PFM blog

Message to President Obama from CABRI: Transparency will help build stronger institutions

24 June 2013
24 June 2013

“The proof of the pudding is in the tasting,” says CABRI’s Executive Secretary.

CABRI submitted the following blog to Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog on occasion of President Obama's visit to Africa:

We all know that policies and budgets in Africa are formulated much better than they are executed. But when the African finance ministers I work with don’t know what the US is funding in their countries, it is hard for them to plan their own development efforts. Therefore adequate levels of transparency on both the donor aid side and on the side of governments receiving aid are needed to translate reform rallying cries into action.

An opportunity to make use of this enthusiasm is during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa this month.

Information on aid from donor countries to countries in Africa needs to be comprehensive. That means being timely, useful, accessible, reliable, and comparable. Donors can report better to their constituencies, while helping recipient governments to plan and implement more effectively.

Those finance ministers and their structures and personnel need to play their part too, by ensuring that the rules are clear, i.e. the responsibilities of national and sub-national governments in terms of the disbursement of funds. This means that these rules are brought into legislation and that people are held responsible for the implementation of programmes. This also means sharing information so that citizens and civil society can hold their representatives accountable.

If President Obama is serious about supporting good governance and strengthening institutions in Africa, here are three things he must remember while speaking with leaders in Africa.

1. Who sets priorities for aid remains a critical rallying point. Country ownership of reform and home-grown approaches that take into account capacity needs, technological and skills transfer, and the dynamic changes and significant progress in countries receiving aid, are indispensable to aid’s contribution to achieving sustainable development.

2. African governments recognise that the absence of good governance undermines development. Countries implementing public financial management reforms still struggle with insufficient budget and aid transparency, impaired constitutional accountability, as well as technical and managerial shortfalls that hinder the implementation of budget reforms. But the Declaration on Good Public Financial Management, which was endorsed by African Ministers of Finance in 2012 at the Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank, is an important touchpoint.

3. Providing development assistance through Country Systems should be the rule, not the exception. Donors should not just build or provide funds for roads, but capacitate countries to plan, construct, and maintain their own roads. In other words, donors should utilise national arrangements and procedures for priority setting, public financial management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation, audit, and social and environmental impact assessment procedures. The benefits of donors using country systems have been well researched and include a more stable macroeconomic framework, higher efficiency of public expenditure, lower transaction costs, and higher potential for overall impact.

“Yes we can” took off like wild fire throughout the world, M. President, when you first campaigned for your office. What can we do now?

Most importantly, aid transparency may only be one step, but it’s a vital starting point for greater and more effective governance and accountability. Grab a spoon. Let’s taste the pudding.

Neil Cole, CABRI Executive Secretary

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