From 27 to 30 June, the AWEPA Southern Africa regional office hosted a joint parliamentary training workshop with the parliaments of Namibia and Lesotho. Being the first in a series of five training activities planned under the project Strengthening SADC Parliamentary Engagement in the Budget Cycle, the workshop covered core tenets of the budget process.
The activity began with a tour of the Namibian parliament where the Rt. Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi, announced the presence of the delegation and welcomed the group to the plenary session. This marked a positive start to the peer-to-peer learning process.
The training began the following day led by Mr. John Makamure, who has extensive experience in legislative strengthening and budget analysis. Although aimed at parliamentary staff, the group also benefited from the attendance of two Members of the Namibian Parliament, who offered insight into political realities in relation to the general theory of parliamentary budget oversight.
A number of breakaway sessions were included in the workshop. This allowed delegations to discuss elements of the budget in their own countries in-depth. Topics included the various roles of actors in the budget process and comparative legal frameworks that govern legislative engagement.
In addition, various committee models, case studies and best practices were introduced to instil competence among parliamentary staff in matters pertaining to budget deficits, sources of government revenue, as well as different principles of budgeting including gender-sensitive budgeting, performance-based budgeting and pro-poor budgeting.
On the final day, Mr Graham Hopwood, the Executive Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, facilitated a session on the Open Budget Index survey as a potential tool to assess the sufficiency of budget information for public accountability. Participants were introduced to the methodology of the international survey, which reviews the accessibility of budget information in 109 countries. After a short presentation on principles on public participation (including accessibility, inclusivity and timeliness) delegates workshopped ways in which their Parliaments may give effect to these principles. Plans suggested by delegates included holding public hearings during the formulation of the budget and legislating timelines for information to reach the public.
The workshop developed strong baseline knowledge on budgetary matters and participants expressed significant interest in future engagements. The workshop pre-empts a series of capacity development activities that form part of the Strengthening Parliamentary Budget Oversight and Scrutiny Project, funded by DfID.