The Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone, Rt. Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu has on Monday 3rd August 2020 assured Members of Parliament, Staff, the General Public and the Diplomatic Community that following what obtains in other jurisdictions like Kenya, and in line with a certain provision in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, Parliament will soon formulate and pass its own budget. “It may not happen in 2020, 2021 or 2022, but it will happen in the not too distant future”, he reassured.
The Hon. Speaker made this statement during the official launch of a five-day workshop organized for Staff of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and other Units and Departments by the European Union Governance Team in Committee Room One, Parliament Building.
The Speaker recalled the purpose and establishment of the PBO in light of its mandate, objectives and characteristics devoid of partisan sentiments. He went on to inform the public about the importance of the PBO relative to independence and expected duties. “Foremost is that it must be independent i.e. independent from government control and manipulations in the discharge of its duties”, he reaffirmed and added; “therefore the unit must be free to analyze available data and come up with their own independent conclusions without deference to the methods used by ministries, departments and agencies”.
The Speaker highlighted the importance of a separate legislature that will improve on the function of the PBO in light of autonomy, authoritative and non-partisan nature of the unit in order to objectively present information devoid of partisan bias. He also spoke about the strategic objectives of PBO relative to the guidance and alignment of the broad spectrum of the Parliamentary Strategic Plan (2016-2019), which is now being reviewed and went on to commend them for producing important reports and documents since 2018 to date.
“The PBO aims to be the principal hub for impartial budget, economic and fiscal research and analysis to strengthen the effectiveness of parliament’s oversight, representative and legislative function in the national budget process”, he reassured and said that the Leadership of Parliament will foster the vision of PBO in order to improve oversight, accountability, transparency and suitability of government finances.
The Speaker referenced Section 74 (4) of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone relating to the salaries and allowances of MPs mainly for Parliament to devise, formulate, develop and pass its own budget different from that of the executive. “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, Uganda, to name a few, these Parliaments have advanced to the level of developing and passing their own budgets outside the executive”, he stressed.
He thanked EU and other partners for their support to Parliament in terms of capacity building.
Earlier, a Representative of the EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Mats Liljefelt assured the Speaker of continued support to Parliament and recalled several strides and collaborative efforts including the Bo Retreat, Parliament Open Day, reviewing of Strategic Plan and upgrading of the Parliamentary Website, COVID-19 Response Plan and their collaboration with UNDP to review the Standing Orders of Parliament.
For the training, he said they expect Parliament to prioritize transparency, accountability and robust oversight. “It is our understanding that, the PBO will be an agency whose purpose is to inform the Parliament by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of the proposals brought before Parliament”, he reaffirmed. He also highlighted the powers of PBO in other countries in light of post-election audits among others.
He stressed on the need for independent, transparent analysis, reporting, auditing, professional advice to MPs, capacity building as well as other issues relating to the budget and fiscal matters.
In his welcome address and introductory statement, the Deputy Director of PBO, Ibrahim Jimissa thanked the Leadership of Parliament and donors for their support to the Unit. He recalled the rationale behind the workshop in light of developing the Unit’s strategic plan for 2020-2022. He also spoke on the challenges of the Unit and need for capacity building for its Staff. “Some of the staff of the Unit are academically qualified, but have limited experience tailored in the work and mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Office”, he revealed and commended the Leadership of Parliament and EU Delegation to Sierra Leone and its Governance Team for organizing the workshop.
He expressed hope for team work and fruitful deliberations during the course of the workshop.
An experienced team of facilitators were drawn from former Members of Parliament and the Ministry of Finance having regard for their expertise in economics, accounting and finance.