The Uganda Parliament’s Budget Committee has lauded the role a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) plays in assisting the Legislature with oversight function in scrutinising and monitoring the national budget.
In his presentation to the Malawi delegation on a study visit to the Ugandan Parliament on establishing a PBO, chairperson of Uganda Parliament’s Budget Committee, Amos Lugolobi, said the office has improved the oversight and accountability mechanisms on the budget which has in turn benefitted ordinary citizens.
The Ugandan PBO was established through a Private Member’s Bill in 2001 and streamlined the budget process, set specific timelines for the process and created a budget committee comprising 25 members.
Lugolobi said before establishment of the office, there was no active participation in budget formulation by members of Parliament (MPs).
He said: “Before the PBO, Parliament was just used for the purposes of rubbers-tamping the budget, but members felt they had all the right to interrogate the budget process.
“But the PBO has deepened the involvement of Parliament and provides back up support to the Budget Committee.”
Through the Budget Act of 2001, the Ugandan government submits a Budget Framework Paper as the first entry into the budget formulation process with clear timelines for the rest of the process.
During the budget process, the PBO deploys budget officers to the 14 sectoral committees which scrutinise the performance of the budget, outputs as well as monitoring if the budgets are aligned to the National Development Plan.
Apart from looking into the money, the PBO assists the committees to analyse sectoral issues on staffing, procurements, corruption and fraud as well as audits.
Lugolobi said the budget officers from the PBO are responsible for analysing any budget anomalies, misuse and inadequacies in allocations.
“As an example, without the assistance of the PBO, Parliament would not have known that the government is prioritising road designs at the expense of road construction. So, with a PBO, acccountability checks are made easier,” he said.
Commissioner of the Parliamentary Service Commission of Uganda, Peter Ogwang, said the PBO was the biggest office of Parliament whose law is completely binding through appropriation of funds to the government.
However, challenges in operating the PBO are both political and operational top of which is the high attrition rate of MPs, currently at 30 percent.
The study visit delegation comprises the Malawi Parliament, Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Department of Human Resource Management and Development as well as ActionAid Malawi which has funded the exercise.