A Quick Guide to Public Financial Management in Myanmar
A quick guide to understanding how Public Financial Management (PFM) can deepen social accountability
Key terms in social accountability and PFM
An approach that involves citizens and civil society directly or indirectly exacting accountability from governments and institutions. Social accountability can be understood as having two sides. One is the process of public and civil society organisations holding the government to account for the use of public funds. The other is the process of government and other duty bearers becoming
more transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of the public. Good PFM is the foundation for this, but is not enough alone.
A form of public engagement between duty bearers and civil society through applying social accountability tools (e.g. public hearings, budget monitoring, participation in development planning processes) with mutual accountability and mutually agreeable objectives. Supply side government PFM reforms: These are the technical improvements that seek to ensure sound fiscal management, and establish the right systems, processes, controls and regulations for efficient and transparent management of public expenditures. Strengthening the supply side should build the capacity of government representatives to respond to public demands.
Demand side PFM reforms:
These refer to building the public demand for improved accountability in management of public finances and are usually achieved through developing the capacities of civil society, the media and
parliament to provide more effective oversight of public funds and make PFM more responsive to the needs of people. This must include the opening up of space for civil society – particularly marginalised groups such as women, the elderly, young and ethnic communities – to engage in budget issues and advocate for improved transparency and accessibility of fiscal information. Government has a crucial role to play in allowing this to happen, and parliament has an important role to act as a check on the decisions of the executive (Government). In the context of Myanmar,
demands could also potentially be exacted on other non-state actor duty bearers i.e. ethnic armed administrations.
Ideally, through a strong demand side, civil society organisations act as watchdogs, fostering a culture of constructive engagement and putting pressure on the executive to continually improve
the supply side. This should enable a virtuous cycle that sustains momentum for improvements and creates a culture of social accountability, making PFM reforms more resilient to political changes.
Active citizenship refers to the public exercising both their rights and responsibilities. In the context of PFM, it refers to the process whereby the public, sometimes through civil society
organisations, hold Government or administrations to account – by creating mechanisms that allow their voices to be heard, by monitoring budgets and planning processes, and by calling for
their rights to be met by Government, or other duty bearers such as Ethnic Administrations in the context of Myanmar – through budget allocations and spending.