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Majority of 2023 Budget revenue proposals accountability at sea: Verité Research

By: Staff Writer

June 13, Colombo (LNW): Verité Research’s annual evaluation has shed light on the state of budget proposals in Sri Lanka, revealing that 89% of the highest-value expenditure proposals from the 2023 budget lacked progress information, amounting to a total of LKR 43.8 billion out of the allocated LKR 49.3 billion.

In 2022, progress was not known on proposals that had 93% of allocated funds. Since 2017 these last two years have been the two worst in terms of information available on the highest value budget proposals.

Looked at by number rather than value of the 25 proposals, information was made available to assess the progress of 18 proposals (72%).

This is a notable improvement from 2022, which was an all-time low on information disclosure — only 29% of the proposals (7 out of 24) could be evaluated for progress based on the information provided.

 The 18 proposals with progress information available for 2023 amounted to only LKR 5.4 billion – just 11% of the total allocation.

Visibility is particularly low around budgeted social welfare payments, which received the highest allocations as budget proposals in the last two years: LKR 26.8 billion in 2022 and LKR 43 billion in 2023.  In both years the government failed to disclose information on the progress of these proposals.

This deficiency in information is also apparent from Sri Lanka’s score in the Open Budget Survey (OBS). The budget transparency score (based on availability, substance and timeliness) was 37 out of 100 in 2023, well below the global average of 45. The OBS is the world’s only independent, comparative assessment of public access to the central government budget information.

By number of proposals only 16% (4 out of 25) were fully implemented in 2023. An example of non-implementation is the budget proposal to spend LKR 500 million to improve child nutrition.

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) informed Verité Research that the Ministry of Health (MoH) was responsible for implementing this proposal.

The MoH responded to an RTI request on this proposal stating that it had submitted a proposal requesting funds from the National Budget Department of the MoF but had not received the funds. The findings are contained in the latest end-year budget promises assessment of Verité Research, which assessed progress up to 31 December 2023. The document also makes recommendations for improvement.

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