International organizations, fiscal policy experts and transparency advocates agree that civil society and the general public need to understand budget figures to effectively monitor the use of public funds. In the case of oil-dependent Azerbaijan, this is especially important.
The Baku-based Center for Support to Economic Initiatives organization investigated Azerbaijan budget-related information accessibility. The center’s report provides steps state agencies can take to enhance access to this data. It analyses legislation, international budget transparency rankings and regional case studies to determine what institutional gaps, if any, exist.
The report indicates inefficient use of resources and corruption risks increase in absence of budget transparency mechanisms. The public does not have effective oversight ability when it is poorly informed. The report suggests the government of Azerbaijan take the following steps to improve access to budget information and improve budget transparency:
- Take and implement International Budget Partnership recommendations.
- Determine how budget information will be disseminated by law.
- Prepare and publicize separate reports on expenses of the president’s and government’s so-called reserve funds.
- Make a list of investment projects, along with state budget allocations and borrowed funds for each project, available to the public.
- Issue a separate report on the use of extra-budgetary revenues and expenses.
- Release budgetary agency procurement contracts in full online.
- Release budget information through social media and convene public discussions on these data.
Given the Azerbaijan budget is still highly dependent on extractive sector, a more open and transparent budget will ensure accountability and potentially improve resource management, as well.
Fidan Bagirova is a Eurasia senior officer with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).