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A collaboration between McGill University and the World Bank Institute, brought together Parliamentary Budget Officers, Parliamentarians, academics and other experts from over a dozen, principally Commonwealth, countries to Montreal for the “Seminar on Open Government, Information and Budget Transparency”, held between June 17-9 2013.

Mr Usman W. Chohan,McGill University Mr Chohan is a candidate in the Accelerated MBAProgram at McGill University with a concentration in Strategy and Leadership. His areas of interest include Parliamentary Budget Offices, anti- corruption initiatives, and parliamentary reform. He previously served as the Special Situations Analyst in the Global Equities Team at Natcan Investment Management, the investment arm of the National Bank of Canada.

“The future is not secrecy, the future is transparency; we are helping create that future.”

Kevin Page, former Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada

Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs), due to their significance as a tool for greater budgetary transparency and oversight, are a growing phenomenon in Commonwealth countries at both the national and subnational level. Beginning with Uganda over 12 years ago, popularity of PBOs has since spread to Canada, Australia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, among other Commonwealth members. Of greater import, an ever growing number of Commonwealth countries are expressing interest in establishing PBOs with a view to improving parliamentary oversight capabilities. As the appeal of PBOs continues to broaden among Commonwealth countries, there is an ever greater need for enhanced cohesion and communication between the PBOs. At present, budget offices in the Commonwealth community lack sufficient opportunities to learn

198 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three

from one another, and the Montreal seminar was a step towards filling that void.

Accordingly, delegates to the Montreal seminar recommended that the community of parliamentary budget officers form a Community of Practice that would bolster the technical capacity of PBOs through knowledge exchange, experience sharing, and the identification of best practices. To this effect the seminar provided a forum for knowledge exchange between Commonwealth PBOs and identified a roadmap for the Community of Practice going forward.

The Community of Practice The PBO delegates agreed to form a symbiotic group, named by the participants as the Global Network of Parliamentary Budget Officers (GNPBO). It would allow for dynamic and organic experience and information sharing between members using a variety of cutting- edge tools and collaborative mechanisms. The formation of the GNPBO was the culmination point of the three-day seminar; the fruit of

a comprehensive series of lectures, workshops, group reflections, case clinics, and debates that allowed participants to coalesce into an extremely active and highly motivated community. The process of galvanizing all of the PBO members seemed to occur seamlessly, as many of the delegates were struck by the universality of the issues that they faced, allowing delegates to easily find vast common ground amongst their peers. The inclusion of experts and academics, principally but not solely from McGill University, helped to guide the seminar sequentially as various aspects of founding the Community of Practice for PBOs were methodically covered. Furthermore, the Canadian PBO illuminated the discussion by presenting a set of tools in addition to their perspectives from the five years of experience that they accumulated in their institutional memory. The Montreal seminar was a clear demonstration of the commitment from the WBI, McGill University, and above all from the Commonwealth members who dedicated themselves to the newly formed GNPBO, towards

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