Auckland, New Zealand - Members of Parliaments and Representatives of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) from 11 Pacific island countries converged in a South-South peer exchange recently to discuss parliamentary oversight.
Oversight requires special frameworks, mechanisms and in the case of budget oversight, some technical understanding of Public Finance Management.
As noted by Honourable Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau, Chairperson Finance & Expenditure Committee of the Parliament of Samoa, during the discussions “it might take at best a year or maybe two before a new elected member becomes comfortable with the format of the Committee meetings and content of the budget documentation. Proper support and technical training can accelerate this process and ensure effective oversight from year one.”
The capacity development support for MPs and representatives of SAIs is therefore integral in supporting the human development needs as well as the aspirations of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of countries.
Two complementary events held back to back to support this, was convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Regional Conference on Parliamentary Oversight held from 19 – 20 November and the Regional Workshop for Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – Oversight of Public Finances held from 21 – 22 November, provided the platform for participants to be equipped with the appropriate understanding of oversight Committee mechanisms, knowledge of PFM and the specific role and relationship of Parliaments and Supreme Audit Institutions when reviewing the Audit Reports.
The Acting Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to New Zealand, Per Sjönell said, “Public Finances management is the key to effective services such as health, sanitation, running water and education.”
He added, “Within the whole framework of Public Finance Management, oversight institutions such as Parliaments, Supreme Audit Institutions and of course the engagement of civil society, play an essential part. Parliaments and Auditor General institutions working together will allow for this oversight to be effective.”
While there are considerable variations in the tools that parliaments can employ to perform their oversight function. Variations largely exists because of constitutional arrangements, and the different types of government from one country to the other.
The Chairman of PASAI and Auditor General of Fiji, Ajay Nand said, “PASAI is pleased to be working hand-in-hand with UNDP to facilitate the essential conversation that needs to take place between SAIs and Parliaments.”
He added, “In a region were institutions can be constrained by size and capacity, working relationships take an even greater importance.”
Parliaments work closely with SAIs particularly during the audit phase of the budget cycle. While the form of SAI varies across countries, in the countries of the Pacific region that follow the Westminster governance model, the SAI is typically the Office of the Auditor General. Therefore, the seamless working relationship between Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and SAI is crucial.
The UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative Levan Bouadze said, “of the three key functions of parliament – representation, law-making, and oversight – the oversight function occupies a very central role in the overall governance architecture: it ensures that governments implement policies and budgets in accordance with the wishes and needs of the citizens.”
“It is, as such, an essential aspect of democratic governance, one that establishes and strengthens trust between institutions and constituents,” said Bouadze.
He added, “It is also one of the internal national mechanisms that will ensure that countries will be working toward their own development objectives, but at the same time will “leave no one behind” – the goal of the Agenda 2030, to which Pacific Nations are committed.”
Countries represented at the training include Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu.
The training also invited representatives from PASAI focusing on SAIs relationship with parliaments and PACs as well as representatives from Anti-Corruption Committees and from the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) chapters.
The two events are implemented through five of UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji’s Parliamentary Development Projects namely, the Fiji Parliament Support Project II funded by the Governments of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) funded by the Government of New Zealand and the Strengthening Legislatures in Pacific Island Countries project (SLIP) funded by the Government of Japan, the Strengthening Public Finance Management and Governance in the Pacific implemented in partnership with the Pacific Supreme Audit Institution (PASAI) and funded by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Project (UN-PRAC) implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which is funded by the Government of Australia.
For more information:
Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, Communications Associate, Effective Governance Team, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; email: email@example.com; tel: (679) 3227 552.