The National Budget Project advocates for a fair, credible and transparent national budget process that ensures accountability is in place.
NGOs/CSOs jointly promote better prioritizing of budget spending for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable in Cambodia. The project encourages the Royal Government of
Cambodia to release more budget information to the public.
Currently there are constraints limiting the ability of official bodies, NGOs/CSOs and the public to engage with and influence Government on national budget issues. These include:
- Limited knowledge among NGOs/CSOs, members of parliament and the public on budget allocation and expenditure issues
- Limited access to timely and comprehensive information on the national and sector budgets
- Lack of a transparent and participatory budget process.
These constraints mean that the NA and Senate cannot effectively conduct their oversight, and NGOs/CSOs cannot fully use opportunities that the budget could offer to back their research, education and and advocacy with official facts and figures.
Lack of budget credibility
Through its analyses of recent budget laws and results from the Open Budget Surveys 2008, 2010 and 2012, the project has identified several key issues. One is lack
of budget credibility through failing to adhere to spending priorities.
Budget credibility means that budget expenditure closely follows the planned or allocated budgets, especially in priority ministries/sectors. The project’s analyses found that during the previous five years, budget expenditures on priority sectors (especially capital expenditure) were generally below the planned allocations in the budget law, while some non-priority sectors consistently overspent their budget.
As an example of the challenges, the audit report for the 2006 budget was published in October 2009 – three years after the fiscal year. The timing of adoption of the budget settlement is also two to three years behind the fiscal year. The issue of consistency between budget settlement law and budget law is a challenge for accountability mechanisms.
The project works for more budget credibility at ministerial level and prioritization toward certain sectors in line with national development plans, to be responsive to the poverty reduction goals of the Government. The Government is strongly committed to the Rectangular Strategy phase II and the National Strategic Development Plan Update 2009–2013 to promote annual economic growth of 7% and reduce poverty by more than 1% per annum.
Lack of budget transparency
Other issues that the project works on are:
- The lack of budget information available in the public domain
- The limited knowledge among the public about the budget process and budget information.
In addition to the lack of published budget documents, there is also limited information within them. This lack of comprehensiveness and inconsistent formatting, together with the late release of audit reports, act as a barrier for NGOs/CSOs and the general public to participate in the budget debate and to hold the government accountable for its use of public money.
Although some recurring monthly budget expenditure data is available in aggregate form through the MEF website, there is no publicly available budget information on Government capital expenditures, except aid allocation and disbursement figures by donors and ministries published in the Official Development Assistance Database.
The project advocates for the release of unpublished budget documents and more comprehensive content. The project also addresses the current lack of an effective mechanism to increase public knowledge on budget issues.
Members of the Trade and Economic Development Network (TEDN) identified the need for work around the national budget in 2006. The project officially started in November 2006. Some key achievements include:
- Increased knowledge and cooperation among NGOs/CSOs on the budget process through publications such as the Guide to National Budget, analyses of the budget laws 2007–2011, and training of NGOs in budget work.
- Research on the openness of the Cambodian budget in 2007 and 2009 and the launch of the Open Budget Index 2008 and 2010 for Cambodia. The OBS 2012 was launched in March 2013. Cambodia is measured against 100 countries.
- Development and strengthening of relationships within NGOs/CSOs, and with the National Assembly (especially Second Commission, and Technical Coordination Secretariat of the National Assembly), the Government, and development partners.
- NGO Forum has been accepted as an observer in the Government-Donor Technical Working Group on Public Financial Management (TWG-PFM).
- In 2008 and 2009, in cooperation with health and education NGOs, the project made two assessments of the availability of budget information in these sectors. A report was published in 2011 as an advocacy resource for the sector NGOs and development partners.
- The project analyses of budget laws and draft budget laws influenced much debate in the National Assembly session on adoption of draft budget law.
- The project commissioned research into factors slowing the implementation of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) North West Irrigation Project, being delivered by the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology (MoWRM). Using this research, the National Budget project sought to influence the commitment of MoWRM and ADB to bring the irrigation sub-projects up-to-date and then completed by 2010.
- NGO Forum, through its NGO sector position paper, received its first response from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) on the implementation of the Public Financial Management Reform Programme (PFMRP) since starting its budget monitoring work in 2006.
- The project commented on the first draft of the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) Update 2009–2013, recommending an increase in expenditure allocated to priority ministries and cutting a massive proposed spending increase in the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI).
- More budget documents became available to the public in 2010 – the Mid-Year Review of 2010 Budget Law Implementation, Macroeconomic Framework for Cambodia 2000–2011 and 2011 Draft Budget Law.
- A website (www.cambodianbudget.org) dedicated to raising public awareness and increasing research and debate on national budget issues was produced and publicized.