Dealing with the emergence of the Covid- 19 pandemic requires an exceptional effort from society and government, which certainly includes public finances. We have already witnessed endeavors of historic dimensions that governments have put together to address the public health and economic crises caused by the disease, including reallocation of budget resources to the health sector and launching ambitious stimulus plans as countercyclical measures. Such drastic financial measures pose significant transparency challenges. Gathering and publishing -quality and timely- information is essential to mitigate the risks that can complicate internal and external monitoring and can be a culprit for mismanagement, corruption, and unforeseen fiscal risks. Transparency measures should contemplate the users’ needs of information, both internal, who will seek to use the data for decision-making, and external, who require the data to provide feedback, monitor implementation and foster accountability.
With the objective of continuing and deepening reflection and facilitate further guidance for implementation, the GIFT Network hosted a series of online events where stewards and partners were able to share their perspectives and lessons learned about fiscal openness (transparency and engagement) in times of emergency and participated in the co-creation of the Fiscal Data for Emergency Response: Guide for COVID-19 that is presented below.
Fiscal Data for Emergency Response: Guide for COVID-19
Open call for your participation
Fiscal data requirements in emergency response packages: Unpacking guides for Covid-19
OPEN CALL FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION
May 20, 2020
In an effort to help responding to the urgent need for transparency and accountability in COVID-19 extraordinary fiscal packages, GIFT stewards and partners have been working collectively in the development of the Guide that we present today for public consultation. The objective is to identify the fiscal datasets and data fields that are required to ensure transparency in the COVID-19 fiscal responses and economic recovery. Drawing on joint experiences, the Guide seeks to assist in informing the strategic prioritization of data and the accompanying development of processes to gather, organize and publish data.
Achieving impactful fiscal transparency in the COVID-19 context requires the proactive publication of the information underlying the strategic emergency adjustments in ways that enable its internal and external reuse. It is crucial to allow the public to understand what is being done in a sufficiently detailed manner, together with the mechanisms adopted, the aims of the strategies adopted, and how the success of the strategies can be measured and thereby assessed and adapted. Therefore, the goal of the Guide is to ensure that emergency responses, economic recovery packages and financial rescue plans include, from the outset, transparency requirements and that the datasets of such measures set in place are open by design. With this in mind, GIFT seeks to help governments clearly identify the datasets and data fields that should be integrated and disclosed to ensure that transparency is embedded in their policy responses. For civil society and advocacy groups, the objective is to simplify the process of prioritizing the data required to enable tracking, analysis and informed participation. Although each case will adapt the Guide to its context and needs, a broader aim is to generate a standardized list of the minimum data requirements required to ensure fiscal transparency and facilitate engagements between governments and the public.
The Guide we present today is Version 1.0 and is meant to be an iterative product that will be improved and strengthened by your comments, and through its use and implementation. This version has been practically developed through virtual discussions between representatives of ministries of finance, civil society organizations and specialized agencies. It is now ready to be used in your country, and it is also open to public consultation and accessible for comments and suggestions until June 30th 2020. As such, inputs are timely, useful and welcome and can be addressed to email@example.com
The COVID-19 emergency, with its potentially catastrophic impact on the health of populations and economies, requires commitment, cooperation and collaboration from all. There are incredible opportunities we must definitely seize, such as digital tools that can be used to bring the governed closer to their authorities. Any scenario that includes a promising outcome after the emergency, requires transparency in the use of public resources, and informed participation. With your engagement, GIFT’s mission is to continue working towards these goals.
Juan Pablo Guerrero
About this guide
Worldwide, governments have launched substantial fiscal policy responses to provide resources to reduce the potentially catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the health of their populations and economies. The speed of these adjustments has challenged approaches traditionally used to ensure fiscal transparency, public accountability, and democratic legitimacy. The importance of these elements however remains paramount, even more so now than in times of stability. This requires a reflection on the current preparedness of public finance reporting instruments to understand these adjustments and their impact to both government entities to inform decision-making and response coordination, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and adaptation; and to the public to facilitate policy discussion and acceptance, assist implementation and enforce accountability.
