BUDGET AND FINANCE TRANSPARENCY IN THE 2014 RANKING OF FEDERAL SUBJECTS OF RUSSIA’S REGIONAL GOVERNMENT WEBSITES
MAKSIM BUREYEV, ANTON SHUMOV, YEGOR YAKOVLEV, ET AL.,
FINANCIAL UNIVERSITY UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Abstract. The present paper deals with analysing official local government websites of Federal subjects of Russia to find the one featuring the best framework for the disclosure of budget data, the visualising of information and overall design. The three leading contenders that received top marks are websites of the Leningrad, Altai, and Krasnoyarsk regions.
Keywords: ranking, Russia, region, transparency, budget.
BUREYEV, MAKSIM; SHUMOV, ANTON; YAKOVLEV, YEGOR; ET AL. (2015) "BUDGET AND FINANCE TRANSPARENCY IN THE 2014 RANKING OF RUSSIA’S REGIONAL GOVERNMENT WEBSITES". Journal of Russian Review (ISSN 2313-1578), VOL. 1(2), 44-50.
Citizens of the Russian Federation are becoming increasingly interested in the way public funds are being used in their regions. In order to facilitate access to their information, each Federal subject government publishes the relevant documents on the regional Finance ministry’s website or in a dedicated section of the region’s official website.
The presentation, however, sometimes leaves much to be desired. For example, while the Moscow government website (http://www.mos.ru/), as of November 2014, is offering plenty of graphic diagrams, with all the necessary figures available right on its front page, that of the Magadan region (http://www.magadan.ru/ru/government/Main.html) is the antithesis of transparency in that regard.
Consequently, the present paper sets out to investigate how well public expenditure figures are disclosed in Russia, defining the aim of the study as establishing which regions offer the best framework for disclosing data on their official websites.
The methodology was modelled on the one used in the paper ‘Budget and finance transparency in ranking regional government websites of Federal subjects of Russia’ .
The preparations for ranking the participant websites included:
1. Members of the action group assigning each student a number of Federal subjects;
2. Evening out the load by distributing subject websites in equal portions and, should unassigned websites remain, distributing the rest between the action group and top of the list of students.
3.The students examining each regional website assigned to them, establishing the exact location where budget and finance data is hosted (in theory, the regional Finance ministry website).
4. Assessing the previously established website using the four criteria:
- Frequency of news updates, a maximum of 10 points;
- Website design and usability, a maximum of 25 points;
- Availability and comprehensiveness of budget and finance documents, a maximum of 30 points;
- Intelligibility of budget and finance data presentation, a maximum of 35 points.
5. Frequency of news updates, given that the website must offer timely information on budget implementation, debt management, oversight of publicly funded institutions, and public procurement, is an important component, marked as follows:
- Daily updates – a maximum of 10 points;
- Weekly updates – a maximum of 7 points;
- Monthly updates – a maximum of 5 points;
- Occasional updates – a maximum of 3 points;
- No news section – 0 points.
6. Website design and usability is marked as follows:
- Ease of finding the information wanted by a user – a maximum of 15 points;
- Website design – a maximum of 10 points.
7. Availability and comprehensiveness of budget and finance documents is marked as follows:
- A record of budget and budget implementation acts, a debt book, as well as timely information on current budget implementation, up-to-date data on government debt and procurement present – 30 points;
- Absence of any of the above results in 5 points per component withdrawn.
A maximum of 30 points in all.
8. Intelligibility of budget and finance data presentation is marked as follows:
- All or most of the materials written in plain Russian – a maximum of 35 points;
- All or most of the materials written in a convoluted way, difficult for most Russian citizens to understand – a maximum of 5 points;
- No materials written to be understood by a lay person – 0 points.
A maximum of 35 points in all.
9. The total sum of points a region can get is therefore a 100.
10. The winners are selected from the regions whose websites received most points.
3. The study
Analysing the websites of the 81 regional financial authorities according to the criteria set out above, the average result arrived at was 79.57 point. This indicates that it is easy enough to find information on a given region’s cash flow on its website, thanks to accessible and easy to understand user interface (19.3 points out of 25 on average). It is also clear that the information presented is sufficiently comprehensive (22.8 out of 35), but not very accessible for a lay person (28.2 out of 35). All the budget and finance data published on regional government websites is updated on a regular basis (9.2 out of 10). Yet, one of them (the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia) does not have a dedicated hosting server, relying on the ucoz.ru free hosting provider.
The original population was then divided into four brackets depending on the number of points.
|100-86 points||85-71 points||70-51 points||<51 points|
|32 regions||29 regions||15 regions||5 regions|
Falling into the 100-86 bracket are 32 Federal subjects of Russia. Their average score is 93.31 (out of 100) point. Out of these, three regions gained most points: the Leningrad, the Altai, and the Krasnoyarsk region. This shows that financial authorities in these regions of Russia are doing an excellent job, providing accessible and clear budget and finance data for the region that anyone can access.
