More than 50 civil society organization (CSO) representatives and illustrators from Fiji, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are on their way to being experts as they proceed into the second phase of the ‘Almost Experts’ mentorship program that will be virtually launched on 13 October 2021 at 11 a.m. (Fiji Time).
The programme is provided by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) through the Strengthening of Public Finance Management and Governance in the Pacific Project (PFM Project).
The second phase of the mentorship program will focus on developing budget submissions with the aim of influencing the prioritization of public funds. As part of the launch, a panel of experts from government, civil society and illustrators will share experiences and expectations in relation to budget submissions.
Over the last five weeks, as part of Phase I of the mentorship program, participants have been engaged online through the vakaPasifika Public Finance Management online learning platform and virtual live sessions with Pacific PFM experts. They were provided an overview of public finance management but more importantly what is entailed in the ‘oversight role’ that civil society is often expected to play in the management of public finances. Apart from Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) and Parliaments, civil society play a significant oversight role to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.
“Each year we receive budget to support for the elderly care, but we know it won’t be enough. And each year we, the Trustees, have to supplement the funds through ad-hoc fundraising. Completing the first part of the public finance mentorship programme, I can see we’re missing an opportunity to engage with the budget submission and to look at what the public funds are used for and better allocation of public money for the dignity of our elders. I’m looking forward to working on how to engage in that conversation,” said Rajneesh Lata Charan, Trustee and Vice-Chair of the Golden Age Home, Natabua, Lautoka, Fiji.
To facilitate understanding of this oversight role and the PFM project’s aspirations to contextualise PFM, Pacific illustrators were also part of the PFM mentorship program’s artists stream. They have been churning out insightful artwork that simplify key PFM concepts that everyday citizens can easily understand.
The capacity of CSOs varies widely in the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), and in many countries, capacity development support is required to enable CSOs to develop skills both in terms of gathering and focusing citizen perspectives, and in analyzing budgetary and financial management to input into national budgetary processes. Through the second phase of the mentorship program, the PFM project will stimulate discourse among all those involved and how fiscal transparency and citizen engagement can be encouraged, how citizens can be made more aware of how their public resources are being used, and how these measures can stimulate more open societies.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to learn the processes involved in learning how government allocates public funds. As a young person, it is even more critical to have this knowledge so that we can understand the role we play in ensuring accountability in the use of public money. I am now looking forward to learning more about influencing the priority setting of government through the formulation of proper budget submissions,” said Deffnie Thompson from the Vanuatu Youth Council.
The PFM project aims to strengthen oversight over public financial management in the Pacific region, though improving the budgetary scrutiny, public financial oversight and accountability capacities of parliaments, SAIs and civil society within the region, aligning with international public financial oversight and accountability standards, and fostering citizen engagement and oversight. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UNDP.
Source: UNDP Pacific Office, Fiji