SADC members review programme and training for members of FPAC |20 May 2022
The Southern African Development Community Organisation of Public Accounts Committee (SADCOPAC) in collaboration with the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) is organising a Peer Review Programme and training for members of FPAC and officials supporting the Committee from May 17-22, 2022.
A special two-day workshop started yesterday at Savoy Resort & Spa to focus mainly on these objectives.
The objectives of the workshop are to discuss the role and objectives of SADCOPAC and the progress on the implementation of SADCOPAC conference resolutions and Good Practice Guide; advocate the empowering members of parliament (MPs) of member states to effectively carry out their functions of oversight over public sector finances as well as promoting good governance in the region and strengthen the capacity of the members of the Public Accounts Committees and similar committees in SADC member countries.
The participants at this workshop were members of the Finance & Public Accounts Committee, technical staff supporting oversight committees (clerks, researchers, staff from auditor general’s offices), office bearers of SADCOPAC, SADCOPAC technical working group and SADCOPAC secretariat.
The leader of the opposition, Sebastien Pillay, shared that this workshop is very important for the country. “Seychelles has made lots of progress on the way we conduct oversight on public accounts and in most cases, the meetings go live on television and radio. If there had not been Covid-19, there would be possibility for people to attend the proceedings live. But in many countries in the region, circumstances and configuration are different. In Seychelles our Auditor General is more independent than many of the countries in the region. In SADC countries there are many huge companies and also the government functions differently. The role of SADCOPAC is to establish that benchmark and Seychelles is being considered among others as a country who is a model practitioner.”
Mr Pillay also noted that our laws regarding Public Finance Management is among the modern laws in the region. “SADC has brought a new law that was prepared by some British consultants but it does not reflect the independence that these institutions should have. Today we have come together to see how, in our context, we will maintain this independence. This is what makes us do our job with independence.
Mr Pillay mentioned about the Committee for Government Assurance (COGA) which works side by side with FPAC and their role is crucial. “FPAC looks into the financing part and COGA looks into the delivery. Our system allows us to do effective oversight, now it depends on the individuals on the Committee and Government also does not make it easy for us in some circumstances. This is an issue I will keep fighting for and respect for the National Assembly should be maintained and remains the oversight body. When people see me raising up an issue, they should understand that we are doing it so that we maintain a system.”
Addressing the delegates, the chairperson of SADCOPAC, Warren Mwambazi from PAC Zambia, thanked Seychelles for hosting such an important activity for their organisation as they ensure to have an effective collaboration between the SADC members to ensure that in various parts of our region carry out their oversight mandate effectively. “We are here to ensure that we sharpen one another and learn from each other and also continue benchmarking so that we can provide our functions as Public Account Committees. Our first priority towards our country is to ensure that there is proper service delivery in the public sector and the management of public finances. This can be achieved if we have robust collaboration from the comptroller’s office, Auditor General and accounting agencies.”
Mr Mwambazi spoke about training for members of the National Assembly as there is a high turnover so that the honourable members are well equipped to carry their mandate. “Our countries are facing issues such as illicit transfer of funds etc. SADC Parliamentary Forum as well SADCOPAC are being referred as a model on Public Financial Management. This is one of tools we are trying to push and foster to ensure that we have one common purpose on how to handle some of these challenges in the region. In the workshop we will see to it that we come up with the best practices that will benefit all member states,” shared the chairperson of SADCOPAC.
In his keynote address, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Roger Mancienne, talked about the wonderful collaboration the National Assembly has with SADC and how the different committees are working in collaboration.
“The FPAC has a strong role in oversight of the work of the Executive and therefore of the system of the Government in general. Among other committees in the National Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee is the jewel as it looks after people’s money and this is an important responsibility.”
Mr Mancienne also talked about how the FPAC works in Seychelles and noted that the FPAC is enshrined in our Constitution and there is no better recognition than this. “If you are going to be a public body, you need the authority to be enshrined in the Constitution. Without the proper legislations, the PAC will not know how they can operate. The second factor is that the PAC needs to be independent of the Executive and also from the leading party of the Parliament and for Seychelles it is the leader of the opposition who is the chair of the committee. The members of the leading party are also included. They should not face undue pressure from politics or from the machinery of the government!”
The Speaker of the NA also pointed out that the PAC cannot be restricted to very narrow spheres of financial management or procedures, they need to have a very broad mandate to look into whatever it is they think is necessary.
“The inclusion of Finance in our committee does add to the dimension of work the committee has to do. In order to do their work properly, the PACs need to have the cooperation of all entities and authorities concerned. It needs the cooperation of everyone.”
Speaker Mancienne concluded his address by hoping that this workshop will address the SADCOPAC good practice guide on PAC and similar committees and also “to see what we can do to make our FPACs more effective because as FPAC goes, so goes the whole of the National Assembly. A healthy FPAC makes a healthy parliament.”
He thanked the chairman of the FPAC as well as the FPAC for their work and dedication towards their work.
Photos by Louis Toussaint