Centre for Policy Alternatives on 6 December, 2011

Governance & Anti-Corruption programme: Overview of work in 2010

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CPA’s Governance & Anti Corruption programme commenced in July 2007 with launching of National Anti Corruption Action Plan in partnership with USAID. This unit focuses on Governance issues with particular emphasis  on Local Authorities and the Transparency & Accountability angles of their budget processes. G&AC  mainly  works as a facilitator with more than 75 areas specific partners including Local Authorities and different type of CSOs. Other important areas of concern are procurement, Right to Information and accountability. The ANSA (Affiliated Network for Social Accountability) supported project currently being  implemented aims for Pradeshiya Sabha Budget Process Awareness and aims to motivate newly elected members and officials of Pradeshiya Sabhas, as well as community members. Above 75 area-specific local partners provide a wealth of information and networking opportunities. The programme also works to disseminate trilingual, user friendly publications on relevant subject areas as well as analytical studies.

In  July 2010, the GACP  Programme, in collaboration with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA) conducted an interactive dialogue to share Sri Lankan and South Asian experiences of civic engagement within the procurement process. The main objectives of the dialogue were to promote transparency within the local government procurement process, to work towards minimising delays and obtaining the most financially advantageous and best quality services, for the nation.

Problems identified included the lack of engagement within the procurement process of local government, that procurement work is a part of public expenditure tracking, the importance of entry points, the non-linear process of evolution in which the dynamic nature of state-society collaboration should be emphasized and enabling a context to provide opportunities for civic actors to effectively engage with governance processes in the short-term. Many senior officials attended this event including Chief Secretaries from most provinces within Sri Lanka. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of CPA gave the keynote speech on the importance of transparency and the Right to Information. Also present was Mr.D.P Hettiarachchi, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils, Mr. Anura Lokugamage, Chief Accountant of the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, who gave a presentation on the Sri Lankan Experience in Procurement and Dr Gopakumar K. Thampi, Director and Chief Operating Officer of ANSA-SAR.

Another highlight of the work by G & AC programme was the launch of the Open Budget Survey 2010 Findings Of South Asia and the Consultation on Implications, Challenges and Trends, held from Nov 24th – 25th 2010. The event was supported by  Affiliated Network for Social Accountability for South Asia and Global [ANSA –SA/Global] of Dhaka Bangladesh and International Budget Partnership [IBP] of USA.

This event brought together over 20 key international budget players, analyzers and researchers including the Governor of the Central Bank of Bangladesh, Government Whip of Bangladesh National Parliament, Chief Economist of the government of Pakistan, Deputy Finance Minister of Afghanistan, Legislative members and civil society organization’s budget activists working for budget transparency across South Asia (except Bhutan and Maldives.) During the two and half days of the event,  participants attended a wide range of hands-on and constructive consultations, met with their peers from across the region and exchanged lessons, experiences, trends, challenges, implications and remedial actions.

The preparation of the event had taken almost four and half months, beginning with the previous South Asian OBI 2008 event held in New Delhi, India in February 2008.  During that South Asian media release, the idea of preparing a larger budget pan-South Asian launch of the Open Budget Survey findings 2010 designed for South Asian budget advocates, analyzers, economic players with the state and non- state sector in Sri Lanka, as well as South Asia, was conceived. This plan was further strengthened through mutual experience, assistance and cooperation given by the ANSA –SA/Global including specifically Dr. Gopa Kumar Thampi the Chief Operating Officer of ANSA.  International Budget Partnership  (IBP) at the Centre on Budget and Policy, known as an organization which brought the first strong budget transparency index to the globe to re-check the behaviours of their national public purse, provided ample technical assistance, capacity building and mutual directions. During the design development stage, a network was built among South Asian researchers that became the distance working group for the event. IBP, ANSA and CPA collaborated routinely through emails and tele- conferences.

The regional working group consisted of Mr. Sakti Golder of Center on Budget Governance Advocacy, the country researcher – India, Mr. Khurram Irshad of the Omar Asgar Khan Development Foundation , Country researcher- Pakistan, Mr. Abhu Eusuf of the University of Dhaka, the country researcher- Bangladesh, Mr. Krishna Sapkota of Freedom Forum, Country researcher-Nepal, Mr. Lorenzo Delesgues of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the country researcher – Afghanistan and Ms. Sriyanie Wijesundara of Centre for Policy Alternatives, country researcher – Sri Lanka. This working group was responsible for the initial design of the event agenda and agreeing on the scope of the event.

A Regional Consultation on Trends, Implications and Challenges of Open Budget Systems was held on 26th Nov 2010.The agenda was developed for primary target audiences such as:

  • CSO budget practitioners working with all sectors such as health, education etc.
  • National and Local budget analyzers, advocates and implementers
  • Active and interested public / tax payers; senior citizens, female and youth  demographics
  • Legislative members
  • Senior public officials who are directly responsible for the national budget process .

This consultation was planned to share regional experiences on open budget systems in respective countries based on the OBS 2010 findings. The Consultation was opened with a stirring speech given by Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on Importance of public oversight mechanismsThis paved the way to the Country specific planning sessions which focused on Strategising South Asian Budget Transparency Initiatives.

In the country specific planning sessions, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, India jointly and Sri Lanka separately were directed to discuss and present the plan focusing Key challenges, Capacity and Knowledge gaps, best practices, potential linkages regarding their country budget systems and methodological improvements for Open Budget Survey.