< Moses Magadza
Accountability in public resources management is a cross-cutting issue which transcends the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), and which calls for the coordinated work of all non-state actors.
This was said by Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum secretary general Boemo Sekgoma in a keynote address at the start of a three-day regional dialogue for non-state actors (NSAs) in Johannesburg on 13 September.
Civil society organisations from across southern Africa were meeting to assess progress of the implementation of SADC’s 10-year strategy, the RISDP 2020-30.
The hybrid event, which ended on 15 September, included parallel regional and national meetings in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and virtual participation on Zoom.
Sekgoma said NSAs have a predominant role on calling on governments to account for set commitments, and on requesting for social change.
“Non-state actors also have a paramount role to play to interface with parliament to guide and build the capacity of MPs on technical themes which require legislative, budgetary or oversight interventions.
“In other words, NSAs are the informers of parliament, which is a quintessential feature of a participatory democracy,” Sekgoma noted.
According to her, from a parliamentary perspective, accountability is an imperative part of any programme or plan of action, and it ensures the prompt delivery of measurable results.
Giving a brief description of the purpose of the RISDP 2020-30, she said it is the overarching document that aims to guide socio-economic development across SADC’s 16 member states.
The RISDP and SADC’s Vision were adopted by the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in August 2020, and the regional implementation plan was approved by the SADC Council in August 2021. “I am advised that only the regional investment plan remains outstanding, and is due to be approved by the SADC Council in March 2023,” Sekgoma said, adding that with the regional and national plans now clearly defined and costed, SADC member states are to share these with the citizens, and ensure a clear understanding of their meaning and potential impact.
“This is necessary for civil
society and oversight bodies, such as national parliaments, to hold their governments accountable for their resourcing and implementation,” she observed.
While the meeting was focused on the cross-cutting development themes of health, agriculture, climate change, youth and women’s empowerment, Sekgoma said the RISDP also speaks to areas of regional integration, peace, security and good governance; industrial development and market integration; infrastructure development in support of regional integration; social and human capital development, as well as disaster risk management.
“While these are topics in the regional plan, they also appear in all our national development plans, and are resourced through our national budgets,” she stated.
She then spoke of the SADC PF, and its linkages to the RISDP in view of guiding deliberations on accountability on the RISDP through Parliament.
“The SADC PF is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of 15 member parliaments and representing over 3 600 MPs. The SADC PF is all about transparency and accountability of government through parliamentary initiatives,” she said.
The SADC PF works to capacitate its members on regional issues, to ensure national parliaments consider these in their deliberations, and in exercising their oversight role.
“Its main aim is to provide a platform for parliamentarians to promote and improve regional cooperation and diplomacy in the region, and in particular to address the milestones and targets under the RISDP,” said Sekgoma.
The SADC Treaty will also soon be amended to recognise a SADC Parliament with consultative and deliberative functions.
According to Sekgoma, one of the key roles of SADC PF, and the future SADC Parliament, is to work with experts across the region and internationally to define and develop model laws.
These laws are developed on themes which are important to the RISDP, and they provide a tremendous advocacy tool to civil society in mobilising their states to reform and modernise their laws accordingly.
“Last year, the SADC PF drafted and approved model laws on gender-based violence and public financial management, both of which many people in this meeting contributed to,” she said.
The Model Law on Public Financial Management (PFM), which the SADC PF adopted at its plenary in July 2022, seeks to revitalise and modernise the PFM frameworks of SADC member parliaments at a time when accountability by the executive in the management of public funds has become an issue of central public significance.
“It is our hope that this model law will pave the way for a region that is financially transparent, accountable and efficient, with parliaments exercising adequate and timely oversight,” said Sekgoma.
Parliamentarians, as elected officials representing their constituencies, play a critical role throughout the PFM cycle. PFM policies vary by country and can cover issues related to tax law, budget management, debt management, subsidies and state-owned enterprises.
She explained that the SADC Model Law on GBV promotes the view that both men and women are to be treated equally, thus ensuring that women partake on equal footing with men in socio-economic development anticipated by the RISDP.
“Non-state actors are thus encouraged to engage fully on the RISDP, using the model laws developed by the Forum as a springboard to demand norms that favour accountability.
She then turned to the agricultural sector, saying SADC countries made commitments to several continental and regional instruments, including the Maputo Declaration, which calls for member states to increase agricultural budget allocations to 10% of the gross domestic product, and to pursue agricultural growth of 6% in addition to setting up the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Other instruments are the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) of 2013 and the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP) for the period 2017-2022, amongst others.
These frameworks are now coupled with Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to achieve food security and ‘zero hunger’, and the goal enshrined in Africa Agenda 2063 to promote modern agriculture for increased productivity and production.
“Despite such efforts, it has been noted that member states struggle to make progress in agriculture, partly due to a lack of accountability and transparency in the use of public resources in implementing agricultural programmes.
Public resources management thus remains a live issue, which needs to be progressively addressed by both state and non-state actors.
Many countries in the world face challenges related to financial mismanagement of public resources such as poor financial reporting practices, weak internal control systems, weak financial administration, unethical relationships with vendors of agricultural supplies and a rushed spending of budgest at the end of the budget year. This, coupled with corruption in government contracts or licences for agricultural supplies, make it difficult for agriculture to thrive,” she stressed.
Sekgoma said strong gender disparities have likewise been observed in agriculture and other areas. While formal jobs are mostly taken by men, menial ones, which are informal in nature, are mainly done by women, and at lower
“This is aggravated by a higher rate of school dropouts for young girls due to early and unintended pregnancies or child marriages. Women and young girls also face more challenging obstacles to access public health than men. These prevailing gaps have to stop,” she emphasised.
She added: “Building on both the RISDP and the Model Law on PFM, national parliamentarians – and indeed any citizens and civil society organisations – will play a critical role in holding the executive accountable for developing and resourcing its budgets in a manner that will enable it to meet its commitments and implement its plans.” She the applauded the initiative of the co-conveners of the dialogue in bringing the RISDP to the people of SADC.
The convenors were the Southern Africa Trust, Economic Justice Network of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, Southern African People’s Solidarity Network, Southern Africa Coordination Council, Gender Links, Media Institute of Southern Africa and the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance, which is a well-known consortium of ActionAid International, the Public Service Accountability Monitor of Rhodes University, and the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum and SAfAIDS.