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SADC Association of Parliamentary Budget Committees explores effective oversight strategies
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
September 19, 2011

The SADC Association of Parliamentary Budget Committees (SADCAPBC) met on 25 August in Johannesburg, South Africa, to explore effective oversight strategies on natural resource extraction, climate change, poverty alleviation and budget formulation.

The Association is a regional platform that affords Members of Budget and Finance Committees an opportunity to network, share knowledge and best practices on parliamentary budget oversight. This initiative also avails regional budget committees an opportunity to tap ideas from the academia and civic society on cross-cutting public finance and economic development subjects. The ultimate goal is to promote pro-poor budgetary policies in order to attain sustainable development and economic justice in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since inception in 2010, the membership of this organisation has expanded to include Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi and Botswana. The meeting drew 22 delegates from Angola, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa and civil society organisations involved in the climate change and poverty discourse.

On the first day the Conference focused on climate change and Accountability in extractive industries as well as poverty situation in the SADC region. It was agreed that there was a serious need for parliamentarians to mainstream climate change and governance in budgetary policy-making. The following are key highlights of this Session:-

  • Climate Change was a major challenge which had the potential to compromise food security in African countries;
  • Climate finance was available at a multilateral and bilateral level for countries to access to mitigate climate challenges, as well as to implement adaptation and responses to this challenge;
  • Stringent conditionalities were however, compromising the ability of countries to access this funding;
  • Climate Change and mitigation strategies create an opportunity for advancing employment opportunities through a drive for environmentally friendly technologies;
  • Poverty and inequality were noted to be major characteristics of SADC countries following a regional study; and
  • Natural resource extraction requires more transparency and accountability in the SADC Region.

Members of Parliament also shared experiences on these topical subjects and agreed that there was need to engender transparency in the exploitation of natural resources in SADC countries. It was also agreed that there was need to take on board climate change issues during parliamentary debates to ensure that the development agenda embraces this discourse.

The second session focused on imparting tools for budget tracking and monitoring as well as gender budgeting. The following are key highlights of this Session:-

  • Openness regarding budget processes in SADC countries was rather mixed, with South Africa being judged as having the most open budget process in the world, based on a survey by the International Budget Partnership (IBP);
  • Other countries that were covered by the survey included Botswana, Malawi, Angola, Zambia, Namibia and DRC, whose budget processes remained weak;
  • MPs recommended the need for a peer review mechanism so as ensure that there was harmonisation of budget processes and standards in the region;
  • There was a need for a human rights approach to budget making in the region; and,
  • Gender budgeting was also noted to be a major instrument that sought to improve the welfare of society.

In the discussions that followed, the subject of gender budgeting became topical. MPs agreed on the need for gender mainstreaming in national budgeting. Angola revealed that in a Cabinet of 35 ministers, 19 were women, whilst in the National Assembly of 220 MPs, 84 were women. It was agreed that the entire subject of gender mainstreaming required everyone to go beyond cultural barriers in order to understand the gender discourse better.

The conference was conducted in an interactive manner that allowed legislators, civil society and the academia to interface and thus managed to chart common ground on developmental challenges faced by member countries due to climate change. The loud message that came out of the two-day conference was that there was need to mainstream climate change in the broader development agenda. In this regard Parliaments were urged to take a prominent role in advocating for a broad-based all-inclusive development agenda that recognised the stark realities of how climate change rolled back sustainable development.

The conference also asserted the role of Parliament in holding the Executive to account on the governance framework in the natural resource extractive sector. There was absolute unanimity across all countries represented at the conference on the need for accountability and transparency in natural resource exploitation which has the potential to mobilise resources for economic development.

The focus on budget monitoring and tracking tools has been a major milestone in closing research and analytical gaps which will enhance Parliamentary oversight in the SADC region. The coverage on gender budgeting was also very strategic as it brought to the fore the need to mainstream gender issues in national policy formulation. The exchange of ideas across the topics that were delivered during the two-day conference provided MPs with an objective basis for sharpening their budgetary oversight role in their respective parliaments.

It was agreed that there was need for MPs to integrate the outcomes of the conference when designing their committee work-plans in their respective parliaments by incorporating climate change, and extractive industries accountability and transparency issues.

The Secretariat implored the MPs to continue to share information among themselves whilst at the same time deploying the knowledge acquired in developing motions for tabling in their respective parliaments in order to influence national development policies and budgetary outcomes. These initiatives would, without doubt, improve their capacity to engage the executive in a meaningful way that will result in the formulation of good policies for the benefit of their citizens.

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