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Parliament to establish budget, loans tracking office

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Money bills including the country’s financial plan and loans that Parliament authorises the executive arm of government to borrow on behalf of Malawians will soon be subjected to further scrutiny and tracking following Parliament’s decision to establish Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

If established, the Parliament will be walking in the footsteps of neighbouring countries like South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania that already have a similar structure.

Speaking during a public lecture that he conducted at Mzuzu University, Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, disclosed in an interview that PBO will help to strengthen capacity of parliamentarians’ oversight role in the budget process and public finance management and accountability.

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With funding from Germany’s GIZ and Government of Norway, Msowoya said the office would among other issues analyse budget and loan expenditure, policy proposals and prepare briefs on their findings.

“The office will monitor, among others, how money allocated in the budget as well as resources that come through loans that are authorised by the National Assembly is used. Parliament already does this through plenary and committees.

“In other parliaments in the region and beyond, the office helps to enhance the process of inquiry. In essence, the office will check how government will be appropriating funds,” Msowoya said.

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The office, he said, will be preparing documents that are shared with parliamentarians when they come for a sitting so that they can contribute from a position of knowledge.

On the other hand, it will help in prevention of abuse of public funds as the office will be able to notice illegal resource use.

The Daily Times research on the countries that already have the office in place indicates that the structure supports the implementation of the money bill acts by undertaking research and analysis for parliamentary committees including those on finance among others.

They also provide yearly reviews and analysis of the documentation tabled in Parliament by the executive.

Economic analyst, Ben Kalua, said the office is overdue considering the crucial role it can play.

“The government should not behave like an informal sector. We should have functional systems that are able to track budget and debts performance among others,” Kalua said.

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