A public expenditure tracking survey (PETS) is an instrument developed by the World Bank, to determine how much of the allocated budget reaches its intended implementing unit. It helps reveal what percentage of the allocated resource is deployed to the intended beneficiary and determines the measure of unaccounted resources along the way, if any. It should be noted however, unaccounted resources as measured by PETS does not automatically point to corruption. Often times, it reflects a reallocation of funds for activities that are considered priority at the time. PETS can inform stakeholders to the extent that existing PFM practices are effective, and how much budget allocation actually links to budget execution, and ultimately service delivery objectives and beneficiaries.
The last PETS that was done in Kenya was in 2013 alongside a Service Delivery Indicator Survey; the surveys were in Health and Education. The findings noted that with the exception of the first quarter of each year, disbursements of funds were relatively constant across the fiscal years. The disbursements were found to be higher for the first quarter, perhaps reflecting disbursement delays from previous quarters. Conditional grant transfers were also delayed for over 3- 4 months. It was also found that transfers to public facilities were higher than programmed for while transfers to private facilities was lower. The overall findings showed that there is room for improvement in efficiency of spending on health outcomes.
PETS have been widely used the world over continue to be improved
(i) PETS have proven to be useful as part of a broader policy strategy aimed at improving service delivery results;
(ii) PETS has become a brand name for very different instruments, but at its core there is a survey methodology that requires skilled technical expertise and a solid knowledge of budget execution processes;
(iii) Policy impact in a variety of PETS experiences could be further strengthened by stronger country ownership and effective follow-up; and
(iv) PETS results could be enhanced through strategic partnering, and greater emphasis on dissemination and communication strategies aimed at involving actors who can foster actions on the ground.
Source: The World Bank, 2009
Following the desire of the Government of Kenya to maximize its impact on Early Childhood Development (ECD) as demonstrated by its national and international commitments on the same, the PETS can help to uncover key areas of intervention. PETS can give valuable insight into the findings of the PER in the sectors of health, water and sanitation, and uncover others in nutrition, early learning and social protection. Following the PER results, the PETS could lay out the actual functioning of public expenditure systems (including planning and management systems and operations), uncover the cause of the delays in disbursements and irregularity of transfers, accountability and equity mechanisms, as well as procurement delays and human resource allocations. At a national level also, PETS studies can help reveal whether national spending meets its intended budget allocations at the point of frontline service delivery units.
An impactful PETS will be able to influence policy including in financial reporting, expenditure monitoring, and transparency and accountability. However, the real impact of a PETS is in the follow up. PETS are less impactful when country ownership and buy-in is weak, or the political economy is working against the implementation of recommendations. PETS potential for use as a social accountability and citizen engagement resource is high, but in many cases they are not actively disseminated to civil society. Furthermore – and this is an issue that also cuts across other instruments such as the PER or the PEFA – it is not always used as an instrument for wider PFM reform across relevant sectors and administrative units.