Assessing Dutch Governmental Accountability by Means of the Open Budget Index

With the globally increasing interest in accountability in central government and the search for innovative and fruitful forms of its building blocks, such as the state budget, international comparisons are getting much attention. These can have the form of country-to-country studies, as well as global benchmarks such as the OECD’s Best Practices for Budget Transparency, and the IMF’s Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency.
While these frameworks provide a good starting point in order to come to a basic definition of what good accountability and transparency on the governmental level could look like, no benchmark produces a measure of budget transparency that allows for a comparison across countries. In 2007 the International Budget Partnership (IBP) created the Open Budget Index (OBI) in order to fill this gap. This is a biannual measurement that assesses public sector budget accountability at the governmental level for countries worldwide. In 2015 a total of 102 countries participated in the most recently published OBI, with a wide global distribution.

In spite of this large pool of participants, the Netherlands has not been part of the assessment until now. In the paper I presented today at the CIGAR Conference at the IPCA in Porto, Portugal, we did an assessment of the Dutch central government, in order to analyse how the Netherlands would perform in comparison to top-rated countries according to the OBI. Besides, we wanted to assess the strength of the OBI as a statistical and comparative tool for research. Our findings provide a multi-faceted image of the performances: on the one hand the government performs very well internationally (e.g. when it comes to timely approval of the Executive Budget Proposal by the legislature), but on other terrains it performs significantly less (e.g. in relation to the representation of earmarked revenue estimates and auxiliary budgetary instruments). We conclude with possible policy implications for the Dutch governmental context and suggestions for further research.