News

Secrecy of Budget and cabinet decisions rose in 2020: Verite

BY Pamodi Waravita

The latest findings of the think tank Verite Research Institute’s “Budget Promises: Beyond Parliament” platform, show that over the past year (2020), there has been an increased lack of willingness by ministries and government agencies to disclose progress-related information with regard to key decisions made by the Cabinet of Ministers and on budget proposals.

These ideas were shared during a press briefing conducted by Verite Research yesterday (27).

“Budget Promises is a platform that tracks the deliverability of the budget promises. In 2020, we tracked 26 cabinet decisions (both expenditure and regulatory) and eight budget proposals that were included in the 2019 budget speech that were not fulfilled that year and had an allocation of over Rs.1 billion. From these 34 proposals that were evaluated, over 50% were categorised as closed or restricted, where the implementing agencies did not provide any information or provided only insufficient information, for us to make an assessment. When we compare this historically, the proportion of information-restricted proposals has more than doubled since 2019,” said Verite Research’s Research Assistant Udahiruni Atapattu at the press conference yesterday.

She further said that from the aforementioned 26 cabinet decisions, 16 had had an expenditure allocation attached to them and were regarded as “expenditure-related cabinet decisions”. The progress of 67% of these decisions were undisclosed, compared to the 41% undisclosed decisions in 2019. Furthermore, Atapattu said that only 4% of the 16 decisions had been fulfilled (achieved only 80% of the target of each decision).

On the contrary, she noted that 40% of the 10 regulatory (proposals that require legislative action or regulatory notification) cabinet decisions were implemented which is an improvement from 2019, where only 18% were implemented.

“Ministries have become less willing to disclose full information. We also observed changes in the responsiveness of ministries over the years. One such ministry is the Urban Development and Housing Ministry. In 2019, they proactively disclosed progress-related information online and were responsive to Right to Information (RTI) applications. However, in 2020, there was very little progress-related information available and they did not respond to our RTI requests as well.”

The Appropriation Bill for the 2022 financial year was presented in Parliament on 7 October, with Budget allocations for the education, defence, and finance sectors being increased whilst that of the health sector being less when compared to the 2021 financial year.