November 2017: A report from the World Bank Group on governance finds that a country’s national budget is one of the most powerful development tools at its disposal. The report reviews the Bank’s work in 2017 on public institutions, including efforts to mobilize revenues to meet the SDGs, involve citizens in budget planning, reduce corruption, and strengthen evaluation and accountability.
The report titled, ‘Governance and The World Bank Group: Year in Review 2017: Foundations and Frontiers,’ provides an overview of the work carried out by the Bank in 2017 to help countries build public institutions that are capable, efficient, open, inclusive and accountable. The report uses the public policy cycle (policy formulation, implementation and evaluation) to outline examples of country support.
The authors report that the World Bank launched the ‘Bureaucracy Lab,’ an initiative to gather administrative data, survey government bureaucrats and conduct field experiments of public sector reform initiatives. It also reports on the Nordic Trust Fund (NTF), a knowledge and partnership programme housed in the World Bank Group’s Governance Global Practice (GP), which supported human rights training for elected officials, civil servants and civil society organizations in Viet Nam, to build their capacity to respond to citizens.
On mobilizing revenues to meet the SDGs, the report states that Pakistan is reforming tax policy and administration through the Pakistan Trust Fund for Accelerating Growth and Reforms Project, using a set of tools covering process mapping and reengineering of tax administration, information technology and human resources assessments, and stakeholder analysis. To date, it says: the tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio increased by two percent; taxpayer registration and payment grew by 9 percent and 30%, respectively; and the number of tax exemptions fell.
The report also outlines initiatives carried out at the local level to involve citizens in budget planning. For example, the World Bank is piloting a participatory budgeting approach, which involves citizens in setting spending priorities in Kenya’s rural counties of Makueni and West Pokot. Preliminary results show: government spending is better aligned with needs; citizens are increasingly prioritizing maintenance and upgrades of facilities as well as community-level investments such as wells and women’s development funds; the budget approval process has sped up; and in West Pokot County, the share of women participating in budget consultations grew from 11% to 35%.
On corruption, the World Bank Group reports that it has signed an agreement with Italy to forge a partnership to reduce corruption risk in public administration. The programme involves an anti-corruption curriculum for civil servants and peer learning on managing risks among public agencies, to support Italy’s passage of an anti-corruption law. According to the report, preliminary results indicate a threefold increase in detecting fraud cases and a 15% increase in collected revenues.
Citizen feedback can help solve fundamental problems in service delivery, and ultimately strengthen the performance of public institutions.
On evaluation and accountability, the report states that the national budget is one of the most powerful development tools at a country’s disposal, and parliamentary participation in the budget process establishes checks and balances, and is crucial for transparent and accountable government and efficient delivery of public services. It notes that constructive engagement between governments and civil society creates an enabling environment in which citizen feedback can help solve fundamental problems in service delivery, and ultimately strengthen the performance of public institutions. For example, public audits adopted in Benin to better manage the collection of water fees led to a preliminary increase of 23% in collection rates. The report also highlights the importance of supreme audit institutions (SAIs) in overseeing the management of public funds and the quality and credibility of financial data reported by governments.
The World Bank Group report also highlights: the 2017 edition of its flagship World Development Report, which focused on the theme ‘Governance and the Law;’ the launch of its new Procurement Framework; and the inclusion of ‘Governance and Institutions’ as a special theme in the 18th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA18), the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.
The World Bank Group’s Governance Global Practice is composed of 700 staff members from more than 90 countries that help countries build capable, efficient, open, inclusive and accountable institutions. According to the Governance GP website, more than half of the global population expresses distrust in government institutions. The website notes that the most recent World Bank Group Surveys in its client countries confirm that addressing governance is currently at the top of countries’ policy. [Publication: Governance and The World Bank Group Year in Review 2017: Foundations and Frontiers] [World Bank Group Governance Website] [Publication Page]