With the tabling of the Supplementary Budget Bill of 2019 in sight, a team of research analysts from different Pacific Parliaments are currently in Vanuatu supporting the Vanuatu Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Parliament Standing Committee staff to provide an independent analysis and brief on the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill 2019 to Members of Parliament (MPs).
In his address to the MPs present at the budget briefing at the National Convention Center yesterday morning, Speaker of Parliament Esmon Saimon, said the objective of the half day briefing is to assist MPs by providing easy-to understand and easy to use information on aspects of the National Budget, and inform their deliberations on the Supplementary Budget.
“The research and analysis services provided by the team in the past three days would have been provided by our own research units or an in-house Parliamentary Budget Office, however we do not have a dedicated Research Unit yet and therefore sought the assistance of UNDP’s ‘Pacific Floating Budget Office’ to support us in the budget analysis exercise for the second time during the budget exercise,” he said.
The briefing proceeded without representatives of the Department of Finance (DOF) and this raised many concerns among the MPs.
“I am a bit surprised because we (with the DOF) started the briefing where parliamentarians could be briefed on the supplementary budget at the end of last year, they (Finance representatives) were present and today (yesterday) they were absent,” said PAC Chairman, MP Ephraim Kalsakau.
“I do not really know why but the views of MPs present were to do this exercise in line with the PAC so they can be summoned to present.”
MP for Tanna Constituency, Johnny Koanapo commended the Vanuatu Parliament for conducting this workshop.
“It’s good to have this kind of workshops to give a deeper insight for the supplementary bill for the budget”, he said.
Vanuatu had its first Floating Budget Office engagement in November 2018 Parliament Season for Budget for 2019.
Currently the Floating Budget Office is engaged with Vanuatu Parliament to carry out budget analysis for Supplementary Budget 2019.
The purpose of the analysis is to better inform the quality of economic debate and contribute to financial scrutiny in the Parliament and the wider community.
The analysts are member researchers Pacific Parliaments. This is an innovation of United Nation Development Program (UNDP) Pacific known as ’Floating Budget Office’, which include researchers from the Parliaments of Samoa, New Zealand and Queensland State Parliaments.
The team receives technical support from the UNDP and funded the Japanese Government, under UNDP’s Strengthening Legislature’s Capacity in the Pacific Island Countries Project.
The floating budget researchers have worked alongside with Vanuatu parliament accounts committee and research staffs and provided an independent analysis of the Supplementary Appropriation Budget for all MPs on the state of the nation’s finances, government estimates and trends in the national economy.
The purpose of the innovative Floating Budget Analysis Office model is to provide independent, objective, non-partisan analysis of the National Budget to Parliament.
The results of the analysis are then synthesized into a set of Budget Briefing papers shared with all MPs highlighting key trends in the Vanuatu budget and economy, which was held yesterday.
The budget is the most important economic policy tool of the Government and provides a comprehensive statement of the nation’s priorities.
As the representative of the people, the Parliament is the appropriate place to ensure that the budget best matches the nation’s needs with available resources.
Vanuatu has sent Parliamentary Research officers to both Tonga and Samoa for the budget analysis exercise.
Currently the Budget Floating Office is also carrying out the task in Fiji Parliament with a Vanuatu Parliament Staff, Assistant Clerk — Corporate Services Ephraim Songi.
“We will be running a workshop this Friday with Civil Society Organizations, Fiji Finance have made available to Fiji members of Parliament budget kit books for all budget heads and will be briefing the Fiji Members before the Committee of the whole House sits next week, a slightly different parliamentary process compared to Vanuatu,” he said.
The Vanuatu Parliament Secretariat acknowledges the Japanese Government and New Zealand Government through UNDP Pacific Fiji for the initiative to help Vanuatu and Pacific Nationals to Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels (SDG16).