The Italian Chamber of Deputies hosted the first annual meeting of OECD parliamentary budget officials in Rome, 26-27 February 2009. The term "parliament" is used as a generic term to refer not only to parliaments, but also to congresses, national assemblies, and legislatures.
The meeting opened with a welcome address by Rosy Bindi, Vice-President of the Italian Camera dei deputati.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Keynote address: "The Role and Capacity of Parliaments in the Budget Process" by Allen Schick.
Profiles of parliamentary budget institutions: During this first meeting of parliamentary budget officials, a special emphasis was placed on profiling the parliamentary budget institutions of different OECD countries, to allow participants to exchange information and to keep up to date with developments. Parliamentary budget institutions include such bodies as independent parliamentary budget offices and specialised units dedicated to technical support or research for parliamentary budget committees, as well as specialised professional staffs of parliamentary budget committees.
Friday, 27 February 2009
Complex legislative oversight: economic assumptions, fiscal risks, and long-term fiscal sustainability: Various aspects of the government’s budget are inherently technical, which poses challenges for effective legislative oversight. This includes the economic assumptions underlying the budget; various fiscal risks, such as contingent liabilities; and measures to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability. The current financial crisis has served to highlight these issues. This session discussed the various approaches parliaments have used to conduct effective oversight in this area and the role of parliamentary budget officials in supporting them.
Modern budget reform and the impact on parliaments: Parliament’s power of the purse has traditionally been based on approving the budget on a detailed input basis – i.e. each activity is specified in detail in the approved budget. The hallmarks of modern budgeting involve reducing such input controls and giving more lump-sum global appropriations with accountability based on performance in terms of outcomes and outputs. However, the use of performance information for oversight purposes is difficult. Some countries have also introduced full or partial accruals for their budget, further complicating the legislature’s oversight role. This session discussed the various approaches parliaments use to maintain their power of the purse in this new environment and the role of parliamentary budget officials in supporting them.
Transparency and citizen engagement: Transparency and citizen engagement are key tenets of good governance. The budget is the single most important policy document of governments, where policy objectives are reconciled and implemented in concrete terms. The application of transparency and citizen engagement with the budget is therefore of profound importance. This session discussed the level of budget transparency – the full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information in a timely and systematic manner – and the mode of budget transparency, including the structure and content of budget documentation. The focus was on the use of such information by both parliaments and the general public. The session also discussed public participation in the budget process and its impact on parliament’s role in that process, as well as how parliaments engage with the public, including various civil society organisations.