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|Manual on Fiscal Transparency
II. Public Availability of Information (continued)
2.2 A commitment should be made to the timely publication of fiscal information.
2.2.1 The publication of fiscal information should be a legal obligation of government.
90. The use of discretion in deciding whether, when, in what detail, and to whom to release fiscal information can damage a government's credibility. It will often be tempting for governments to be more forthcoming with favorable than with unfavorable information. A long period of inconsistent observance of a policy of full and timely disclosure can result in a high level of uncertainty about the true fiscal position.
91. To build credibility, it should be a legal obligation of governments to publish fiscal information. This is a basic requirement of fiscal transparency. Best practice is that the public availability of wide range of fiscal information (including official policy papers), with clearly specified and justified exceptions, should be required by law. Examples of national legislation representing best practice in setting clear standards for fiscal reporting are discussed in Box 13.
92. Some countries also have freedom of information legislation that requires government agencies to make available to the public on request any information they hold, subject to certain clearly specified exceptions (which generally include national security, foreign relations, national economic interest, obligations of confidentiality to a third party, law enforcement, and personal privacy). Such legislation can create a presumption in favor of public release and place the onus on government to demonstrate an overriding public interest in nondisclosure.80
2.2.2 Advance release date calendars for fiscal information should be announced.
93. In line with the GDDS, advance release date calendars should be announced for the year ahead showing no later than release dates for annual reports and a range of dates for more frequent reports.81 For example, notice could be given that a particular fiscal report will be released between, say, the fifteenth and eighteenth of a specified month. Countries should also make widely known the name and address of an office or person responsible for providing the latest information about the likely release date. Governments should make a commitment that fiscal reports and data will be released simultaneously to all interested parties.
94. Best practice is represented by the more demanding requirements of the SDDS.82 For example, where the release calendar specifies a no-later-than date or a range of dates, the country would announce, by the close of business the prior week, the precise date of release during the following week.
80 The country with the longest tradition of such a commitment to open government is Sweden, where the principle has been enshrined in the constitution since 1776. Members of the public in Sweden (and in a number of other countries) have the right to appeal to the ombudsman-an office independent of the executive that receives and investigates complaints of maladministration-any government agency's decision to withhold information. Thailand has recently enacted freedom of information legislation. In other countries, such as the United States, there is a right of appeal to a court.
81 Release calendars could include a statement that the dates are"expected" or "target," but any subsequent delays due to unforeseen events should be announced as soon as they are evident.
82 For discussion of advance release date calendars, see IMF (1996) and IMF (1998b). See also http://dsbb.imf.org/.