The coordinator of the African Development Bank (AfDB) funded Institutional Support for Economic and Financial Governance (ISEFG) Project has said that budget is an integral part of public finance management.
Saffie Dambaleh made this remark on Monday during the opening of the two-day pre-budget workshop organised by the National Assembly in collaboration with the AfDB and UNDP for National Assembly members at the Paradise Suites Hotel.
He explained that the project is an institutional support initiative that has capacity building as its core agenda, adding that through the innovative efforts of the AfDB Project Appraisal Team and in consultation with government the idea of running series of training in budget and policy review for members was conceived.
According to him, The Gambia like many other African countries has in recent years made significant progress in public financial management through the setting-up of regulatory and supervisory oversight bodies, improved efforts on budget management and accounting tax administration and public procurement.
"In specific terms, the government of The Gambia undertook the initiative by setting up a centralised revenue collection body- Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), introduced an Integral Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), Gambia Bureau of Statistic (GBoS), Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA)," he stated.
This move by government, Dambaleh further stated, was aimed among other things to enhance revenue collection of government, improved government budget management, accounting and financial reporting; provide guidance, increase transparency and accountability for public procurements as well as oversee the process; and to provide relevant and reliable data for proper planning.
His continued: "Most importantly, the government has also not lost sight of the importance of having independent public oversight bodies. This is demonstrated by the establishment of the National Audit Office, a semi-autonomous agency; Internal Audit Directorate and the Public Finance and Accounts Committee of the National Assembly to help improve transparency and accountability in government departments and public agencies."
Dambaleh observed that there still remained challenges for public finance management in most parts of Africa and The Gambia in particular because of the dire need for better institutional and human capacity.
On his part, Doudou Kebbeh, the clerk of the National Assembly, reminded NAMs of the importance of the workshop, noting that it was organised at a time when the National Assembly is going to debate on the 2013 Budget estimates. While describing the workshop as a well thought one, he urged the members to utilise the knowledge gained.
During the course of the two-day convergence, series of power point presentations were conducted, among them -the understanding of national budget cycler processes and analysis on 2013 budget estimates; an overview of the Gambia economy (challenges and potentials for growth) and the analyses of the budget estimates 2013 for agricultural, educational, and health sectors.
Meanwhile, deputies will start the debate on the 2013 budget estimate today, Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul.