Good morning, and thank you IPPR, for inviting me to speak at the launch of your book on fiscal transparency in Namibia – Keep Your Eyes on the Money.
Congratulations to the IPPR team for completing this important project highlighting the role the public can play in improving budget transparency and accountability.
Also, thanks to the Office of the Auditor General and other stakeholders for your engagement and efforts to increase fiscal transparency in Namibia.
I want to thank the media. You have a profoundly important role to play in transparency.
The United States is proud to have supported this project. We did not support this project out of some arrogant (and false) belief that we have resolved fiscal transparency issues in the United States.
We support it because lack of transparency presents a threat to democracy and rule of law around the world. President Biden and Secretary Blinken continue to emphasize that in both our domestic and foreign policy, we must do everything we can to partner with democracies to ensure accountable government and counter corruption.
Throughout my career in countries around the world – including my own – I have seen that lack of fiscal transparency is a breeding ground for corruption and incompetence – whether in the public or private sector.
Increasing fiscal transparency is a challenge for all governments – no matter the size, age, or wealth of the country – and is an exercise that all democracies must continuously undertake to stay healthy and accountable to their citizens.
A few benefits of fiscal transparency that I see:
- Citizens are better able to hold their leadership accountable because they have more insight into the budget.
- It helps build market confidence and supports economic sustainability.
- Countries committed to fiscal transparency enjoy better access to domestic and international credit markets.
- They also attract investors and are less likely to have destabilizing debts and corruption problems.
- Inclusion and transparency on fiscal matters creates public confidence in government.
- It also shines light on opaque processes eliminating opportunities for corruption and maladministration of public revenues.
- Fiscal transparency creates more inclusive governance by enabling citizens to better access information on and influence the way that government handles finances. It strengthens democracy!
Alternatively, the consequences of weak fiscal transparency are serious. It can enable corruption and misappropriation of public funds, erode public trust in the government, and eventually contribute to cultural tolerance of dishonesty under the excuse that ‘everyone is doing it’.
Every year, the United States produces a Fiscal Transparency Report covering the performance of different governments around the world on fiscal transparency. In 2021, the report covered 141 governments including Namibia.
Namibia consistently makes the list of countries that are meeting basic fiscal transparency standards by ensuring that national budget information is publicly available and that there is a transparent contracting and licensing process for extraction of natural resources.
We applaud Namibia’s efforts in meeting basic fiscal transparency standards but also caution that, just like in my country, there is room for improvement.
Established democracies like the United States and Namibia cannot rest on our laurels – we must constantly push ahead to ensure greater transparency and fewer footholds for corruption or poor use of public resources.
IPPR’s Keep Your Eyes on the Money addresses the importance of building strong public participation to increase fiscal transparency and accountability for government finances.
One of the best things about this report is that outlines some concrete recommendations that Namibia can take to increase fiscal transparency and improve public trust in the government’s handling of revenues.
These valuable recommendations include:
- proactively using public participation to improve fiscal transparency and accountability,
- revising and strengthening legislation governing the management and administration of public finances, and,
- making it a national priority to promote transparency and accountability as foundational ethical values in the work culture.
It is ultimately up to the citizens of Namibia, the media, the government, civil society, etc. to ensure the implementation of these recommendations.
I offer the U.S. government’s continued partnership to Namibia as we both work to strengthen and defend the democratic traditions and institutions that both of our countries fought hard to create.
Thank you again for the opportunity to join you today and thank you all for your continued hard work on this important issue.