Zambia’s economic and fiscal stability contributed to high rates of growth since 2008, leading to better public financial management (PFM). However, PFM remains afflicted with issues of budget discipline (e.g. rampant use of supplementary appropriations and in-year budget amendments) and ineffective implementation (2012 Public Expenditure Financial Accountability assessment). These problems have been attributed to systemic and procedural problems, as well as to capacity shortcomings in fundamental elements of PFM. The Planning & Budgeting Bill is expected to cure these defects.
A major expectation of the Planning and Budgeting Bill as seen from the National Planning and Budgeting Policy is to strengthen accountability in the PFM function by strengthening the oversight role of parliament. The Support to the National Assembly of Zambia is therefore to help create an enabling environment to undertake its role effectively. In this respect, the consensus is for the creation of a Parliamentary Budget Office (which is expected to be reflected in legislation when the Planning & Budgeting Bill is enacted).
The project is focused on enhanced accountability processes and increased PFM results. It specifically aims to strengthen the ability of the National Assembly of Zambia, in the accountability process for PFM and the Budget. This involves creating in-house technical expertise (Parliamentary Budget Office) in order to provide professional support to the Estimates Committee, Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and portfolio committees in matters pertaining to economic, fiscal and budgetary policy, and the management of public finances
By enhancing the ability of the Estimates Committee and the National Assembly of Zambia to analyse the draft Budget during the formulation process, ensures that all recommendations, including those of the Office of the Auditor-General, are systematically followed-up by the executive.
On 1st November 2017, the PFM Handbook was launched in a colorful ceremony attended by officials from the National Assembly of Zambia, over 200 guests and cooperating partners.
The handbook has been the work of the Technical Assistance (TA) team for over 18 months. It included 16 authors including key experts, and Academia. The Handbook on PFM is for Members of Parliament and staff of the National Assembly, and Constituency office staff, with a general introduction to PFM, fiscal decentralization and good financial governance including the National Assembly’s role and responsibilities throughout the budget cycle.
Figure 1: From left to right: H.E. Alessandro Mariani (EU Ambassador to Zambia & Comesa), Dr Dick Sichembe (Accountant General, MoF), Right Honorable Justice, Dr Patrick Matibini SC (Guest of Honour/Speaker of the National Assembly), and Mrs Cecilia Nsenduluka Mbewe (Clerk of the National Assesmbly.
Assembly oversight of the budget – both during preparation as well as implementation and post analysis – is vital to any democratic system. Effective financial scrutiny ensures that governments are held accountable for their actions, and that the citizens know how the taxes they pay are being allocated and invested.
"Members of Parliament should be able to do more than just accept or reject the budget; they should be in a position to analyse, appreciate and question the macro-economic framework, the sectoral allocations, the consistency between the allocations and related policy issues at sectoral level" – Alessandro Mariani, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Zambia and COMESA in his opening remarks during the launch of the Public Finance Management Handbook at the Parliament.
The PFM Handbook has been developed to contribute to the sensitization of Members of Parliament and staff of the National Assembly by providing with a general introduction to the concepts of public financial management, fiscal decentralization and good financial governance and guidance on Parliament’s role and responsibilities throughout the budget cycle.
In addition to the efforts in enhancing the abilities of the parliamentary committees involved in the oversight of the budget process, the European Union has supported the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is providing parliamentary committees with independent and professional support in matters related to economic, fiscal and budgetary policies.
For more information on the PFM Handbook, please contact Mutale Mungame (Project Manager) (Mmangamu@pmtc.org).