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PBO staff traing session: Speaker’s keynote address

6 August 2020 at 00:34 | 724 views

Keynote address of the Speaker of Parliament

The Opening Ceremony of the PBO Staff Training Session

Monday, 3rd August, 2020

Rt. Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu’s full statement delivered on the occasion of the official launch of a five-day workshop for the Parliamentary Budget Office in Committee Room One, Parliament Building on Monday 3rd August 2020.

As always, it’s a great personal pleasure to add my own special word of welcome to Parliament of the representative of the Ambassador of the European Union to Sierra Leone. Even more; it is especially gratifying that the EU is able to join us this morning to launch this training on Public Finance Management and the Sierra Leone Budget System.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) was established in the Parliament of Sierra Leone in 2017, pursuant to Section 13 of the Parliamentary Service Act of 2007 that empowers the Parliamentary Service Commission to establish such departments as it considers necessary or expedient for the efficient performance of its functions.

The establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) followed study visits undertaken by MPs and staff to the Parliaments of Uganda and Ghana, with the support of UNDP. It was considered necessary then that we set up a PBO to support Parliament’s oversight functions including:

• Provision of independent and objective analyses of the position of the country’s public finances and the economy.

• Support to Parliamentary Committees like Finance, Public Accounts, Accountability and Transparency on budget related matters

• Costing of government and legislative proposals.

• Support to Parliament’s institutional strengthening process (Support to Committee Clerks, gathering of macroeconomic and budget information, network with think tanks, NGOs, media and academia).

In order for the PBO to be able to carry out the above functions effectively and efficiently, it must possess certain fundamentals. These include but are by no means not limited to the following:

First and foremost the PBO must be independent i.e. independent from Government authority and control in the discharge of its duties. The unit must be free to analyse available data and come to its own conclusions exclusive of the methods used by MDAs. There is therefore need for separate legislation to govern the operations of the PBO in addition to giving it the necessary autonomy.

Second, the PBO’s work must be authoritative relying on reputable and credible data and technical expertise. This explains why most PBO employees usually are economists or financial analysts with advanced degrees and years of experience in the public service.

Third, the PBO must be non-partisan. The emphasis here is on ‘nonpartisan’ which is very different from ‘bi-partisan’ or ‘multi-partisan’. Non-partisan connotes the absence of political affiliation of any kind and its analysis must be completely devoid of political perspectives. Instead it should place itself in a position of enjoying acceptance and approval from all political parties because its analyses and conclusions are purely objective.

The Strategic Objectives of the PBO must therefore be guided by the broad objectives of the Parliamentary Strategic Plan as reviewed from time to time. Those objectives should include:

a) Building and strengthening the capacity of PBO to effectively deliver on its mandate.

b) Increasing efficiency in Parliamentary authorization and approval for economic and social development.

c) Building and reinforcing the capacity of Parliament in budget scrutiny and oversight as well as providing alternative national, economic and social plans and programme.

d) Developing viable domestic, regional and international network for research and policy.

Since 2018, the PBO has produced:

• A District Fact sheet containing vital information on population, health, education, the economy, etc.

• Ex-post analysis on the budget for the education, social welfare, and water resources sector (2014-2017).

• Quarterly Economic and Budget Briefs in 2019

• Quarter 1 & 2 Economic and Budget Briefs in 2020

The PBO aims to be the principal hub for impartial budget, economic and fiscal research and analysis in strengthening the effectiveness of Parliament’s oversight, legislative and law-making function in the national budget process. To support this vision the leadership of Parliament intends to take concrete actions in mobilizing the required support needed to enhance the effective functioning of the department. This will help to reinforce Parliament’s oversight work on the budget and ensure accountability, transparency and sustainability of government finances.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the EU Ambassador and his team for their support to the Sierra Leone Parliament, and for gracing this occasion.

In setting up the PBO and capacitating it, our aim as Parliament is eventually to give full expression, life, vitality and bring into reality the mandate and entitlement given to Parliament by the National Constitution (Act No. 6 of 1991) as encapsulated in the provisions of Section 74(4), namely and I quote:

“Members of Parliament shall be entitled to such salaries, allowances, gratuities, pensions and such other benefits as may be prescribed by Parliament.”

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is our ultimate goal. It may not happen in 2020 but make no mistake that we as a Parliament are determined to join and be part of the new normal already in vogue in the Parliaments of Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, to name a few. These Parliaments have advanced to the level of developing and passing their own budgets. It may not happen in Sierra Leone in 2021 or 2022, but it will happen in the not too distant future.

Thank you everyone for coming!

Photo: Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament (dated photo)

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