The paper "Assessing the Role of Parliament in the Budget Process Using The Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Framework" is part of Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s (WFD) eight-part series on financial accountability and focuses on how the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Framework can be used to assess the role of parliament in the budget process. It examines:
• how the PEFA can be used to assess parliamentary oversight capacity;
• the criteria used by the PEFA to assess the role of parliament in the approval and oversight stages of the budget;
• how to supplement this information with other data, with emphasis on the Open Budget Survey (OBS) data; and
• the PEFA treatment of gender responsive budgeting (GRB)
As a comprehensive PFM assessment tool, the methodology and published results from the PEFA Framework can be used for a multiplicity of reasons. This includes honing in on parliament’s role in the budget process, both ex-ante and ex-post. While helpful for assessing parliamentary scrutiny of the EBP, PEFAs approach to assessing ex-ante approval of the budget appears principally concerned with parliament’s role as an efficient and predictable player in the budget process. Information regarding the actual time spent by parliament scrutinising the EBP - and the manner in which this scrutiny is conducted - is required. It should also be noted that the PEFA Framework does not address the role of parliament in the formulation phase of the budget: namely, scrutiny of the PBS. Additionally, given the technical nature of budget documents, a better understanding of the research support provided to parliaments would be helpful. In the absence of research support, the likelihood of parliament’s effective review of the budget is severely diminished. With respect to ex-post oversight and the review of the SAI reports, the PEFA is more prescriptive. Criteria for ex-post budgetary review includes in-depth committee hearings, as well as issuing recommendations to audited entities and standards for public access to committee hearings. One improvement to supplement the information provided in the PEFA would be to look beyond the audited financial statements to other types of audit reports such as performance audits, which can provide a more robust analysis of governments’ service delivery. Finally, it should be noted that the new PEFA gender module is the PEFA Secretariat’s first attempt to incorporate GRB into a PFM assessment. Unfortunately, given that the gender module is not integrated into the main PEFA assessment, countries and subnational units can opt out of the gender module.