Serbian MPs’ ability to scrutinise public spending will be boosted from today by the launch of a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).
The new body is the result of a longstanding collaboration between the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia (NARS) and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) on parliamentary strengthening work across the Western Balkans region.
Today marks the start of the PBO’s development as an Office providing analysis for MPs on Serbia’s economy, the Government’s Budget’s proposals, and other legislation which deals with fiscal issues. After an initial capacity-building period working together with partners from the Scottish Parliament, responsibility for the PBO will be transferred from WFD to the NARS.
Deputy Speaker of the NARS and Chairman of the Committee for Finance, State Budget and Control of Public Spending, Mr Veroljub Arsic, said:
“Starting today, the National Assembly and the Committee for Finance, State Budget and Control of Public Spending have another tool in conducting financial scrutiny – the Parliamentary budget office. The National Assembly has great expectations from this Office, because it should secure help and support for MPs during the budget process, especially the process of reporting and finalising the budget.”
The Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, said:
“The robust scrutiny of public finances is a key function of any parliament and it is a measure of the success of our Financial Scrutiny Unit that it is being used as a model by the National Assembly of Serbia. I am pleased to see this positive outcome from the Scottish Parliament’s work with the National Assembly and I hope that our two Parliaments will continue to cooperate in the years to come.”
WFD has worked closely with the Serbian Parliament in the past, first through a two-year programme in 2011-13 and then through the Network of Parliamentary Committees which has strengthened cooperation across the Western Balkans.
Now WFD’s staff will be based in the Serbian Parliament itself as they seek to achieve the establishment of the PBO, develop a more robust system of financial oversight, and increase capacity of the NARS’s staff and committees.
“This Office will provide MPs with practical assistance which will directly help their scrutiny of financial matters,” WFD Chief Executive Anthony Smith said.
“Its development is a great example of what we can achieve by working in partnership with parliaments and sharing democratic experience from across the UK.”
Notes to editors
1. The PBO will initially employ 5 researchers.
2. WFD has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Serbian Parliament which ensures the PBO will become an integral part of the NARS over the course of WFD’s 2.5-year programme.
3. Ms Gojkovic used a visit to Westminster in November 2014 to announce plans for the PBO following meetings with the House of Lords’ Lord Speaker and the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer.
4. The establishment of a PBO builds on previous work that WFD has done with the Network of Parliamentary Committees (NPC) which is comprised of 25 parliamentary committees on economy, finance and European integration from across the Western Balkans.
5. The Financial Scrutiny Unit (FSU) is part of the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre and provides independent analysis and support to Scottish Parliament committees and individual Members on budgetary trends and issues, including independent costings of specific spending proposals, as well as research on all areas of the economy and public finances as they affect the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. Scrutiny of Scottish Government spending is a core part of the role of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Its remit covers:
• supporting MSPs in undertaking effective budget scrutiny;
• producing financial costings and analysis; and
• providing economic information and analysis.
The FSU produces briefings on a range of areas such as the economy, finance, local government, and the business environment (see: Scottish Parliament website).
6. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) helps strengthen parliaments and political parties in developing countries and countries in transition to democracy. Its programmes aim to build policy capacity so that public policy processes are open, consultative and evidence-based, strengthen accountability so that parliaments and political parties hold other government institutions and actors to account and are accountable themselves to their constituents and stakeholders, improve representation so that parliaments and political parties represent their constituencies effectively and are representative of the interests and needs of their citizens as a whole, and increase citizen participation so that citizens, particularly women, youth and other marginalised groups, have greater access to and a more active role in parliamentary and political processes.