Business Scoop

NZ In 2015 Open Budget Survey: Results and Event

Press Release – Jonathan Dunn

Results for the 2015 Open Budget Survey (OBS) assessing budget transparency and accountability were recently released. The IGPS-hosted dissemination event is scheduled for Monday 5 October .Results for the 2015 Open Budget Survey (OBS) assessing budget transparency and accountability were recently released. The IGPS-hosted dissemination event is scheduled for Monday 5 October.

These recent results suggest a bit of slippage relative to other countries. While still retaining top mark on availability of information, NZ is seen to be lagging in other key areas (“pillars”) of public sector financial accountability – namely public participation/engagement and especially Parliamentary oversight.

Also, within scope of “budget transparency” (i.e. public availability of info), there are some important gaps – namely for producing a single/integrated accessible (and non-partisan) purpose-specific “Citizens Budget”, as well as in providing full(er) reporting on “tax expenditures” (special tax concessions for specific economic and social policy objectives). The key issues with respect to current Treasury reporting on “tax expenditures” is a lack of quantification across most items (about 31 out of 37 on the list) and some subjectivity in criteria as to what is defined to be a valid “tax expenditure” (particularly with respect to Trusts and PIE).

The whole issue of “public engagement” is an extremely important and timely one, as SSC is expected to be acting on commitments to having signed on to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and responding to the recent TINZ National Integrity System assessment.
The attached background note includes:

– a brief 1-2 page summary of 2015 OBS findings and relevance to ongoing initiatives under OGP and GIFT (first 2 pages of attached note);

– additional material (another 7-8 pages) delving into more detail on specific areas of particular interest where NZ could/should work to improve performance; and

– OBS questions and responses for the selected (four) areas where NZ 2015 OBS scores suggest room for improvement and which will be the focus of presentation at Monday’s IGPS-hosted session (last 8 pages of the attached note). Those areas are:

i. Citizens Budget documentation;
ii. Reporting on tax expenditures;
iii. Public participation; and
iv. Parliamentary oversight.

The body of the background note also includes :
– a page of tables/charts for cross-country comparison of OBS results, and
– a 1-page “text box” on Australia’s tax expenditure statement

You can also find/download that full questionnaire and other 2015 OBS information for NZ at the following website:

Briefing note: Background_Note_for_Media_2015_OBS_Results_New_Zealand.docx
OBS New Zealand Country Summary by IBP: NewZealand_2015_OBS_Country_Summary_by_IBP.pdf
The IGPS-hosted presentation/discussion event will be:

Monday 5 October
Railway Building ROOM 501
Institute for Governance and Policy Studies
Victoria University – Pipitea Campus

Agenda for event is as follows:

1. Short presentation of 2015 OBS results and implications (me)
2. Related GIFT work and NIS Assessment findings (Murray Petrie – GIFT lead technical advisor and NIS Assessment co-chair)
3. Related developments ongoing as part of OGP processes/initiatives (Michael Macualay – IGPS Director and OGP SAG member)

The presentations are planned to use 1/2 the time available and to bring us to an open discussion with “the floor” that highlights what practical steps the Government can take (and is taking) to identify, develop and implement practical “points of entry” for public engagement across the budget/policy cycle and across the three main public sector institutional actors (Exec, Parliament and OAG).

Jonathan Dunn
NZ OBS Assessor

Here is the links for the full 2015 OBS Report (across ALL 100+ countries) and the Executive Summary for that full report:
And finally, here is a link to a Fairfax Media item that was posted to yesterday (in their “Politics” section):

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