To break the current trends of shrinking democratic space and increased inequality, it is important to ensure that the emergency powers – although vital in protecting health – are not used to shrink the democratic space.
Oversight of public spending in North Macedonia will foster trust
WFD works in North Macedonia to set up new ways to make state institutions more transparent, through increasing the level of scrutiny over public spending – which we believe will lead to a higher level of trust among citizens in key state institutions’ capabilities. One way which the Assembly is doing this is by setting up a Parliamentary Budget Office to provide independent and impartial information, analysis and advice on all aspects of public spending to the parliament.
On Friday 30 August, WFD’s Chair Richard Graham MP visited our Skopje office in North Macedonia and praised the work conducted by our team in collaborating and helping the parliamentary Assembly to improve its how it scrutinises spending public money. During his visit, Mr Graham met with civil society representatives who play an important role as partners in our work in the country as well as with MPs from all parliamentary groups.
During the meeting with President of Assembly Mr. Talat Xhaferi, Mr. Richard Graham confirmed WFD’s commitment to the process of establishing the Parliamentary Budget Office and praised the progress made so far.
“I’m delighted to hear that great progress is being made in establishing the Parliamentary Budget Office, an instrument which I had the chance to see and has a great effect in Serbia, where it allowed MPs, media and other stakeholders to push for more transparency.”
According to discussions during the meeting, WFD’s support has been crucial in establishing the Parliamentary Budget Office, building on work done by our team in Skopje over the past two years. North Macedonia’s progress in making institutional reforms that lead to increased transparency and accountability of public institutions is also one key element of its path towards European integration.
A new session in parliament, with a new composition, started in North Macedonia in 2017 and the WFD office in Skopje – with support of the UK Embassy – began a long-term programme of collaboration through a series of assessments looking into different aspects of the Assembly’s work. One of the assessments analysed the Assembly’s current practices of financial oversight.
The assessment was conducted by a joint team of local experts and experts from the Scottish Parliament and it concluded that one of the reasons why the Assembly is not able to do proper financial oversight is the lack of trained parliamentary staff that would be able to provide the MPs and the committees with relevant financial analyses and briefs.
Upon their recommendation, the WFD in North Macedonia initiated the process for establishing of the Parliamentary Budget Office that would fill in the existing gap. The need for establishing the office was confirmed in early 2018 at a conference in Wilton Park, in the UK, where MPs from all political parties in the Assembly agreed that this is necessary and will be beneficial for their work.
In December 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between WFD, the Assembly and the UK embassy which officially approved the start of the process and outlined the next steps. Following the MoU’s signing in early 2019, a high level delegation from the Assembly (that among others included the Speaker, Secretary General and the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee) visited the Scottish and the Serbian Parliament in order to get a first-hand experience of their colleagues, and the benefits from having such office.
Based on insights from the visit, as well as information provided in a comparative study that WFD prepared for this purpose, the Steering Board of the project decided in July 2019 on the model and mandate for the Parliamentary Budget Office. It is expected that the official decision for its establishment will be adopted in the first half of September.
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