By Aminata Ceesay
The National Assembly has recently re-launched and re-established the budget observatory platform in partnership with UNICEF the Gambia at the National Assembly building in Banjul.
The Gambia is among few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have registered substantial progress towards the attainment of the MDGs especially on the important goals of education, health and gender, some of which have already been achieved.
Speaking at the official re-launching, the Speaker of the House, Mariama Jack Denton, said being mindful of the ever-growing socio-economic, political and environmental challenges, as well as the ever-changing demographic tendencies and escalating inequality, governments across Africa have begun to advance further in public finance management and other social protection programmes.
“You will agree with me that there is increased appreciation of social protection policies and programmes in Africa as an active tool to address not only overall poverty and inequality, but also to improve the fulfilment of children’s rights to development, protection and survival in Africa and the Gambia in particular.
“Evidence indicates that public expenditure reviews, public finance for children and social protection programmes, as intended and if well designed, could meaningfully contribute to the progressive realization of children’s rights (and other vulnerable groups) and public finance management strategies,” she added.
Also speaking, the social protection specialist, UNICEF regional office, Benjamin Sivasima, said: “UNICEF’s involvement in budget process usually focuses on four common areas of work, conducting baseline analysis of the budget and its process, enhancing transparency, accountability and public participation; influencing budget allocations in favour of children and strengthening monitoring and oversight mechanisms, and improving implementation to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of public spending.
“Appreciating the national assembly’s strong mandate in public scrutiny, legislation and monitoring of government’s performances in fiscal policy management renders budgetary planning and allocation more accountable and transparent.”
Rupert Leighton, UNICEF Deputy Representative, said: “The major goal of setting up the BOP is to support the national assembly in monitoring and evaluation of public expenditure as part of fulfilling its legislative mandate and also advocate for more effective resource allocation mechanism on social protection programmes. In the long term, this will contribute to strengthen oversight role of the national assembly as well as supporting the budgetary and finance committee of the National assembly.”