Project Steering Committee in Ghana reviews governance structure of five-year African program

On December 9th 2013, the Parliamentary Centre facilitated a project steering committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, as part of the Centre’s Africa Parliamentary Strengthening Program (APSP). The meeting was intended to create a platform for stakeholders and/or partners to review, discuss and solidify planned activities for the program’s final phase.

The APSP is a five-year program that has engaged seven partner parliaments across Africa, including Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, to develop and implement strategies to strengthen their overall role and engagement in the national budget process.

This meeting provided stakeholders with the opportunity to engage in dialogue about consolidating and sustaining gains made in the partner parliaments. MPs and parliamentary staff from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal Tanzania and Zambia were in attendance, while representatives from Benin and Uganda were unable to attend. Also present at the meeting was the CEO and President of the Parliamentary Centre, Jean-Paul Ruszkowski; Deputy Director (Development Section)- Canadian High Commission of Ghana, Dr. Cheryl Gopaul-Saikali; Deputy Clerk of the Parliament of Ghana, Mr. Cyril Nsiah; members of the APSP Advisory Board as well as representatives of the Africa Parliamentarians’ Network Against Corruption (APNAC).

On behalf of the Parliamentary Centre, Dr. Draman thanked all partners for their support and cooperation over the last five years. He also expressed gratitude to the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada for their support to the Centre’s parliamentary development work, specifically at a time when other donors were apprehensive to become involved in a field that was not only very new, but perceived to be very political in nature. Dr. Draman reiterated the goal of the APSP, and mentioned that despite its achievements, much remains to be done in terms of building the capacity of MPs and enhancing their role and authority in the budget process.

Jean-Paul Ruszkowski spoke about the sustainability of the Centre’s achievements, which include working with the leaders of Partner Parliaments to introduce reforms aimed at improving the capacities of Parliamentarians and Parliament as an institution. He indicated that parliaments in the select countries have opened up, especially the Finance and Budget Committees, which shows an increased willingness to be accountable to the citizenry.

At the inception of the APSP, there were few parliamentary budget offices in the world. However, currently all participating Anglophone parliaments under the APSP have established, or are in the process of establishing, a Budget Office, and Francophone countries have made important progress in enhancing their authority and role in the budget process through the new UEMOA directives. Moreover, the wide acceptance of the African Parliamentary Index (API) as an African-led initiative, as well as the adoption of social accountability tools such as community score cards, are indications that methods and procedures required for improving accountability are being absorbed.

The Deputy Director (Development Section) at the Canadian High Commission in Ghana, Dr. Cheryl Gopaul-Saikali delivered a speech at the meeting in which she praised the Centre’s efforts in strengthening Parliamentary institutions. Dr. Gopaul-Saikali highlighted successes and achievements of the APSP, such as the annual post budget workshop held in Ghana, which to a great extent has improved the debate on government budgets and economic policies.

Participants at the PSC were provided with updates on activities implemented since the last meeting. The planned activities and budget for the close-out phase was also shared with stakeholders. After engaging in extensive discussions, the Parliamentary Centre and its partners agreed upon the work plan and budgets moving forward. Partner parliaments took turns to share their future priorities and collaborations beyond APSP, and measures for consolidating APSP results were highlighted. Some of these measures include; the establishment of parliamentary budget offices, budget law, and continuous capacity building efforts to herald major reforms in the participating parliaments. These discussions underscored parliament’s role in the budget process as central to the democratisation of public finance management.

The Chairman of the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC) Hon. Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu was grateful to the Parliamentary Centre for the support provided to the Network. He mentioned that in the last five years, the Centre has supported 7 out of the 21 APNAC national chapters under the APSP; thus, strengthening oversight responsibility of MPs, especially in the area of anti-corruption. Beyond APSP, APNAC looks forward to collaborating with the Centre in the extractives sector to ensure parliamentarians oversee the judicious use of revenues from the sector.

Concluding the meeting, Mr. Ruszkowski touched on future collaborations and emphasized that the emergence and development of extractives on the African continent and its role in creating jobs, investment and general living standards is a complex system that will require good governance and management of the resources if gains are to be made. In this regards, he advocated for support to Africa in the area of extractives sector governance, at both the national and regional levels.

During the meeting it was also announced that Dr. Rasheed Draman will move on to seek new opportunities, and on behalf of the Parliamentary Centre, Mr. Ruszkowski expressed his gratitude to Dr. Draman for the valuable contributions he has done both to the Centre and the partner parliaments over the years, which was also reiterated by all partner representatives present. It was also announced that he will be replaced by a team lead by Ms. Gifty Adika as Regional Director for Africa, also composed of Mr. Adams Fusheini as Regional Program Manager and Mr. Thomas Ayinbila as Regional Financial Manager.

At the end of the meeting, stakeholders expressed gratitude to the Centre, and were particularly impressed with the opportunity to participate in decisions regarding program implementation, which in their view fosters ownership of the APSP in their respective parliaments.

The APSP is a five-year program that has engaged seven partner parliaments across Africa, including Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, to develop and implement strategies to strengthen their overall role and engagement in the national budget process.