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Serbia ranks low in the transparency of anti-crisis measures

Serbia is among the countries that did not bring packages of urgent economic and fiscal measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic in a sufficiently transparent way - show the results of the International Budget Partnership (IBP) survey from Washington Transparency Serbia transmits.

None of the 120 observed countries, according to the standards of the IBP methodology, showed "substantial transparency" in the adoption and implementation of measures, and only four were assessed as open to the budget process "adequate" (Australia, Norway, Peru and the Philippines). Twenty-nine countries had some elements of openness, while 56 countries, including Serbia, showed "limited transparency". As many as 31 countries had "minimal openness" in the budget response to the pandemic.

A study on the transparency of emergency measures conducted by the IBP determined that numerous weaknesses in the transparency and control of emergency measures are spread worldwide, which are estimated to have reached 14,000 billion dollars by the end of 2020. The organization warns that governments must work responsibly and transparently because huge budget expenditures to combat the effects of the pandemic have long-term consequences for their public finances and citizens.

In Serbia, the subject of analysis was a package of fiscal and economic measures adopted from March to September 2020. The assessment of "limited transparency" refers to adopting standards, monitoring their implementation and control, and spending money and monitoring the effects and results of measurements.

Serbia was rated the worst in terms of publishing information on public procurement, recipients of aid and the effect of implementing measures, citizen participation, and the fact that no extraordinary audits of aid programs were conducted. On the other hand, the only good assessment refers to the publication of macroeconomic data and the budget as a whole.

The IBP survey found that more than two-thirds of states did not responsibly manage their emergency assistance packages and that almost half did not conduct public procurement transparently. Also, in nearly half of the countries, aid packages were not decided by parliaments due to the crisis but only by governments. Only one-quarter of the states published reports on the revision of the adopted measures.

Assessing that rapid responses to crises do not have to be detrimental to transparency and accountability, especially given that the pandemic is not over yet, the IBP recommended governments to publish monthly reports on aid package implementation, budget execution data and analysis, and the effects of the measures taken. The IBP also recommended the publication of detailed data on concluded procurement contracts, including those carried out under the urgent procedure. All information should be published in an open format.

The IBP proposes strengthening independent audit institutions to audit the budget's emergency assistance program as soon as possible and comply with the auditors' recommendations. National parliaments should regain their role as custodians of public finances, provide consultations on the content of these urgent measures with the public and all stakeholders, and monitor the implementation of adopted measures and the follow-up of audit findings.

IBP also points out some examples of good practice. In Ecuador, all public procurement contracts related to COVID-19 are available on an open platform. Jamaica has already published three audit reports on the implementation of government programs. Chile and the Philippines ensured the participation of citizens in budget processes during the pandemic. In Nepal, a parliamentary committee investigated irregularities in the procurement of medical supplies. Indonesia has created a website to see the details of state aid programs to various actors, infographics and concluded contracts.

Total results for all 120 countries on the IBP website: https://www.internationalbudget.org/

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