Generating, gathering and publishing quality and timely fiscal information pertaining to the emergency and countercyclical measures implemented by governments, together with their anticipated objectives is key to facilitating the internal and external monitoring required to dynamically adapt strategies to constantly evolving circumstances in the quest to best attain goals, and to minimize the potential for mismanagement and corruption. Achieving impactful fiscal transparency in this context thus requires the proactive publication of the data underlying the strategic emergency responses, such that what is being done can be assessed in a sufficiently detailed manner, together with the mechanisms adopted, the aims of the strategies adopted, and how the success of the strategies can be measured and thereby assessed and adapted, as required. With this in mind, GIFT presents this Guide to help governments clearly identify the datasets and data fields that should be integrated and disclosed to ensure that transparency is embedded in their policy responses.
Fiscal transparency, even when fiscal policies are responding to a health pandemic, requires a broad range of information, not just health sector data. It requires information on government taxes; public debt; and on how all public resources are allocated, spent, invested, and managed. This data Guide thus contains a practical compilation of datasets required for fiscal transparency, within the broader context of the emergency policy response and economic recovery. It was developed as the product of a collective effort between the stewards and partners of the GIFT network, drawing on the joint experiences of representatives of ministries of finance, civil society organizations and specialized agencies (see acknowledgements at the end of this section), and can be used as a reference for these different stakeholders.
The Guide is set out as follows:
- Section 1 provides a brief introduction to a user-centered and purpose-oriented approach to fiscal transparency in emergency responses, specifically in the COVID-19 context.
- Section 2 presents the required datasets, classified into four dimensions, namely Emergency and countercyclical spending, Tax relief measures and deferrals, Revenue adjustments and additional funding sources and Macroeconomic framework impact. Each of the dimensions is presented with a set of guiding questions posed from the point of view of the different hypothetical user types, to assist identifying the datasets with purpose. For each of the datasets a compendium of key data fields is identified. It should be borne in mind that country-specific circumstances may require the publication of customized information for fiscal transparency.
- Section 3 presents a process for assessing data availability in a country and provides a mapping template to facilitate the identification process.
The objective of the Guide is to provide a practical tool for practitioners, both those within governments and those outside of government, to help them identify the datasets and data fields, using a user-centered and purpose-oriented approach, that are required for informed decision-making processes and for meaningful fiscal transparency, within the context of COVID-19. By facilitating identification, we expect to facilitate the process of gathering, organizing and publishing such data in ways that enable its internal and external reuse.
In cases where current information systems and gathering processes are unable to generate the requisite data, this Guide can assist in informing the strategic prioritization of data and the accompanying development of processes and systems required to release data in the short, medium and longer-term.
This Guide will also feed the “Open COVID-19 Data: Building a taxonomy and guidance to open up essential data during a public health crisis” under development as an Open-Up Guide by the Open Data Charter. The Open-up guides are practical resources to identify priority datasets, open standards and open data use-cases that stakeholders can focus on in different thematic approaches. By linking this Guide to the Open-up guide for COVID-19, the gathering and publication of contextualized data is encouraged to enable further more complex and rich analyses.
3 About the need for data
Policy announcements in the form of press releases, decrees and the like have been commonly used to convey the measures adopted by different governments in responding to the health emergency and economic crisis. The level of detail contained in these announcements has ranged from being limited to more specific, largely depending on the nature of the measures adopted, the legal systems and frameworks in place, as well as the stage of the pandemic they have been presented in. Generally, while they provide an overview of the measures adopted and in some cases their form of implementation, they do not define neither details of the mechanisms and processes to be utilized, nor the anticipated implications of the measures in the general economic context.
Financial reports, considering the eight key budget documents used to assess the Open Budget Index will, when subsequently published, present the aggregated information, or the broad picture of the financial position and the general repercussion for public finances. These reports are however presented at particular points in time, with the most frequent being monthly and quarterly reports and are based on the presentation of economic indicators and aggregates that may only provide partial answers.
There are myriad other questions about detailed financial impacts of COVID-19 related government interventions that only high-quality data—and accounting—can provide the full answers to. Granular data provides governments with the ability to trace the real implementation effectiveness, to implement evidence-based improvements and to quickly detect mismanagements, thereby supporting the functions of management and control. Furthermore when data is made available in machine readable formats, complex models can be developed, with more data sources, facilitating the presentation and analyses of different scenarios.
