World Bank International Conference on Legislative Oversight to Foster Accountability, Transparency and Sustainable Development

Jun 4, 2015

JUNE 4, 2015

Greetings and Acknowledgements

I am happy to have the opportunity to join you at this conference as you bring your discussions to a close. I am sure that over the last three days, you have discussed strategies and shared good practices with each other to strengthen the legislative oversight function of parliaments and foster accountability and transparency to achieve inclusive, sustainable and peaceful human development.
As you may have heard from the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Jamaica, Michael Peart, who in highlighting the three functions of the Parliament, viz., legislation, representation and oversight, indicated that “we are very weak in the oversight department because of lack of facilities, lack of resources.”

This conference has therefore been very timely. While sharing good practices with each other, I am sure an outcome would use the insights from this meeting to enhance the capacities of your respective Parliaments to oversee the operations of the Government. I must congratulate the co-sponsors of this event: the Parliament of Jamaica, the World Bank Group, Parliamentarians for the Americas, and the Inter-American Development Bank and UNDP for taking this initiative.
A transparent and accountable government is a sine qua non for any democratic system and hence the vital role of Parliaments. A parliament must ensure the accountability of the government to its citizens while ensuring that government policy and action are both efficient and meet the needs of the public.

It is not surprising that as we move to the Sustainable Development Goals (in the Post 2015 scenario) the Goal 16 pertains to ‘provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’. And this has been a consultative process.
In the UN system, UNDP has been the largest provider globally of parliamentary strengthening programming. UNDP has supported nearly 70 national parliaments of which, 26 are in Africa, 9 in the Arab States, 20 in Asia-Pacific, 8 in Europe and the CIS, and 7 from this region - Latin America and the Caribbean.

It has been an integral component of the strategy to strengthen political processes programming to improve inclusion and accountability (including financial) amongst parliaments, constitution-making bodies, and electoral management agencies, and widening opportunities for civic engagement and women’s political participation and leadership.

For instance, in Vietnam, UNDP is strengthening oversight at national and provincial levels. In Iraq, UNDP is training parliamentarians and supporting the establishment of a budget oversight office.

Another parliamentary budget office is being established with UNDP support closer to home, in Trinidad and Tobago. And, in partnership with the European Union and the World Bank, UNDP is assisting parliaments in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe and Timor-Leste to strengthen the technical and functional skills of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), National Parliaments, and Civil Society.

Some of the identified constraints facing parliamentarians and parliamentary oversight committees include:
• Inability of the Public Accounts Committees to meet regularly due to scheduling conflicts and other competing priorities of Parliamentarians (who are frequently ministers as well);
• Lack of support staff for Public Accounts Committees;
• And limited orientation for new parliamentarians in the working of these committees;

We have taken to heart comments by several Members of Parliaments expressing challenges being experienced by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) because of lack of technical support and systems and the need to ensure power and ‘teeth’ of the PAC and the PAAC so that they can do their work is done transparently and openly while making the findings accessible to the public through the media. And, of course PACs have an opportunity become even stronger by working closely with Supreme Audit Institutions such as the Auditor General’s Department.

There is therefore a need to strengthen parliamentary oversight including that of Public Accounts Committees through training and capacity building for parliamentarians (effective questioning; the budget cycle, etc.)
  • Development of risk based approaches to oversight and monitoring
  • Development of orientation process and training packages for parliamentary oversight committees;
  • Exploring the possibility of a regional oversight body to support the work of Parliamentary Advisory Committees
  • Increased engagement of the public and civil society in budgeting and budget oversight processes;

UN and UNDP in Jamaica, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Bermuda – for who I can speak - stand ready to work closely with parliaments while leveraging the lessons and good practices, globally, regionally from the Caribbean and mobilizing International Parliamentary Union, to meet the unmet demand.

  • This would include strengthening parliamentary committee systems;
  • Convening anti-corruption initiatives, including via the UNDP/GOPAC UNCAC self-assessment tool for parliamentarians; it is worth reviewing if you have not seen it;
  • Strengthening supreme audit institutions and looking to apply best practice to rules of parliamentary procedure to foster strong linkages between those institutions and parliaments.

And, the UN System must work together with our other development partners to ensure that the Government and the Parliament benefits optimally through synergy of our efforts and also with the Private sector – this is the core of building partnerships.

I particularly want to note that UN and UNDP Jamaica recognize the efforts of the Jamaican Parliament, and we stand ready to support the Parliamentarians, other staff, and committees in the institution’s efforts to strengthen its oversight function and enhance transparency and accountability and making sure that we do not deviate from the path of Vision 2030 Jamaica.

Thank you.

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