UNDP supports the Establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office in Zanzibar

The power of the purse is one of the most important mandates of any legislature. Through proactive involvement in the management of public resources before, during and after expenditure, elected representatives promote prudent public finance management, and thus protect the national and public interests. In order to be effective, parliamentary involvement in the budget process cannot and should not be limited to merely passing estimates of expenditure presented by the Executive but must include participation in setting national development priorities on the basis of which budgets are drawn up. This can be done through meaningful engagement in the full budget cycle including in-depth analysis of the budget and expenditure patterns by parliamentary Committees, debate and approval of budgetary allocations, and enforcement of audit recommendations.                                                                    

By law, the Zanzibar House of Representatives (ZHoR) holds the power of the purse in Zanzibar. The role and processes through which the ZHoR is involved in the budget process are outlined in the constitutional and legal framework, and the parliamentary Standing Rules. Whereas the ZHoR does not have a dedicated budget committee, sectoral committees as well as the Committee of Chairpersons of the Standing Committees, play a crucial role in processing the budget before it is considered in the House. The ZHoR’s capacity to ensure that budgetary proposals and allocations match national development priorities depends on a number of factors including but not limited to access to adequate and accurate information on the financial health of the country as well as local and international trends in the economy, and ability to interpret the impact of such data on the budget.

One of the key outcomes of UNDP Tanzania’s Legislatures Support Project (LSP) relates to ensuring that the ZHoR (and the National Assembly) effectively and responsibly oversee the Government and budget activities of the Executive.  At the commencement of the project in 2011, it was noted that 50% of members of the ZHoR had insufficient knowledge of the budget cycle and the related oversight process. This was also confirmed by the LSP’s Capacity Assessment of Legislative Skills and Training Needs for Members of the ZHoR (2012) and also by the LSP’s Baseline Needs Assessment (April 2013).

Due to limited specialist skills within the legislature, ZHoR almost always rely on government officials from the ministries of finance and economic planning for information on the critical assumptions and projections of the country’s finances, debt portfolio, growth projections and other economic data. This hardly augurs well for effective parliamentary oversight and, stands askance, with the spirit of separation of powers.

Since 2011, the LSP has been providing training and technical support aimed at improving the capacity of legislators and staff to appreciate the relevant constitutional and legal framework and best practice on the budget process including the interpretation and enforcement of the recommendations of the Controller and Auditor General’s reports. In 2013, the LSP supported a feasibility study and in-depth discussions on the need for an independent budget office or unit within the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

On 29 June 2013, the ZHOR Steering Committee wholly endorsed the findings and recommendations of the feasibility study thus paving the way for a formal submission to the House Service Commission for the office to be established. The study posits the following as some of the generic functions of the proposed budget office:

·         Examination in detail of the Executive’s budget proposals;

·         Study budget proposals and trends and where appropriate, suggest changes in the content or format of such proposals or trends;

·         Prepare reports on budgetary projections and economic forecasts and options to reduce the budget deficit;

·         Establish and foster such relationships with the Ministry of Finance and with other national and international organizations, involved in budgetary and economic matters;

·         Provide economic forecasts that originate independently of the executive branch, interrogating underlying assumptions and risks;

·         Make baseline estimates of revenues and expenditures based on current laws, as well as debt and structural deficit projections;

·         Presentation of various options for the budget including spending cuts and increases, tax cuts and increases, and suggested implications of broad policy choices;

·         Scrutinizing proposals for new programmes and costing of new legislation, as well as policy briefs for the new programmes;

·         Monitoring and evaluation of government policies and programmes, and

·         Capacity building of parliamentary staff and Members.

The establishment of a budget office will significantly improve the scope and depth of the ZHoR’s role in the budget process in Zanzibar as envisaged by Outcome II of the LSP, namely Legislature effectively and responsibly oversees the Government and budget activities of the Executive. During the 2014 financial year, the LSP will support the ZHoR in designing of the proposed office, determination of its staffing and other resources, and facilitating discussions on appropriate legislation.

UNDP supports voter education.Villagers in Tabora Region rushing to get copies of voter education material during preparations for 2010

In democratic Governance UNDP is committed  to support  democratic institutions and processes with a view to enhance participation of women, youth and people with disabilities in political life and community activities that allows for peaceful democratic activities.

In emergencies the organisation focuses  on the enhancement of disaster management capacity of the government authorities and local communities to maintain an effective coordinated emergency preparedness and response.

Current Programmes:

The work of UNDP in governance focuses mostly on Support to elections, Legislature support, Ant corruption  support and legal sector reform in Zanzibar

UNDP has been  supporting   elections  since 2000 and on 2010  a $28 million election project for the 2010 general election was implemented.The project was  funded by UNDP and bi-lateral donors. The project was independently evaluated as a success in deepening democracy, contributing to peace in Zanzibar and ensuring value for money

Recently UNDP signed another agreement with NEC and ZEC to support the 2015 preparations for General election. The new  Democratic Empowerment Project  will be a four-year (January 2013- June 2016) UNDP, One UN and other donor-funded project with the overall aim of  strengthening the capacity of Electoral Management bodies  as a step toward preparations for the 2015 general elections

UNDP is also  implementing the Legislature Support project with   the National Assembly and the Zanzibar House of Representatives .The Project was designed at the request of both the National Assembly and the Zanzibar House of Representatives. The initiative builds on fours year of successful partnership support through the UNDP Deepening Democracy Project (2007-2010. In particular this new project contributes to the capacity development goals of the National Assembly’s Corporate Plan and the Zanzibar House of Representatives Strategic Plan which set out the dimensions and priorities for the further development of the Legislatures

However Since 2000 UNDP in Tanzania is a long-term anti-corruption partner because corruption undermines human development and democracy. It reduces access to public services by diverting public resources for private gain. In 2007 UNDP Tanzania contributed $1.2Million to National anti-corruption strategy and action plan (NACSAP II) over a four year period (2008-2011), which was extended through 2012. Other state, non-state actors and development partners were represented and actively engaged in the enhanced NACSAP Phase II through their participation in the NACSAP National Steering Committee and the annual National Anti-Corruption Forum.

UNDP played a significant role in the design of the new NACSAP, which in early 2013 is waiting Cabinet approval. Today UNDP is committed to support the implementation of NACSAP III as it has done with both previous generations of the flight against corruption in Tanzania.

UNDP is also working with the Zanzibar Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to support a comprehensive legal sector reform programme.In 2010/2011 UNDP supported the preparatory phase during which the capacity and needs assessment form legal sector institutions, assessment for justice needs and obstacles and donor mapping assessment were conducted. The findings of the assessments informed the formulation of the longer-term assistance for legal sector reform

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