While data visualizations and queries can facilitate the use of data by external users, it is important to note that the publication of data does not necessarily imply a corresponding need to develop and publish platforms and visualizations. The data has a value in itself, as long as its availability, structure and quality allow interested parties to use it. Sophisticated methods for analyzing fiscal data are no longer only in the purview of governments, they are also widely used in civil society and in the private sector. With the availability of software and the development of capacities for innovative uses of data, the use of data for monitoring implementation in specific sectors or regions, as well as for complex analyses of the fiscal position with proposals for action can be widely seen outside of governments. This external use, through closer monitoring and evaluation, fosters better policy implementation and accountability.
Making use of data, whether internally within government or externally, can help build the base at the national and international level for emergency responses in the future, as well as trust between governments and an informed citizenry.
4 Target audience for this Guide
- Ministries of finance (or similar)- to support their process of identifying what data to generate, to collect to trace design and implementation for control and decision-making, and to publish to enable transparency and oversight.
- Civil society/advocacy groups– to simplify the process of prioritizing data needs that will enable tracking, analyses, and informed participation.
- Oversight institutions– to contribute to the task of identifying the data sources required to develop diverse analysis, oversight and auditing.
Methodology of development
GIFT is a network integrated by stewards and partners from ministries of finance—or similar—, civil society organizations (CSOs), expert agencies and international financial institutions. As part of the dialogue, peer learning and knowledge exchange within the network, this Guide has been developed as the product of global consultations and collective work with experts in the fiscal, open data and open government arenas. This Guide has been developed considering a user-centered and purpose-oriented approach.
The process of developing the Guide began with the publication on March 19th of a framing blog post Fiscal Transparency in Times of Emergency Response: Reflections for Covid-19 which included some initial questions to guide the identification of relevant data. GIFT then hosted the webinar titled budget management adjustments for Covid-19, in which experts reflected on measures to make the most of the available resources, including necessary management adjustments and how open government methods can support better-decision-making during the emergency and post-emergency response. Within this context, the panelists analyzed the possibilities of existent budget and revenue classifications, internal financial management information systems, procurement systems, financial reporting and open data availability, and proposed options to track resource management and engage the community through online and offline channels.
With that background, GIFT hosted two co-creation workshops—one in Spanish and one in English—in which more than 30 experts from governments, CSOs and international organizations participated to define the required datasets and identify the initial data fields for some of those datasets (the image below shows the first workshop dashboard and break out groups). Based on the inputs from the participants in the first co-creation workshop, the datasets were categorized into three dimensions, and further dimension was then added in the second workshop. These four dimensions for the datasets are presented in this Guide. The dashboards of datasets and data fields have been uploaded to this page and can be viewed in the Required data: datasets & data fields tab.
Based on the inputs provided during the two co-creation workshops, the GIFT coordination team then developed the draft Guide, taking into account current ongoing fiscal transparency efforts, the structure of financial management information systems, existing related data standards, and technical and practical publications from international financial institutions in the context of COVID-19. This led, in some cases, to the consolidation of initially separate datasets, as well as the incorporation of additional ones, owing to similarities and differences in the structure, fields and sources of data, an attempt to bring relevant data together where appropriate as well as to eliminate overlaps and duplication. Additionally, the disaggregation of the data fields was further developed and reviewed in a way that encourages linking datasets to enable contextual and complex data analysis.
Subsequent to this, the draft version of the Guide was made available for comments to the participants of the co-creation workshops and interested partners—a total of 50 people—providing for a user-centered development process. In this context, the development of this Guide itself is also being done using an iterative process, with updated versions to be presented, as required, to keep it current. This version is thus presented as Version 1.0.
User-centered and purpose-oriented approach to fiscal transparency
Digital projects within governments can be considered as investments towards internal management, service delivery and/or communication with the population. Governments that are focused more on processes than results, however, tend to minimize the importance of considering what users want or need. A user-centered approach to fiscal transparency is an iterative method meant to improve the quality of publication by focusing on addressing the information needs of the final users, by involving them in the different stages of the process to better understand their needs, interests and capacities.
