Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda has accused the Executives of sidelining the oversight role of Parliament when it demands transparency in government finances.

In a keynote speech at the 5th African Network of Parliamentary Budget Offices (AN-PBO), which began yesterday in Harare to discuss the topic Role of Parliamentary Oversight in an Environment of Geopolitical Uncertainty, Global Economic Downturns and in Emergencies Like COVID-19 in Relation to the 2063 Development Agenda, Chokuda said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed public finance management systems to the vagaries of corruption, which often thrives during times of crisis.

“Parliaments are critical State institutions whose functionality is a prerequisite to democratic growth, economic development and poverty reduction. As such, geopolitical uncertainties, global economic downturns, and in emergencies, demand the assertiveness of legislatures to ensure that not only the needs of the electorate are met, but also that public money is equitably raised, well spent and properly accounted for,” Chokuda said.

“Inherited colonial legacies and resource challenges have always presented challenges for Parliaments to innovate with a view to enhancing transparency and accountability of scarce resources. More often than not, the technical hegemony of the Executive always dwarfs Parliament in its quest for fiscal transparency.

“Independent and unconstrained parliamentary oversight requires that there be a clear separation of powers as well as checks and balances, particularly between the Legislature and the Executive. Where the boundaries are diffused and the Executive is clearly and overwhelmingly more powerful than the Legislature in terms of information and material resources, it is unlikely that Parliament, let alone oversight committees, will be capable of sustaining a strong critical stand against the government.”

He said establishment of parliamentary budget offices would bring the Legislature on an equal technical footing with the Executive as far as budgeting and economic policy issues are concerned.

“Legislatures have an unparalleled role in ensuring that ‘The Africa We Want’ becomes a reality,” he said.

Chokuda pointed out that governance and accountability are pivotal in resource mobilisation for African countries so that they are not heavily dependent on external sources.

“Legislatures require reliable and unbiased information to be able to constructively participate in the budget processes,” he said.

“It is in view of this argument that parliaments are seeing the need to establish their own budget offices in order to enhance their budget and financial oversight functions. Parliaments must be capacitated to ensure effective oversight of government.”

Source Newsday