At a time when many public institutions are facing a decline in public trust, it is important for Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs) to maintain the credibility they gained in their early years of establishment, by continuing to provide quality support to parliaments in pursuit for better governance, fiscal oversight as well as economic development.

This comment was made by the Vice-President of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, Mr Sahir Khan, during the 3rd Annual African Network of Parliamentary Budget Offices Conference.

Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures joined PBOs from across the African continent, as well as those from Canada and the United Kingdom, for two days of deliberations on the theme: “The Role of PBOs in African Parliaments’ Fiscal Oversight: Contribution to the African Development Agenda”.

The aim of the conference was to share best practices and experiences on how to strengthen oversight on good governance and financial management.

Mr Khan said the emergence of the PBO concept in recent times has seen more parliaments from developing countries playing a more active role in the budgeting process of their countries, and called on them to defend their credibility.

The conference also discussed the fact that in many developing and transitional countries, parliaments are moving in the direction of greater budget activism, occasioned by democratisation and constitutional reforms, thereby creating opportunities for legislatures to redefine contribution to public budgeting.

PBOs were also encouraged to play a role in ensuring public participation in the budget-making process. The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, Mr Yunus Carrim, said PBOs continue to be the link between national treasuries and legislatures, and must be protected from undue influence.

“Public participation in the budget process has to improve and PBOs have to play a role in this regard, PBOs are not serving parliaments only, they area also serving the people out there by supporting MPs (Members of Parliament) in fulfilling the wishes of the people,” Mr Carrim said.

PBOs are specialised units within the legislative branch that are supposed to produce objective budgetary, fiscal and programmatic information for the legislators. They provide objective analysis directly to their respective parliaments about the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy.

By Sakhile Mokoena

23 August 2018