WBI Support to Public Accounts Committee in Liberia

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This is a contribution from Niall Johnston, Parliamentary Strenghtening Program, World Bank Institute

The Legislature of Liberia is a bicameral parliament consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives and follows a broadly US Congressional model for its parliamentary activities. Both Houses have committees, established under their respective rules of procedure, that deal with ex post scrutiny of public accounts – in the Senate, this is the Public Accounts and Audits Committee and, in the House of Representatives, it is the Public Accounts and Expenditures Committee.
In practice, to facilitate efficient financial oversight, the Senate and House of Representatives have created a Joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which functions as a Committee of the Legislature of Liberia. The PAC consists of the individual committees sitting in joint session with the Senate providing the Chairman and the House of Representatives providing the Co-Chairman. Reports from the PAC are submitted to both Houses.
The mandate of the Joint Public Accounts Committee is to:
• review audit reports produced by the General Auditing Commission (GAC);
• conduct investigations of the expenditure of public funds;
• investigate irregularities and other issues raised by the GAC;
• develop recommendations on government financial administration;
• ex-post scrutiny of the budget execution; and
• publication of reports.
Currently, the Legislature lacks sufficient staff to be able to allocate dedicated support to committees and so the joint PAC is supported by a secretariat provided by the Government of Liberia’s PFM Reform Programme (PFMRP), which is, in turn, supported by the World Bank Group. Three specialists in audit and accountancy act as consultants to the PAC and an administrator is also provided to support PAC operations.
By July 2014, it is hoped that this team of consultants will have been replaced by a group of young graduates from the PFM Academy that has been established as part of the PFMRP. These graduates, who have spent two years obtaining MBAs , will provide support to the PAC for up to four years, during which time, the intention is that the Legislature will take over their contracts, thereby providing a sustainable resource for the PAC.
As part of the World Bank Group’s support, WBI has provided technical support to the PAC and the PAC Secretariat through the following:
• drafting of joint PAC business processes and rules of procedures with the PAC Secretariat;
• provision of technical input in the drafting of PAC reports following public hearings;
• advising on a sustainable structure for the PAC Secretariat in the future;
• and drafting a framework for the PAC Secretariat operations manual.
Additionally, in February 2014, WBI delivered technical trainings on the budget process and PFM literacy to media practitioners and the PAC Secretariat. The training focused on understanding audit reports, guiding media coverage of audit reports, and simulating analysis of an audit report. The event was attended by 60+ journalists from a range of print and broadcast media outlets `and was followed by a workshop for PAC members, the PAC Secretariat, media, and CSOs  to discuss how to advance accountability of public finances in Liberia and the role of the joint PAC in examining government expenditures. The workshop was jointly organized by the PAC and WBI with cooperation of the Ministry of Finance, the Press Union of Liberia, and the National Civil Society Council of Liberia; 90 participants attended.