Global Study Group on PAC Oversight of Responses to National Crises

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Prepared by Niall Johnston, World Bank Parliamentary Strengthening Programme

There has been a tendency to consider disaster responses as something that does not need to be subject to scrutiny. With regard to accountability, greater transparency and better information dissemination are needed for a more effective disaster aid.

In times of disaster and national crisis, government’s often have to draw on resources additional to those appropriated in the annual budget documents.  The emphasis is on saving lives, alleviating poverty and hardship and maintaining human dignity. Funds that are used in disaster and crisis response need to be disbursed quickly and often under adverse circumstances. The immediate need to deploy resources for the public good often results in bypassing normal internal controls and approvals for use of public funds. 

PACs are traditionally reactive, waiting to receive a SAI report in order to act. The potential role PACs can play during disasters and national crisis is unclear.  PACs need to decide whether to be reactive or seek to provide extraordinary oversight in unexpected circumstances in order to promote transparency and ensure public officials are held to account for delivering an effective national response to disasters and national crisis.

Recently, PAC’s have focused on disaster risk management efforts in order to ensure that:

• The institutional mechanisms set up by government for disaster management including pre-disaster risk assessment, mitigation, prevention and preparedness, monitoring of feedback on implementation of orders/instructions.

• Ensure that the system of identification of beneficiaries, needs assessment, flows of immediate assistance to the beneficiaries and planning of rehabilitation activities was robust and effective;

• The post disaster activities such as procurement, restoration of infrastructural services and social recovery of productive sectors such as fishing, tourism are well planned and executed efficiently and economically.

Increasingly, parliaments in donor countries are considering the effectiveness of their Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) spending. Although this is often considered to be the remit of parliamentary committees overseeing international development, PACs clearly have a key role to play in scrutinizing aid effectiveness and value for money.

A Study Group, supported by the World Bank Group’s Parliamentary Strengthening Cluster and CPA, has been established with member ship from Bangladesh, Canada, Grenada, Malta, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. The first meeting was held in Kathmandu, 11-12 March 2016.

The objectives of the Study Group are to:

a. Consider the role of the PAC in examining responses to crises, including both natural and human-caused disasters, as well as health issues, that require emergency funding, either through consolidated revenues or Overseas Development Assistance (ODA);
b. Identify performance as well as financial issues that should form the basis is for recommendations for future preparedness;
c. Collaborate across PAC Associations to identify emerging PAC good practice globally; and
d. Consider how PACs should plan for business continuity.

The Study Group's initial thinking is that the draft report will probably be laid out as:

• Purpose of the Guide
• Types of crisis
• Role of the Government (political economy of greater PAC assertiveness)
• Role of the SAI
• Role of the PAC [see below for detail]
• Opportunities for change
• Conclusions and Recommendations

Role of the PAC:
• Institutional - mandate, limitations, other committees

• Business continuity planning
• Scrutinizing preparedness for crises - proactive and reactive approaches
• During crises - ensuring government is acting quickly (timely intervention)
• Overseeing reconstruction efforts (NGO funds outside system, ODA) - when PAC can act

Please email the Secretariat if you would like to make a submission about the work of your PAC or SAI in this area.