From 26 to 28 July, AWEPA Southern Africa hosted a workshop for ten parliamentary staff from each of the parliaments of Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The training was on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) as a tool for budget scrutiny at the formulation phase. Held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the workshop was organised as part of the ‘Strengthening SADC Parliamentary Engagement in the Budget’ project.
The training sought to a) impart understanding on what the MTEF is, its function and utility as a tool for budget oversight and scrutiny; b) to equip committee and research staff with public financial management knowledge and tools to better understand how policies and plans are reflected in the National Budget Statement, and c) to equip staff with the skills to track and monitor planned budgetary activities against outputs and outcomes.
The workshop combined theoretical knowledge as well as practical training on MTEF scrutiny. Expert training was provided by the Collaborative African Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI), led by Executive Secretary, Neil Cole. CABRI is an intergovernmental institution that supports PFM reforms in Africa and an AWEPA Southern Africa partner.
Training included an overview of Public Financial Management (PFM) and an introduction to MTEF, focusing on core concepts, challenges and reforms that various states have undergone. The interactive training sparked much debate, questions and input from participants, including supporting evidence to complement the theoretical concepts introduced. Mr. Cole’s extensive experience in the South African Ministry of Finance allowed for maximum support of content with practical examples.
Group work included utilising country policy documents to discern and compare macro-economic targets against aggregate expenditure, as well as compare formal rules that exist to guard against over-spending. Case studies were presented, such as the case of Zambia’s Parliamentary reform in MTEF scrutiny, led by a staff member of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Mr Misael Kateshi, which supported the peer-to-peer-learning aspect of the training.
Finally, each parliament discussed a tangible strategy that they could take forward in their countries. Among these were, writing up of a case study on successful expansion of parliamentary engagement in the budget cycle; setting up a meeting between incoming Speakers of Parliament and Ministers of Finance to work on common ground for reforms; the drafting of a ten-point plan for a newly established PBO as well as the sensitization of MPs to Parliament’s role in the budget cycle.
Mr Cole advised that for any of these goals to be realised, there is need for political will in order for the authority to make, and accept decisions, as well as to push change forward. The workshop was well received with all participants agreeing that its aims and objectives were met and that they had been exposed to the requisite skills to track and monitor planned budget activities against those executed. They developed concrete action plans for their parliaments, which will be further developed throughout the ensuing training modules.
This capacity building workshop is the second in a series of five activities that mark the third phase of the UKAID-supported ‘Strengthening SADC Parliamentary Engagement in the Budget Cycle’ project.
Group photograph of parliamentary staff from the parliaments of Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe taken outside the conference venue.
One of the Zambian delegates gives a presentation after the group work session of Macro-economic targets, MTEF projections and actual expenditure.
Mr Neil Cole from CABRI conducting training on Public Financial Management.
Parliamentary staff from the parliament of Lesotho engaged in group work.
Ms Lydia Kandetu, Permanent Secretary to the Parliament of Namibia on left, and Mr Job Nelson Kisaka, deputy Director in the Office of the Speaker.
Delegates from the Parliament of Zimbabwe strategize a way forward for their parliament’s utilisation of the MTEF and budget scrutiny.
Delegates from the Parliament of Malawi interrogate their budget documents for presentation to the group.