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Governments around the world develop a plan on how to use the public resources at their disposal to meet the needs of the citizens in the form of a budget. Through Budget Transparency, the citizens of a particular nation will be able to obtain the information on how the allocation and distribution of the public resources will be made. Budget Transparency has enabled citizens to access the full disclosure of the fiscal statements in a systematic and timely manner. Budget Transparency in combination to public participation makes it possible to combat the social evil that includes corruption and misappropriation of funds by the government agencies.
Budget Transparency will make it possible for the citizens to assess the government officials who are tasked with budgetary allocation if they are good stewards of the public resources. Transparency is a significant precondition to ensure accountability and public participation in the budget allocation processes undertaken by the government. There has been the emergence of global bodies to oversee the budget allocation processes in various countries, for instance, the Open Budget Initiative which is based at Washington is an international watchdog in budgetary allocation. The body provides a rating index for the openness of budget material, for instance, key budget documents, the quantity of information made available, and the timeliness of provision, in various countries around the world.
Importance of Public Stewardship in Budgeting
The government of a people should serve as a manager who is active and responsible for the protection of public resources so that developmental goals may be achieved. Responsibility is a significant aspect when handling public resources as public trust is dependent on it.
Public stewardship ensures transparency as there are accounting policies for all the financial reports present. Moreover, there is a summary of all the policies and the disclosure of any deviations present. Accounting is essential to ensure the budget execution can be monitored. The eventual changes of funds appropriations are documented and transactions documented throughout the cycle.
Public stewardship enables effective management of risks associated with unforeseen changes and other economic assumptions. Therefore, the finance ministers will be able to better anticipate the unexpected economic changes. The budgetary changes are then made public and be able to be tested for their sensitivity to ensure integrity and credibility.
Timely submission of budgetary reports is crucial as it allows the parliamentary committees adequate time for the analysis of proposal presented to them. The report stipulates the long-term plan by the government in the upcoming budget. The legislative arm of the government will then have the sufficient time to analyze the report and be able to authorize the report in time before the beginning of the financial year. This will provide the basis of smooth activities of the government as every budgetary allocation will be well thought about. In case the legislative arm of the government fails to authorize the report, a necessary explanation should follow spelling out the reason why.
Ethical requirements for proper Public Stewardship
There should be the proper definition of the fiscal powers bestowed upon the executive, legislative, and judicial arm of the government. The fiscal powers and necessary limits concerning influencing the changes in the budget should be well defined in the gazette legal framework. Moreover, the submitted draft of budgetary allocation by the various arms of the government should be put in the public domain so that the entire public can hold a particular arm of the government responsible for their performance. The parliament is tasked with ensuring availability and legitimateness of the information presented. For instance, the parliament should develop parliamentary committees responsible for overseeing the fiscal policy conduct and facilitating the input of the civil society into the budgetary deliberations.
There should be well cut out procedures for the execution, reporting, and monitoring. The fiscal information should be made available by a reliable accounting system put in place by tracking the use of revenues, arrears, and assets. The system should also be able to provide midyear fiscal information promptly when presented to the legislative arm of the government. In case of supplementary revenue, the reports should be presented to the legislature in a proper manner which is consistent with the initial budgetary presentation.
Every ministry of the government should come up with consultative meetings to brainstorm on pre-budget drafts. The ministers of the various departments usually preside over the meetings and are held initially before the consultative process on budgetary allocation with the Finance ministry. The committees for budget allocation of the various ministries have to hold meetings regularly to enable consultation with the various relevant stakeholders. The meetings will be able to strengthen the local governments' empowerment since they are the ones close to the citizens.
The process of the budget formulation should be characterized by the issuance of two documents having a one month gap. One of the document is the pre-budget statement that represents the assumptions applied in the development of the budget, for instance, revenue anticipated, expenses, and the levels of debt. The other document to be issued is the executive budget proposal which is the representation of the detailed declaration by the government of the priorities and policies anticipated to be pursued in the forthcoming financial year. This includes the particular funds to be allocated to either of the ministries or agencies that will serve the general public.
Consequences for unethical public stewardship
Proper Public Stewardship ensures there exist accounting regulations and rules during handling of the public resources by the government. However, there exists unethical conduct by some government officials who misappropriate the power of their positions. The unethical conducts will lead to increased cases of misappropriation of public resources as there is no accounting made available for the public to assess. This will harm the reputation of the government when citizens lose the trust previously entrusted to the government.
Instances of corruption in the government will be a common phenomenon as individuals in the government ministries and agencies will take public funds for their personal use. The individuals handling public resources will be able to embezzle funds concealing their illegal paths. Theft to public funds may be done through deliberate manipulation of financial reports to suit their unethical conduct. This leads to the underperformance of the various sectors in the government, and this will translate to poor development of the nation. Moreover, the reputation of the government will be ruined. Consequently, foreign investment in the country will be withdrawn as international donors will have no faith in investing resources in unethical government to manage the public resources.
Guhwan Won (2008). Applications of Stewardship Theory to Local Public Service Accountability. Korean Public Management Review, 22(4), pp.507-529.
Perry, J. (2017). Legacy and Stewardship. Public Administration Review, 77(6), pp.811-812.
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