Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe national focus group as part of the Strengthening SADC Parliamentary Engagement in the Budget Cycle took place in Selous, Zimbabwe, from 17 – 19 February 2017.
The three-day focus group drew participants from the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Auditor General’s Office, and provided Members of Parliament and staff members with the opportunity to reflect on the wealth of information that was gathered about their institution during the data collection phase in July and October 2017.
The discussions were opened by Hon. Chimutengwende, Deputy President of the Senate, in which he stated the importance of recognising that the budgetary role and powers bestowed on the legislature went beyond merely authorising revenue and expenditures, but also ensuring that the budget was properly implemented and all resources were accounted for. Hon. Chimutengwende further discussed the extensive reforms that have been undertaken in the Parliament of Zimbabwe; and the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to assist the legislature in constructively engaging in the budget process.
During the discussions participants critically reflected on the substantive reforms already underway on budgetary matters within their institution. Primary discussion areas during the focus group included the implementation of legislation to formalise parliament’s engagement in the budget process, and using these powers to ensure that effective executive oversight took place. Participants also reflected on budgetary reforms in a time of economic contraction; the powers of the executive in the budget process and how this related to the whipping system; as well as the capacity of Members of Parliaments and parliamentary staff. One of the most significant outcomes of the discussions was the commitment by MPs to further interrogate the issue of retention funds, and advocate for all revenues to be channelled through the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
In closing, Hon. Madzongwe, the President of the Senate noted that the discussions had been productive and refreshing, allowing participants to reflect on the scope for improvement in as far as parliament’s role and effectiveness in the budget cycle is concerned. She encouraged the MPs and parliamentary staff to continue the dialogue around these issues.
Throughout the Focus Group a number of action points, on strengthening the parliament’s engagement in the budget process, were identified and debated. These action points will be considered further within parliament for reflection at the regional seminar in May 2017.