The 2020 annual fiscal transparency report measures the degree to which key budget documents are made publicly available, substantially complete, and generally reliable.
Rabat – The United States’ released its annual fiscal transparency report on Monday, June 15, revealing which countries meet minimum requirements of public oversight following US financial aid.
The review lists Morocco among 76 countries out of 141 that meet the minimum requirements deemed crucial for economic stability and public financial management.
Over the past decade, to better align itself with internationally accepted accounting principles, Morocco has made strides to strengthen budget transparency and modernize the management of its public finances.
The Moroccan government has undertaken initiatives to improve the quality of information accessible to citizens and parliamentarians. It has also continuously sought to revamp its reporting approach in order to popularize budgets and increase readability. Since 2012, the Citizen’s Budget has served as a prime example of efforts made to present the public with more budget transparency.
As stated on the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Administrative Reform website, the process of implementing of the provisions of the Finance Act “culminated in the achievement of significant progress in the results of the Open Budget Survey for 2017; ranking Morocco 2nd in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in terms of budget transparency.”
Morocco’s public finance reform efforts uphold Morocco’s duty of disseminating information on primary proposed tax returns, the allocation of the expenses and the breakdown of revenues, plus sectorial strategies according to the Finance Act.
While Morocco stands in the clear of US critique, the report notes 65 countries for their lack of success in effectively fostering government accountability and dependable delineation of finances.
Not Meeting Minimum Requirements of Public Transparency
Countries identified on the government’s 2020 “Not Meeting Minimum Requirements of Public Transparency” list fall under two categories: Significant progress or no significant progress — in comparison to the 2019 report.
The report reprobates Algeria, marked among the majority of countries that did not make significant progress, for its ill-timed publications of budget proposals and end-of-year reports.
“Algeria’s fiscal transparency would be improved by: publishing its executive budget proposal and end-of-year reports within a reasonable period of time and providing additional detail regarding debt obligations, revenues, and expenditures in the budget, including those of state-owned enterprises.”
According to the 2020 report, “reasonable” timing falls at least one month before the start of the fiscal year. In addition, fiscal reports should be made public and widespread before budget approval by the legislature, within three months of enactment for the enacted budget, and within twelve months of the end of the fiscal year for the end-of-year report.
Other MENA countries struggling to abide by the US’ minimum transparency requirements such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Libya are noted as providing incomplete reports and failing to make information regarding government-guaranteed state-owned enterprise debt publicly available.
The assessment also deemed Saudi Arabia to mismanage its reports and called on the Gulf country to improve its consistency in revealing basic information on natural resource extraction. Although some data was made available in the government’s annual budget, allocations to the royal family, Council of Ministers, and the government were withheld from public oversight.
Transparency to review US aid use
The State Department and related federal agencies annually develop, update, and strengthen the fiscal transparency report as necessary.
The US report specifies that its assessment of transparency does not reflect levels of corruption. Low levels of transparency do not assume high levels of corruption. Likewise, sufficient transparency does not eliminate the potential doctoring of fiscal reports or expenditures.
Under section 7031(b)(3) of the US Foreign Appropriations Act, the yearly review seeks to ensure proper spending of US taxpayer money by evaluating the records of countries receiving aid from the US.
The United States Department of State measures the degree to which key budget documents are “made publicly available, substantially complete, and generally reliable.”
“The review also includes an assessment of the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction.”
The US report makes recommendations in order to provide direction for the evaluated governments to make both short and long term gains in improving their fiscal transparency.