Stages of the user-centered iterative process
A simplified view of potential groups of audiences was presented in the previously mentioned framing blog post as follows:
- those part of the response to the outbreak (e.g. different government agencies, aid organizations, international financial institutions),
- those facing an emergency themselves (e.g. infected individuals and their families, businesses affected by bans, quarantines or similar restrictions),
- those external actors with vested interests (e.g. investors, credit agencies) or
- those oversight of government decisions (e.g. legislatures, audit institutions, civil society organizations, journalists).
Within this user-centered approach, to drive the iterations, it is important to adopt a purpose-oriented view that enables planning through understanding the potential of the data and its context, as well as to establish measurements of results. Challenges in consolidating data and updating sustainability should be considered, as a purpose-oriented publication with defined audiences will allow for the enhanced prioritization of which data to gather and publish in different iterations.
This Guide does not discuss the reasons behind a user-centered and purpose-oriented approach, or how to develop such implementation. This section should only serve as a reminder of the importance of having a general segmentation of potential users—and that users are both internal and external—as well as of understanding the context and potential of the data. The Tutorial on Fiscal Transparency Portals: A User-Centered Development should be consulted in this regard. Further in this Guide, to assist in this regard, each of the dimension sub-sections is accompanied by a set of questions posed by potential users considering probable analysis. Each dataset is also accompanied by a purpose statement reflecting on its potential and assisting in identifying the data fields necessary to answer the questions posed.
datasets & data fields
& its quality
Assessing data availability and its quality
As is apparent from the design of this Guide as well as international data schemas—such as the Open Spending Data Schema, the Open Contracting Data Standard or the International Aid Transparency Data Standard—to identify the publication possibilities, it is important to understand the availability of each data field rather than a dataset as a whole. That is, it is important to map: 1) the specific data fields required, 2) the availability and form of gathering—systems, manual, not gathered—and 3) the specific characteristics of the data field considering the collection method—system or dataset administrator, frequency of update and other metadata.
A simple solution is to use mapping templates, which can be filled together by CSOs and governments, thereby providing transparency regarding the actual possibilities to adjust expectations and plan for future actions. More information, including templates in this regard can be obtained in module 5 of the Tutorial on Fiscal Transparency Portals: A User-Centered Development.
We have developed a mapping template to facilitate the process of identification:
To assess the quality of the data, in a Harvard Business Review article, data experts Tadhg Nagle, Thomas C. Redman and David Sammon recommend the following key steps:
- Gather a list of the last 100 data records you used or created.
- Then, focus on 10-15 key data fields that are most integral to your operations.
- Have management and their teams go through each data record and identify any noticeable errors.
- Examine the results.
Once you look through the results, the quality level of your data should become obvious. If more than two-thirds of your records have errors, that is usually a sign that data quality is weak and needs improvement.
As previously mentioned, this Guide is the product of a co-creation effort between GIFT Stewards and partners, each contributing by bringing their expertise in public finances, transparency, open data and open government fields, to the conversations. We are particularly thankful to the organizations and their representatives who participated in the co-creation workshops and/or commented on the draft of this Guide, as well as the presenters in the framing webinar:
- Argentina- Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ)- Julieta Izcurdia
- Argentina- Ministry of Economy- Gustavo Merino
- Brazil- Inesc- Carmela Zigoni
- Cameroon & Central Africa- AfroLeadership, Charlie Martial NGOUNOU
- Chile- Observatorio del Gasto Fiscal- Carlos Carrasco and Manuel Henríquez
- Costa Rica- Ministry of Finance- Erick Rojas Villalobos and Carlos Aguirres
- Costa Rica- Laboratorio Colaborativo de Innovación Pública, Innovaap UCR- Jorge Umaña
- Costa Rica- Observatorio Ciudadano de Transparencia Fiscal- Amanda Ugalde and Jimmy Bolaños
- Croatia- Institute of Public Finance- Mihaela Bronic
- Georgia- Europe Foundation- Viktor Baramia
- India- National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights- Beena Pallical
- India- CivicDataLab- Gaurav Godhwani and Preethi G.
