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The group of participants from the seminar.

a scholar and authority on the role of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, in democratic societies, to stress the importance of improving transparency and governance. Additionally, he highlighted a few of the key initiatives that the university had currently undertaken in order to broaden the scope of interaction with global governance institutions and participants.

McGill scholars Mr Eli Turk and Mr Phil Oxhorn engaged the PBO delegates and facilitated the discussions, with Mr Turk stating that, “the most political among all the parliamentary instruments is the budget”.

Assistant Professor in

Department of Political Science at McGill, Manuel Balan, offered an analysis on Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws. These included the motivations for these laws, which comprised reducing information asymmetry, professionalizing government, and helping citizens understand policymaking. Professor Balan also included criticisms of these laws: FOI being used for window- dressing; scant usage of FOI laws, and the non-neutrality in the nature of information being sought which potentially served underlying agendas of users seeking FOI laws. Associate Professor Jon Unruh, McGill University, elaborated on the theme of transparency by considering

information asymmetry through the case study of Afghanistan. Information relating to land rights first went to members of the Afghan government in many provinces. Consequently these frictions in information led to the failure of reforming land rights procedures, because of the land-grabbing that these government agents committed due to a lack of transparency in the Afghan system.

The concern going forward is that land-grabbing issues can drag Afghanistan back into worse conflict, as powerful interests jump in to grab assets, and ordinary citizens turn to factions such as the Taliban for redress.

Open-budgeting and PBOs today

Mr Rongai Chizema of the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) discussed the current situation of open-budgeting in Parliaments at present, indicating that budget transparency remained weak globally including among Commonwealth members. Based on the Open Budget Survey for 2012 done by International Budget Partnership (IBP), 77 countries out of the 100 surveyed failed to meet the basic standards of budget transparency, yet the same countries hosted 50 per cent of the world’s population. However, there are

200 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three

reasons to be optimistic. There has been a slow improvement in budget openness, with a 20 per cent increase in budget transparency scores in 40 countries over the period 2006 – 2012. Furthermore, Commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, tended to do much better than the overall sample.

Mr Anthony Staddon from the University of Westminster provided an overview of the status of PBOs globally. This included the benefits of an independent analytical unit, as well as comparing and contrasting organizational options along the lines of independence, appointment, and accountability to Parliament. Recent experiences from three Commonwealth members, Kenya, Liberia and Uganda were also debated, and this was enhanced through stimulating feedback from the delegates.

Mr Khan added that there were two major drivers for the growth of PBOs.

• There was growth attributable to a decline in trust in the public sphere; and • There was a change in public expectations: the public was more conditioned to receive more data points; and individuals were more prepared to choose who they wanted to believe.

Country overviews and case clinics

Parliamentary Budget Office delegates from several Commonwealth countries held brief presentations to guide the seminar audience in contextualizing their current progress along PBO development. These countries included: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Bangladesh.

The presentations were bolstered by a series of workshops titled Case Clinics. Well-received by the participants, the case clinics were an opportunity for PBO delegates to focus their attention on three specific Commonwealth country cases: Nigeria (PBO is nascent, NABRO); Zambia (PBO yet to be implemented), and Zimbabwe (PBO yet to be implemented). The delegates broke out into three teams to deal specifically with the issues surrounding these three cases. In the case of Zimbabwe, there was a need to address the weak research and analytical capability of Parliament to effectively engage the executive in the budget process. There was also a need to decide whether to enact separate legislation for the PBO or include it under the administration of Parliament. The case clinic helped to highlight the situational difficulties as well since, despite the parliamentary reforms undertaken since 1999, the

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