Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency (2007)
The Code identifies a set of principles and practices to help governments provide a clear picture of the structure and finances of government. It underpins the voluntary program of fiscal transparency assessments called fiscal transparency modules of Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (or fiscal transparency ROSCs).
I. Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities
1.1. The government sector should be distinguished from the rest of the public sector and from the rest of the economy, and policy and management roles within the public sector should be clear and publicly disclosed.
1.1.1 The structure and functions of government should be clear.
1.1.2 The fiscal powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government should be well defined.
1.1.3 The responsibilities of different levels of government, and the relationships between them, should be clearly specified.
1.1.4 Relationships between the government and public corporations should be based on clear arrangements.
1.1.5 Government relationships with the private sector should be conducted in an open manner, following clear rules and procedures.
1.2. There should be a clear and open legal, regulatory, and administrative framework for fiscal management.
1.2.1 The collection, commitment, and use of public funds should be governed by comprehensive budget, tax, and other public finance laws, regulations, and administrative procedures.
1.2.2 Laws and regulations related to the collection of tax and non-tax revenues, and the criteria guiding administrative discretion in their application, should be accessible, clear, and understandable. Appeals of tax or non-tax obligations should be considered in a timely manner.
1.2.3 There should be sufficient time for consultation about proposed laws and regulatory changes and, where feasible, broader policy changes.
1.2.4 Contractual arrangements between the government and public or private entities, including resource companies and operators of government concessions, should be clear and publicly accessible.
1.2.5 Government liability and asset management, including the granting of rights to use or exploit public assets, should have an explicit legal basis.
II. Open Budget Processes
2.1. Budget preparation should follow an established timetable and be guided by well-defined macroeconomic and fiscal policy objectives.
2.1.1 A budget calendar should be specified and adhered to. Adequate time should be allowed for the draft budget to be considered by the legislature.
2.1.2 The annual budget should be realistic, and should be prepared and presented within a comprehensive medium-term macroeconomic and fiscal policy framework. Fiscal targets and any fiscal rules should be clearly stated and explained.
2.1.3 A description of major expenditure and revenue measures, and their contribution to policy objectives, should be provided. Estimates should also be provided of their current and future budgetary impact and their broader economic implications.
2.1.4 The budget documentation should include an assessment of fiscal sustainability. The main assumptions about economic developments and policies should be realistic and clearly specified, and sensitivity analysis should be presented.
2.1.5 There should be clear mechanisms for the coordination and management of budgetary and extrabudgetary activities within the overall fiscal policy framework.
2.2 There should be clear procedures for budget execution, monitoring, and reporting.
2.2.1 The accounting system should provide a reliable basis for tracking revenues, commitments, payments, arrears, liabilities, and assets.
2.2.2 A timely midyear report on budget developments should be presented to the legislature. More frequent updates, which should be at least quarterly, should be published.
2.2.3 Supplementary revenue and expenditure proposals during the fiscal year should be presented to the legislature in a manner consistent with the original budget presentation.
2.2.4 Audited final accounts and audit reports, including reconciliation with the approved budget, should be presented to the legislature and published within a year.
III. Public Availability of Information
3.1 The public should be provided with comprehensive information on past, current, and projected fiscal activity and on major fiscal risks.
3.1.1 The budget documentation, including the final accounts, and other published fiscal reports should cover all budgetary and extrabudgetary activities of the central government.
3.1.2 Information comparable to that in the annual budget should be provided for the outturns of at least the two preceding fiscal years, together with forecasts and sensitivity analysis for the main budget aggregates for at least two years following the budget.
3.1.3 Statements describing the nature and fiscal significance of central government tax expenditures, contingent liabilities, and quasi-fiscal activities should be part of the budget documentation, together with an assessment of all other major fiscal risks.
3.1.4 Receipts from all major revenue sources, including resource-related activities and foreign assistance, should be separately identified in the annual budget presentation.
3.1.5 The central government should publish information on the level and composition of its debt and financial assets, significant nondebt liabilities (including pension rights, guarantee exposure, and other contractual obligations), and natural resource assets.
3.1.6 The budget documentation should report the fiscal position of subnational governments and the finances of public corporations.
3.1.7 The government should publish a periodic report on long-term public finances.
3.2 Fiscal information should be presented in a way that facilitates policy analysis and promotes accountability.
3.2.1 A clear and simple summary guide to the budget should be widely distributed at the time of the annual budget.
3.2.2 Fiscal data should be reported on a gross basis, distinguishing revenue, expenditure, and financing, with expenditure classified by economic, functional, and administrative category.
3.2.3 The overall balance and gross debt of the general government, or their accrual equivalents, should be standard summary indicators of the government fiscal position. They should be supplemented, where appropriate, by other fiscal indicators, such as the primary balance, the public sector balance, and net debt.
3.2.4 Results achieved relative to the objectives of major budget programs should be presented to the legislature annually.
3.3 A commitment should be made to the timely publication of fiscal information.
3.3.1 The timely publication of fiscal information should be a legal obligation of government.
3.3.2 Advance release calendars for fiscal information should be announced and adhered to.
IV. Assurances of Integrity
4.1 Fiscal data should meet accepted data quality standards.
4.1.1 Budget forecasts and updates should reflect recent revenue and expenditure trends, underlying macroeconomic developments, and well-defined policy commitments.
4.1.2 The annual budget and final accounts should indicate the accounting basis used in the compilation and presentation of fiscal data. Generally accepted accounting standards should be followed.
4.1.3 Data in fiscal reports should be internally consistent and reconciled with relevant data from other sources. Major revisions to historical fiscal data and any changes to data classification should be explained.
4.2 Fiscal activities should be subject to effective internal oversight and safeguards.
4.2.1 Ethical standards of behavior for public servants should be clear and well publicized.
4.2.2 Public sector employment procedures and conditions should be documented and accessible to interested parties.
4.2.3 Procurement regulations, meeting international standards, should be accessible and observed in practice.
4.2.4 Purchases and sales of public assets should be undertaken in an open manner, and major transactions should be separately identified.
4.2.5 Government activities and finances should be internally audited, and audit procedures should be open to review.
4.2.6 The national revenue administration should be legally protected from political direction, ensure taxpayers' rights, and report regularly to the public on its activities.
4.3 Fiscal information should be externally scrutinized.
4.3.1 Public finances and policies should be subject to scrutiny by a national audit body or an equivalent organization that is independent of the executive.
4.3.2 The national audit body or equivalent organization should submit all reports, including its annual report, to the legislature and publish them. Mechanisms should be in place to monitor follow-up actions.
4.3.3 Independent experts should be invited to assess fiscal forecasts, the macroeconomic forecasts on which they are based, and their underlying assumptions.
4.3.4 A national statistical body should be provided with the institutional independence to verify the quality of fiscal data.