TAXILA: The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CDPI) has launched its annual report ‘State of Budget Transparency in Pakistan’, which points out shortcomings in the budgeting process at the federal and provincial levels.

Faisal Munir, budget coordinator at the centre, told a press conference that budgets in Pakistan should be prepared in consultation with stakeholders and information should be shared with citizens proactively during all stages of budget making as well as its implementation.

The press conference was organised by Citizens Relations Group (CRG) under Citizens’ Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA) — a group of more than 60 civil society organisations working to achieve transparency in budget-making in 110 districts of the country.

Talking to the press, Mr Munir said CPDI has strived for openness at every level, adding, the centre for the past decade has been gauging transparency in the budget making process all over Pakistan but this year the focus was on federal and provincial levels.

The report not only reviewed budget transparency in Pakistan but also tested the effectiveness of access to information laws.

According to the report, 150 requests for information were sent to selected federal ministries and provincial departments to test transparency in the budgeting process; out of 36 applications sent to federal ministries, only six replies were received, and against 114 applications sent to various provincial departments, two replies from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and four from Punjab were received while no action was taken by Balochistan and Sindh.

The second section of the report examines the comprehensiveness of budget documents and citizen participation in the budget-making process, Mr Munir said.

Nobahar Khan, chairman CRG, Mir Manzar Elahi, General Secretary and Raja Abdur Rauf said all questions raised in the report on budget transparency were noteworthy and the government should take immediate steps to address them.

Citizen participation in the budgeting process should be legally protected and government agencies should consult with citizens during the various stages of budgeting, they said, adding it should be presented to the assemblies at least three months before the beginning of the financial year.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020

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