Limited openness of the Serbian budget

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The research recommended that our country introduce and test a mechanism for engaging the public and civil society during the formulation of the state treasury budget.

Serbia has made moderate progress and is ranked 59th out of 120 countries in the international “Open Budget Index” survey. Our country received 46 points out of a possible 100, which ranks it among the countries with “limited budget transparency”.

The six-point improvement over the previous survey (2019) is almost exclusively due to the fact that the practice of adopting final budget accounts has finally been established, while serious weaknesses, especially when it comes to the public’s ability to influence the budget, remain unresolved. is Transparency Serbia.

Of the countries in the region covered by the survey, only Bosnia and Herzegovina, with almost 32, is rated lower than Serbia. Slovenia is the most open with a score of 66, Croatia has a score of 64, and Albania 52. The average result in the world this year is 46.

The research showed that improvements are needed in the final accounts, in order to see the differences between the initial estimates of expenditures, revenues and debt and their execution at the end of the year (and not only in relation to the budget after the rebalance), as well as differences in relation to initial macroeconomic forecasts. The poor assessment was influenced by the fact that in the observed year (budget for 2021) the fiscal strategy was not adopted on time, in accordance with the budget calendar, as well as because the semi-annual report on budget execution is still not published.

Serbia has the worst result, only two out of 100, in the area of ​​public participation in budget creation. The world average is 14, and of the countries in the region, Albania has six, Bosnia and Herzegovina nine, while Croatia is almost 17 shades above the world average.

– Ratings for Serbia are above the world average only in the category of supervision (54), although it is also in the range of “limited budget openness”. The relatively good score in this category was crucially influenced by the comprehensiveness of audits performed by the State Audit Institution (83 out of a possible 100 points), while parliamentary oversight, where the score is 39 out of a possible 100, needs to be significantly strengthened – Transparency Serbia states.

In order to correct such a bad assessment, the research recommended that our country introduce and test a mechanism for engaging the public and civil society during budget formulation, but also for monitoring budget execution, among other things, by organizing public hearings in parliament.

In order to increase the assessment of budget openness, in addition to respecting the budget calendar, it is also necessary for the government to start preparing a semi-annual report on budget execution in accordance with international standards, and for the National Assembly to more actively monitor budget execution. on public finances, implementation of SAI recommendations and to discuss fiscal strategy and analyzes of the Fiscal Council. Some recommendations also refer to the improvement of audit reports and the scope of information presented in the civil budget.

The research showed that the National Assembly of Serbia does not sufficiently monitor both the planning and execution of the budget (score 39). To improve estimates, the assembly should discuss budget policy before the government adopts the budget proposal.

– The need for the government to consult the parliament before redistributing budget funds between individual users by transfers to the current budget reserves and from the budget reserve is especially emphasized, because currently the government has as much as four percent of the total budget at its disposal. The research determined that during the year, a significant part of these funds changes not only the purpose, but also the user in relation to the approved budget, and that this is done without appropriate explanations and criteria – it is stated in the announcement, Politika writes.