Speaker of the National Assembly Hon Justice Dr Patrick Matibini, MP, SC, has said that there is need to have a strong parliamentary oversight accountability committee system which should play a critical role in the prudent utilisation of public resources. He said that such a system would provide checks and balances required to ensure a properly functioning and transparent public financial management.

Dr Matibini was speaking on Monday, 5th November, 2018 at Parliament Buildings when he opened a training workshop for Members of the Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Local Government Accounts and Committee on Parastatal Bodies.

Dr Matibini mentioned that he was cognisant of the fact that the Members of Parliament (MPs) were aware of the most important tools in the implementation and realisation of government programmes in the budget. In this regard, he said that it was also necessary to institute corresponding mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilisation of public resources.

The capacity enhancement workshop which was held with the support of the European Union (EU) was aimed at training MPs and some staff on the Public Finance Management Act no. 1 of 2018 of the Laws of Zambia and also sensitise them on the recently released Report of the Auditor General on the Accounts for the year ended December, 2017.

He reminded the MPs that they had the formal powers to keep the Executive accountable for their actions and policies and therefore, challenged them to use their mandate to effectively ensure that the Executive adheres to prudent public financial management principles, including maintaining aggregate fiscal discipline. Dr Matibini added that the MPs must ensure that public resources are used equitably, efficiently, effectively and accountably.

Dr Matibini also thanked the EU for the partnership and its commitment to improving public financial management and enhancing transparency, accountability and good governance.

Earlier, Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Ms Cecilia Sikatele, stated that the Committees such as the Public Accounts, Parastatal Bodies and the Local Government Accounts play a very important role in holding the Government accountable for the utilisation of scarce public resources, including the use of resources availed to local authorities and state owned enterprises. Ms Sikatele said that PACs and other similar Committees play a critical role in ensuring that public funds are spent effectively, efficiently and economically for the benefit of the public.

She explained that parliamentary oversight, through financial accountability Committees, can help provide the checks and balances needed to ensure a proper functioning and transparent value for money in public financial management. Ms Sikatele added that the effectiveness of these Committees is thus critical in ensuring that quality service is delivered to the public.

Ms Sikatele pointed out that the power to oversee all public expenditure provides the financial accountability Committees with a broad mandate and a fairly large target audience. It also gives them a vantage point with respect to a wide range of public services. Because of their wide mandate, these Committees have the potential to deter wasteful expenditure and other wrongdoing and encourage better management of public resources and she said that was why the Institution had continued to invest in and support activities which are aimed at sharpening MPs’ technical skills.

The two-day EU sponsored training workshop engaged eminent experts to help capacitate the Parliamentarians on public finance management.