-Leste government fails to give citizens information about how it spends their money
Independent global report reveals how Timor-Leste could improve transparency quickly with little cost or effort

Dili, Timor-Leste November 23, 2010 – The International Budget Partnership today released the Open Budget Survey 2010, the only independent, comparative, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world.
Produced every two years by independent experts not beholden to national governments, the report found that Timor-Leste earned a transparency score of 34 points out of 100.  The lack of transparency and accountability in Timor-Leste’s budget opens the door to abuse and inappropriate and inefficient use of public money.

“We urge the government of Timor-Leste to take immediate steps to make its budget process more open,” said Dr. Christopher Henry Samson Executive Director LABEH of Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH) which worked on the report.  “As the Open Budget Survey recommends, the government of Timor-Leste can improve transparency and accountability quickly and with very little cost or effort by publishing online all of the budget information it already produces and by inviting public participation in the budget process.”

“Greater transparency would contribute to better oversight, better access to credit, better policy choices, and better service delivery for Timor-Leste and, ultimately, its people,” said Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership.  Krafchik cited Nigeria as an example of how a lack of budget transparency allows corruption and mismanagement to go unchecked.  He noted Mexico as a case in which access to budget information ensured that poor farmers received subsidies intended for them that previously were diverted to wealthy farmers.

Timor-Leste is not alone in its poor performance.  The Open Budget Survey 2010 reveals that 74 of the 94 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability with national budgets.  Based on documented evidence, the Open Budget Survey 2010 finds that just seven of 94 countries assessed release extensive budget information, and 40 countries release no meaningful budget information.  Without this information, it is difficult for the public and oversight institutions to hold government accountable or to have meaningful input into decisions about how to use public resources.  South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States score in the top tier of transparency, while the worst performers include China, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, and newly democratic Iraq, which provide little to no information to their citizens.

The Open Budget Survey uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale called the Open Budget Index.  Despite the general lack of budget transparency around the world, the Open Budget Survey 2010 revealed a nine-point average improvement among the 40 countries that have been measured over three consecutive Open Budget Surveys.  Some of the most dramatic improvements came from previously low-scoring countries, such as Mongolia and Liberia, which still do not meet best practices but have improved significantly over time.

“The good news is that all governments -- no matter their income levels or political systems or dependence on aid -- can improve transparency and accountability quickly and with very little additional cost or effort by publishing online all of the budget information they already produce and by inviting public participation in the budget process,” said Krafchik.  “In the long term, we would like to see the international community establish a set of global norms for budget transparency.  Such norms could codify broadly accepted principles and guidelines with respect to transparency and would provide civil society organizations, the media, and legislatures a powerful tool to leverage improvements within countries.”

The complete Open Budget Survey 2010, including detailed analysis, methodology, and recommendations, is posted at www.openbudgetindex.org.

About Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu [LABEH]

LABEH is an expanding non-profit, non-political and non-governmental organization. LABEH is the acronym name of “Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu”. Which is translated in English as (The Mirror for the People) is a National-based non-governmental organization, which tries to raise awareness on issues of transparency, accountability, good-governance, economic justice and anti-corruption. Our main objective rests on Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption.

About the International Budget Partnership

An initiative of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the International Budget Partnership collaborates with civil society around the world to use budget analysis and advocacy as a tool to improve effective governance and reduce poverty.  The Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Flora and William Hewlett Foundation, and the U.K. Department for International Development (UKaid) provide funding for the Open Budget Initiative at the International Budget Partnership.  The International Budget Partnership and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities are not affiliated with and do not receive funding from the U.S. government.

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Press Kit Includes:
•    Open Budget Survey 2010 Fact Sheet
•    Open Budget Survey 2010 Timor-Leste Summary
•    Executive Summary of Open Budget Survey 2010
•    Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu (LABEH) Fact Sheet
•    Listing of Open Budget Survey 2010 Global Release Events