Illustration of people examining transparent safe full of money (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

Terrance Bastian, auditor general of The Bahamas, works to ensure the government’s financial management practices meet standards and earn the public’s trust.

“In order for citizens to maintain trust in the government there must be transparency,” Bastian tells ShareAmerica, “Taxpayers want the assurance that funds are being used for their intended purposes.”

Terrance Bastian standing behind chair, talking (U.S. Embassy Nassau/Tosheena Robinson)
Auditor General Terrance Bastian (U.S. Embassy Nassau/Tosheena Robinson)

That’s why The Bahamas’ Office of the Auditor General has been working with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to meet both domestic and international standards of transparency, which help countries attract foreign investment, prevent corruption and strengthen democracy.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2023 Fiscal Transparency Report released June 27, The Bahamas is one of three governments that progressed enough in 2022 to meet the department’s minimum financial transparency requirements after not meeting those standards the previous year.

Published annually since 2012, the Fiscal Transparency Report tracks progress toward transparency by countries that could receive U.S. assistance.

Of 141 countries assessed in the 2023 report, 69 met minimum requirements for transparency, which means that those countries’ key budget documents are substantially complete, generally reliable and publicly available.

“By promoting transparent budgets through this annual review, the United States helps citizens to hold their governments accountable and ensures U.S. foreign aid is spent appropriately,” said the State Department’s Claire Duffett Thomas, who coordinates the report.

People sitting at long table with laptops and notebooks (U.S. Embassy Nassau/Tosheena Robinson)
Staff from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and The Bahamas’ Office of the Auditor General work in Nassau, The Bahamas, on May 9. (U.S. Embassy Nassau/Tosheena Robinson)

The U.S. collaboration with The Bahamas is supported by the U.S. Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF), which has provided $50 million for projects benefitting more than 70 countries since 2012. FTIF projects help governments improve public financial management, foster civil society understanding of how governments use public resources, and increase openness of natural resource extraction licenses and contracts.

FTIF funding supports The Bahamas’ work, in partnership with the U.S. GAO, to improve budgeting operations. Through the collaborative effort, The Bahamas’ Office of the Auditor General completed three national audits in two years and is working to ensure timely publication of future annual audits.

Spotlighting contracts

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is crafting more detailed mining contracts and publishing the agreements online. The effort comes after the world’s largest producer of cobalt has struggled with corruption in its mining sector, according to news reports.

Now the DRC government’s ministries of mines and hydrocarbons are working with companies and nongovernmental organizations to meet standards of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) by disclosing data from its extractive sectors to increase public- and private-sector accountability.

With FTIF support, the DRC is strengthening requirements for mining enterprises’ disclosures and for the financial reporting of state-owned enterprises. Additionally, FTIF is enhancing civil society engagement with local governments on management of the country’s mining royalties.

The 2023 Fiscal Transparency Report recognizes the DRC’s progress toward clear procedures for issuing and publishing its natural resource awards.

“We will continue to publish all new contracts in accordance with the provisions of the Mining Code and the requirements of the EITI Standard, including renegotiated contracts with a view to improving the business climate,” DRC President Félix Tshisekedi said in December 2022.

Strengthening democracy

Iraq has taken numerous steps to improve transparency in recent years, including adhering to regulations for natural resource extraction and increasing budget disclosures. Both the 2022 and 2023 Fiscal Transparency Reports recognized Iraq’s significant progress.

FTIF funding supports collaboration between Iraq’s government and the Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC), a U.S. partner organization that assists Iraq’s Ministry of Finance in improving budget processes to meet international standards.

In partnership with FSVC, Iraq institutionalized budget processes and funded government services during and after national elections. FSVC also supported the government’s efforts to publish timely and detailed budget documents, increasing citizens’ access to information and further strengthening the country’s democracy.

“Accountable governments are more resilient to crises and trusted by citizens,” Thomas said. “Fiscal transparency fights corruption, fraud, and waste, and it facilitates economic growth.”