SOUTH Africa has again done well in an international survey of budget transparency, scoring 86 points out of 100, on the Open Budget index, well above the global average of 45 points.

The index measures whether the central government makes key documents available to the public in a timely manner and whether that data is useful.

South Africa’s score has, however, fallen from a peak of 92 in 2010 and the International Budget Partnership, which compiles the index, recommends that much more information needs to be provided on local and provincial government budgets, as well as more detailed information that legislators and the public can use to monitor the funding and delivery of specific services.

The Open Budget survey, which is conducted every two years using 109 indicators to measure budget transparency, ranks South Africa less well, with a score of 65 compared to a global average of 25, on public participation in the budget process. The initiative aims to encourage governments to provide opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process, and though the country does relatively well thanks to Treasury’s annual "tips for the budget" campaign and through the National Economic development and Labour Council (Nedlac), the survey finds that these mechanisms are not enough to ensure broad based and effective participation.

The main recommendation of this year’s survey is that Treasury should make the budget documents available to legislators and the public much earlier — ideally these should be published at least three months before the budget year begins on 1 April, allowing for better engagement and oversight.