7. Implementation of the PSRP, the Role of Parliamentary Committees
The PSRP in Malawi has been completed so far as internal processes are concerned. It will be brought to the Boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank towards the end of 2002 and, depending on whether or not performance of the budget is within the targets set Malawi would qualify for debt relief at completion point. The PRSP contains costings by objectives and these will form the basis of budgets starting with the 2002-2003. It will be important for the poverty reduction agenda to ensure that the expenditures are followed up and are seen to reach the targeted activities effectively. The PRSP process is not a once and for all process. It is a continuing effort since poverty reduction is an ongoing effort. The IMF and the World Bank will require annual projection reports. A new PRSP will be submitted every 3 years for review by the World Bank and IMF staff who prepare a joint staff assessment of the document for their Boards. Part of the effort is monitoring. Monitoring is what holds government to its promises and makes implementers sensitive to the cries of the poor. The question is whether Parliament has the capacity to follow through the budget in a sustained manner.
In this paper, it is argued that parliament through its oversight and standing committees could be critical to budget implementation and make budgets pro poor. The Malawi experiment though only a recent one has shown determination to follow up outputs of budget lines with the help of the civil society but it is obvious that the task is monumental, and calls for capacity building. Resources and technical support are required not only for civil society but also for parliamentary committees. The PRSP in Malawi recognizes this when it states in Chapter 6 on Implementation, Monitoring and evaluation:
"In particular, Parliament will play a crucial role in ensuring the implementation of the Budget by providing on-going scrutiny of budget implementation through the various committees, especially the Budget and Finance Committee and the Public Accounts Committee".
However, neither Parliament nor any of its committees are located in the higher pyramidal structures for the implementation and monitoring of the PRSP. That structure lists the Cabinet Committee on the Economy. Below it there is to be established an MPRS Monitoring committee. This will consist of Principal Secretaries of relevant Ministries including Finance and Economic planning, National Economic Council, Agriculture and Irrigation, Education, Science and Technology, Health and Population. This Committee will be serviced by a Technical working committee (TWC) which will co-ordinate monitoring and evaluation efforts and provide analysis. Fortunately, representatives of relevant parliamentary Committees are included in the TWC. Additionally, Parliamentary Committees will have to monitor expenditures and performance "using any of the MPRS committees or other mechanisms as they see fit"