The South African Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is hosting the 2nd African Network of Parliamentary Budget Offices (AN-PBO) Conference from the 16 - 17 August 2017. The conference will take place in the Parliamentary precinct and will see the PBO welcoming delegates from across Africa as well as from other institutions tasked with supporting parliamentarians in the oversight of public finances.
In August 2016, the South African PBO hosted the inaugural conference, which served successfully as a platform for the creation of the AN-PBO. Upon its establishment, it was agreed that the network should facilitate the sharing of information among its members with a particular focus on capacity building. It was also intended to promote the attainment of broader objectives, including the development of African institutions and the strengthening and enhancing of the oversight role of African parliaments, PBOs and other concerned institutions.
Consequently, the objective of the first AN-PBO conference was to bring together various stakeholders involved in supporting Parliament’s in their oversight of public finances. The primary benefit of the conference was the sharing of information and experiences among the delegates.
In February 2017, the first AN-PBO planning meeting was successfully held in South Africa. The meeting was well attended and gave effect to the commitment made by the Chairperson of the NCOP, who, in his closing remarks to the conference on the 18 August 2016, stated that:
“We fully support the development of a network for African PBO’s to learn from one another and to support one another. The African PBO network will hold its next meeting before the end of 2016.”
The deliberations at the planning meeting laid the foundation for work to commence on the hosting of the second AN-PBO conference. The objective of the second conference is to further the establishment and work of the AN-PBO, as initiated by the South African Budget Office. The second conference is expected to welcome delegates from PBOs and institutions from around the world. All of whom are fully supportive of the South African PBO and the AN-PBO and are committed to providing their own expertise and resources in improving oversight in Africa.
The South African PBO was established in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (Act 9 of 2009). The intention of the Act was to provide parliamentarians with the necessary procedures to propose amendments to money bills tabled in Parliament. The creation of the PBO was thought necessary to support the newly separated finance and appropriations committees in exercising their right to amend, should they choose to use it. To this effect, the Act states that “the PBO provides independent, objective and professional advice and analysis to Parliament on matters related to the budget and other money Bills. The PBO supports the implementation of the Act by undertaking research and analysis for the Finance and Appropriations Committees.”
In the years following its establishment, the PBO has sought to equip itself with a full staff complement capable of delivering on its mandate. Various upskilling initiatives have been undertaken in this regard. In 2015, the PBO’s analysts undertook a technical study tour to the Congressional Budget Office, IMF and World Bank in Washington, USA, as well as to the Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa, Canada. The study tour enabled the PBO to gauge global best practices for a range of technical and operational areas and facilitated the expansion of the office’s technical capabilities. It also facilitated the establishment of critical working relationships that continue to be of great value to the office.
Recently, analysts from the PBO have participated in training seminars hosted by the IMF’s South Africa Regional Technical Assistance Centre covering topics such as debt sustainability and fiscal risks. Moreover, the ongoing participation in the World Bank’s Global Network of PBOs and the OECD’s network of PBOs have enhanced the operation of the office as well as its research products.
Currently, the PBO is playing an integral role in the ongoing process to amend its founding legislation, the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (Act 9 of 2009), with the intention of adding necessary detail to its own mandate as well as the refining of the budget process more generally.