International Institute for Legislative Budget Staff Held in Nairobi Kenya
Five Parliaments recently sent staff delegations to Nairobi, Kenya to attend an international workshop on legislative budgeting and oversight. Legislative staff from Indonesia, East Timor, Liberia, Afghanistan and Kenya spent five days exploring the role of legislatures regarding national budget making and expenditure oversight. The Institute was sponsored by USAID and the US Congressional House Democracy Partnership. It was organized by SUNY/CID in collaboration with its SUNY Kenya Parliamentary Support Project and the Kenya National Assembly.
The Institute aimed to enhance legislative strengthening efforts in partner countries by providing the legislative staff of these parliaments the opportunity to learn about comparative budget review and oversight processes. The Institute featured instructors from both the Kenyan and US Legislative services who presented the models, processes, practices, and procedures used to ensure effective legislative control of the purse.
The Institute was hosted by the Kenya National Assembly, which has recently created a budget committee and the parliamentary budget office. Kenyan staff and experts team taught with staff from the US Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service and the House Appropriations and Budget Committees to share their experience with their international counterparts. The course counted upon ten trainers/resource persons, five US congressional staffers and five Kenyan experts. The Kenyan-US teamwork was exceptionally rewarding and successful. In addition to presenting procedures used in the U.S Congress, the training showcased the experience of the Kenya National Assembly—a long-standing USAID partner—who's budgeting and oversight functions have started to reach maturity and sustainability. It featured regional good practice sharing and practical discussions with expert facilitators about reforms, problem solving and common questions.
While longer-term results will need to be measured after six months, several nearer results can be observed. On post-training evaluation 100% participants reported that the workshop made a contribution to their ability to "effectively support members of those parliaments in the performance of their legislative duties and responsibilities." Participants rated the group information sharing and discussion sessions most highly, showing great appreciation for the networking and regional lesson learning opportunities presented at the institute. At the last session of the workshop, participants and expert facilitators worked together to identify future reforms as well as the timing and drivers of change or targets of opportunity for those reforms. HDP and its partners thus have a roadmap for charting follow-on support to partner parliaments.
In the words of the Hon. Kenneth Marende, Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly, "the outcome of this workshop is likely to improve the manner in which the budget is scrutinized. Access to information changes power and relations. A parliament that exercises its watchdog role reduces corruption and poverty."
Workshop topics were addressed through a mix of lecture and workshop methods and included the role of legislatures in enhancing prudent financial management, and how legal frameworks and technical support services can enhance that role. US congressional staff offered a comprehensive look at U.S. budget process and the Kenyan MPs and the Budget Office Director led presentations on how the Kenya National Assembly has improved its role in budgeting and control. US Congressional staff offered sessions on budget oversight and control, on linking sector research and budget analysis, and on complementary budget support programs. Special sessions were delivered also regarding how policy think tanks, networks and civil society interventions, donor financed initiatives can enhance legislative oversight. Several hands on workshops were also conducted regarding, budget analysis, macro-economic forecasting, cost estimates, revenue forecasting, public participation in oversight and control. The last workshop focused on joining experts and legislative staff in forward planning regarding how they might use the knowledge and skills gained to enhance oversight and control in their own institutions.
The Institute was highly rated by all participants, who expressed the need for more training. SUNY was particularly grateful to the Kenyan National Assembly for hosting the event with such a generous effort of both MP and staff time. The international lesson sharing was between legislatures at different stages of was particularly rewarding for all concerned.