Grantee Spotlight: Central American Institute of Fiscal Studies

Documenting the cost of corruption & providing tools for transparency


The Northern Triangle of Central America, consisting of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, is well-known for its violence and instability, with government corruption and impunity fueling the region’s lawlessness. Though conditions in the Northern Triangle to have improved somewhat since the peak dysfunction of the 70s and 80s, the challenges confronting the region’s democrats and citizen activists remain immense. In order to help empower civil society and strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the region, NED has provided grant support to the Central American Institute of Fiscal Studies (ICEFI), a think tank that not only conducts traditional in-depth analysis of fiscal and public policies, but “goes beyond the traditional [fiscal policy] concept of just revenues and expenditures,” explains Ricardo Barrientos, ICEFI’s senior economist. “We include fiscal transparency [and] citizen participation in fiscal policy decisions.” The result is a comprehensive and holistic view of how policies do or do not serve the goals of government accountability and transparency.

ICEFI’s website is constantly updated with breaking fiscal and other policy news in the region. They have also put out several significant publications, including the 2017 report Corruption: Its Path and Impact on Society and an Agenda to Combat It in the Northern Triangle of Central America. The report quantifies the social costs of corruption by, in one case, highlighting the percentage of different Ministries’ budgets lost to specific corruption cases or schemes, and the impact this had on public goods and services.

If there was any doubt whether ICEFI’s work was making a real difference in the fight against corruption, a recent meeting Barrientos had with a judge who specializes in corruption cases leaves no doubt about the organization’s influence: “I was surprised that one of the judges…had [ICEFI’s] book, all [marked up] and heavily used…and the judge told me ‘Oh, this is my Bible!’” Barrientos explained, laughing.

To learn more about ICEFI and benefit from their extraordinary reporting, visit

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