- India- Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability- Simonti Chakraborty
- Kenya- iFollow the Money, Kenya- Evelyn Mathai
- Mexico- Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria (CIEP)- Sunny Arely Villa Juárez
- Mexico- Ministry of Finance and Public Credit- Lorena Caballero and Nadia Lora
- Mexico- Mexico City- Agencia Digital- Neiva Calvillo
- Mexico- Ubicuo- Aura Martínez
- Mongolia- Consultants for the Ministry of Finance- Ganchimeg.Ts and Naranzul Tsaschikher
- Nigeria- Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning- Dr. Anne Nzegwu
- South Africa- Public Service Accountability Monitor and Imali Yethu- Zukiswa Kota
- South Africa- National Treasury- Prudence Cele
- South Africa- Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII)- Sacha Knox
- The Philippines- Department of Budget and Management- Claire Bautista
- Uruguay- Office of Budget and Planning- Paula Manera and Gabriela Delfino
Regional and international organizations:
- Accountability Lab- Blair Glencorse
- CABRI- Neil Cole
- GIZ (Benin)- Quentin Gouzien
- International Budget Partnership- Jason Lakin, María José Eva, Sally Torbert and Suad Hasan
- International Monetary Fund- Sailendra Pattanayak
- Open Contracting Partnership- Lindsey Marchessault, Nicolás Penagos, and James McKinney
- Open Data Charter- Natalia Carfi and Agustina De Luca
- Open Government Partnership (OGP)- Rosario Pavese and Ivy Ong
- PEFA Secretariat- Julia Dhimitri
This Guide has been prepared and led by Lorena Rivero del Paso, Manager for Technical Cooperation and Collaboration of the GIFT Coordination Team, and has also benefited from the inputs and support of Tarick Gracida and Raquel Ferreira.
Resources from the process
Webinar 1. Reflections and recommendations for fiscal openness in times of emergency: Budget management adjustments for Covid-19
Date: April 7, 2020
Experts reflected on measures to make the most of the available resources,including necessary management adjustments and how open government methods can support better-decision-making during the emergency and post-emergency response. Within this context, the panelists analyzed the possibilities of existent classifications, internal financial management information systems, procurement systems, public reports and open data availability in different regards, as well as proposed options to track resources management and engage the community through online and offline channels.
Online workshops. Co-creation of guidance for fiscal open data in emergency responses: Initial application for Covid-19
While the aforementioned blogpost on Fiscal Transparency in Times of Emergency Response: Reflections for times of Covid-19, presents some initial questions to guide the identification of relevant data, during this session, participants collaborated in identifying specific datasets that are important to make available to track: 1) emergency spending to prevent, detect, control, treat, and contain the virus, 2) stimulus packages for countercyclical actions to reactivate the economy and support affected people and sectors, and 3) financing needs to ensure the financial requirements of the government during the emergency and for the stimulus measures.
After the identification of datasets, participants together related detailed data fields necessary for select priority datasets.
The results of this co-creation workshop supported the development of guidance for fiscal transparency measures in emergency responses.
• Workshop in Spanish
Date: April 9, 2020
25 Covid-19 data sets mapped
Participants: ACIJ Argentina, CIEP Mexico, Citizen Observatory of Fiscal Transparency Costa Rica, Fiscal Observatory Foundation Chile, International Budget Partnership, Inesc Brasil, Innovaap Costa Rica, Ministry of Finance from Argentina, Ministry of Finance from Costa Rica, Ministry of Finance from Mexico, Open Contracting Partnership, Open Data Charter, Planning and Budget Office from the Presidency of Uruguay, Ubicuo Mexico.
• Workshop in English
Date: April 20, 2020
30 Covid-19 final data sets mapped from both workshops
Participants: Asia Dalit Rights Forum, CABRI, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, CivicDataLab, Connected Development, Department of Budget and Management of the Philippines, Europe Foundation, GIZ (Benin), Institute of Public Finance from Croatia, International Budget Partnership, Ministry of Finance of Georgia, Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning of Nigeria, Ministry of Finance of Mongolia, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, National Treasury of South Africa, Open Government Partnership, PEFA Secretariat, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Imali Yethu, Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII).
Copyright © 2015 Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency.
All rights reserved