Using Fiscal Data - Civil Society Perspectives

Chapter 3 - Using Fiscal Data: Civil Society Perspectives


The Open Budget Index has been instrumental in establishing the key budget documents that every government should publish. The Open Budget Index, grades governments according to their publication practices (timeliness, how many key documents are published etc.)[1]; the survey does not currently look at the file format of the released documents.

Getting format and content right is vital to ensure data can be used to hold governments to account. In this section, we examine from a user perspective how easy it is to find, get hold of and use that data. We asked the open spending data community (who come from a variety of backgrounds; research, technical, media etc.) what fiscal data they required, what they wanted to do with it , and importantly, how easy it was to obtain and use. The examples demonstrate that simply publishing the data is not enough, attention must also be paid to how the data is published.

Respondents were asked 6 questions:

  1. How does data on government financial processes relate to your work? What is your mission?
  2. How did you get the data?
  3. If you used a government transparency portal to obtain the data, was it user friendly and were you able to find and access all the information you need?
  4. If your government has a transparency portal but you did not use it - please explain why.
  5. Please explain any issues with the data.
  6. What could be done to make your work easier?

The section below contains quotes and in place paraphrased responses from some of the participants interviewed.

[1] Pre-Budget Statement, Executive’s Budget Proposal, Enacted Budget, Citizen’s Budget, (Supplementary budgets), In-Year Reports (Monthly / quarterly), Mid Year Review, Year End Report, Audit Reports.