MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRICA: The African Union (AU) has slashed the Pan African Parliament budget for the 2020 financial year by US$4 million.
Although the PAP had requested and passed a budget of US$20,798,521 during its May 2019 plenary sitting in South Africa, US$16,408,177 was approved by the Executive Council of the African Union.
The Executive Council, composed of Foreign Ministers, coordinates and takes decisions on policies in areas of common interest to Member States and is answerable to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
The implication of the budget cuts is that the work at the continental Parliament will be negatively impacted as the available funds will no longer appropriately facilitate the activities that the continental Parliament undertakes to fulfill its mandate.
The cuts will affect staff costs, missions, communications, procurement, stationery, bank charges, capital expenditure and the programme budget.
The programme budget envelopes parliamentary sessions, statutory and non-statutory meetings, conference for Speakers, women and clerks, ratification of AU legal instruments, climate change, public hearing the women conference, Bureau and MPs allowances among others.
In the parliamentary system, most of the work for Parliament is generated by portfolio and thematic committees. In the case of the PAP, the missions generate business for the committees, which in turn generate business to be tabled and debated in the plenary. There are two statutory committee meetings (March and August) and two plenary meetings (May and October).
The PAP President, Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, faulted the AU for the cuts. “Without the work of committees, the money will not be used. It is the AU to blame because they are the ones that reduce our budget if it is not spent. If MPs do not work, we shall close this Parliament,” Hon. Nkodo told MPs at the opening of the session on Monday, 7 October 2019.
“The budget was passed and subsequently presented to the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) Sub Committee on Budgetary Affairs for consideration before presenting to the Executive Council for approval in compliance with the African Union Financial Rules and Regulations Article 11 (3),” the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs, Hon. James Teat Gony (South Sudan) told members in his report on the 2020 budget last week.
Hon. James Kakooza (Uganda) argued that despite the challenges the PAP is going to face with the budget cuts, the PAP also needs to improve on its financial and management practice as seen from various reports on the institution.
However, all hope is not lost as the PRC Sub Committee on budgetary affairs allows for AU organs and departments to request for supplementary budgets based on compliance with submission of periodic performance reports as well as acceptable budget execution rates.
With this possibility of addressing the financing gaps, a top level delegation from the PAP is scheduled to travel to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in November to meet the PRC and hammer out a deal that stay the budget.
“Since they invited us, I am hopeful that the decision will be reversed,” Hon. Gony said.
A decision was made by the AU Assembly of the Heads of State and Government that the overall budget of the African Union be decreased by US$32 million.
A committee of 15 Finance Ministers (F15) is responsible for oversight of the AU budget and Reserve Fund and have developed a set of ‘Golden Rules’, establishing clear financial management and accountability principles.
The AU organs and departments are expected to include more activities in their programme budget so as to shift the ratio of their operational budget to programme budget in order to achieve a 30 to 70 percent ratio.
The PAP also hit another funding snag when its proposed European Commission partner funded programme budget for 2020 of US$1 million for the new African Governance Architecture (AGA) was cut by nearly half to US$575,000 so as to remain within the overall budget ceiling provided as well as comply with the requirement to reduce dependence on external funding for programmes.