The 86-71 bracket includes 29 regions. Their average score is 79 (out of 100) points. There are things that financial authorities in these regions can improve in terms of content and presentation of their data. To make it more accessible and easily understood by a lay person they need to work on the navigation design and usability of their websites, append them with the missing documents (things like the debt book or budget implementation documents are in many cases missing or impossible to locate).
Next, a much less densely populated bracket of 15 regions which scored 70 to 51 points. Their average score is 63.63 points. These are never dedicated local Finance ministries websites, but rather subsections of the respective regional government websites, which makes it harder to search for the information. Poorly designed, it is difficult for a lay person browsing them to locate budget figures for the region (which are typically dry datasheets full of incomprehensible acronyms). There are almost no clear and graphic charts; on the whole, visitors of these websites have to make an effort to use them.
The last bracket with the least number of points includes only 5 Federal subjects. These are regional Finance ministries websites offering the least amount of budgetary information, presented in the least accessible manner. These are the Buryat Republic, the Penza region, Karachay-Cherkessia, the Jewish autonomous region, and the Magadan region. Their average score is 41.4 points.
4. Comparison with previous years’ ranking results
Comparing the 2014 figures with those obtained in the previous ranking exercise , done in 2011 (factoring in some changes in methodology), it is clear that good content does not necessary mean good navigation. For example, the Republic of Yakutia’s website (which came top in 2011), although enjoying a high enough result in the present study, scored somewhat lower. The figures show that all the necessary information is there, but the presentation and accessibility are lacking. It should be noted that all the websites which came top in 2011 performed well enough in 2014, scoring around 80 points on average. Still, the case of the St. Petersburg regional Finance ministry website, which came 3rd in 2011, but only 5th in 2014, merits particular attention. Given that the present study aims to establish which website has the best framework for disclosing budget data for the region and the best design, whereas the criteria used in 2011 emphasised availability and comprehensiveness of information, one can say that the latter remained St. Petersburg’s forte. Its website still offers the most comprehensive insight into a region’s budget, presented with unparalleled design and accessibility.
- Leading in terms of budget and finance data transparency are the local authorities of the Leningrad, Altai, Krasnoyarsk, and Tver regions, as well as in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
- Up to 40% of regional government or financial authorities of Federal subjects’ websites offering budget and finance figures are highly fit for purpose or in need of only minor improvements.
- 36% of regional government websites are in need of slight revisions, improvements in user interface, or a more complete set of documents.
- 18% of the websites are inadequately designed, some missing a working site search engine, some offering documents not accessible to lay persons, some missing half the necessary documents.
- 6% of regional financial authorities’ websites are in poor condition, with updates extremely rare, most of the documents missing or links to them broken, and those presented hard to understand by a lay person.
- Taking both the 2014 and the 2011 rankings into account, the one region whose website scores highest among all the others is St. Petersburg.
1. Nikita Kurtukov et al., 2011, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1865786
Appendix 1. Russian Regions, ranked by the number of points
|Federal subject||URL of the website ranked||Frequency of news updates,
|Website design and usability,
|Availability and comprehensive-ness of budget and finance documents,
|Intelligibility of budget and finance data presentation, 35 points||SUM|
|Republic of Chuvashia||http://gov.cap.ru||10||25||30||30||95|
|Nizhny Novgorod region||http://www.government-nnov.ru||10||25||25||35||95|
|Republic of Khakassia||http://www.r-19.ru||10||23||30||30||93|
|Republic of Tatarstan||http://minfin.tatarstan.ru/rus/index.htm||9||25||25||32||91|
|Republic of Marij El||http://portal.mari.ru/minfin/default.aspx||9||20||25||33||87|
|Republic of Bashkortostan||https://minfin.bashkortostan.ru||9||25||25||25||84|
|Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)||http://www.sakha.gov.ru||10||17||25||30||82|
|Republic of Altai||http://www.minfin-altai.ru||10||15||25||30||80|
|Republic of Tuva||http://minfin.tuva.ru||6||22||20||31||79|
|Republic of Dagestan||http://www.minfinrd.ru||10||18||25||25||78|
|Nenets autonomous region||http://adm-nao.ru||18||10||15||35||78|
|Republic of Ingushetia||http://mfri.ru||10||20||20||27||77|
|Republic of Karelia||http://www.gov.karelia.ru||10||20||25||20||75|
|Republic of Adygeya||http://www.minfin01-maykop.ru/Menu/Page/1||8||15||20||30||73|
|Republic of North Ossetia-Alania||http://mfrno-a.ru||6||9||25||30||70|
|Republic of Kalmykia||http://www.kalmregion.ru||10||19||20||20||69|
|Republic of Mordovia||http://www.e-mordovia.ru||10||19||20||20||69|
|Chukotka Autonomous District||http://www.chukotka.org||23||9||5||30||67|
|Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region||http://правительство.янао.рф||20||10||5||25||60|
|Khanty-Mansijsk autonomous region||http://www.depfin.admhmao.ru||10||12||13||17||52|
|Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia||http://minfin09.ucoz.ru||5||7||20||10||42|
|Jewish autonomous region||http://www.eao.ru||8||15||10||8||41|
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