Portal for monitoring public finance: a paradigm shift in parliamentary oversight in Serbia

AGORA moderator's picture

In the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia developing the Portal for monitoring public finance is considered the most notable achievement thus far. Each year the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia (NARS) authorizes around RSD 900 million of public funds necessary for financing expenditures. The manner in which the Government plans and executes budgetary spending influences the effectiveness of policies to a great extent. The NARS, and in particular the Committee on Finance, State Budget and Control of Public Spending, has a crucial role to play in financial scrutiny by holding the Government accountable. Until recently, there were no regular and direct means of executing the particular control except through MPs’ Question Time, monthly excerpt reports from the Ministry of Finance, and, upon special request to the Ministry of Finance, reports from the Treasury Administration. Launching the Portal on 1 December 2015 made a paradigm shift in public finance oversight in Serbia. 

Why is this portal innovative? Globally, only the Brazilian Parliament has developed its own portal; however, the Serbian Portal is, in addition to collecting raw data from the Treasury Administration, going to cross-reference data in the next phase, with the State Audit Institution, Public Procurement Office and Public Debt Agency by absorbing their databases. Innovation in development needs to encompass making a difference, not only inventing. It underpins an urgent development challenge, the resolution of which can have a positive or improved impact on human development. In addition, effective cross-sectoral cooperation secured sustainability and ownership. Combining public budget expenditures, audit finding and public procurement data is spearheading initiative that will sort out public expenditure management and allow for higher savings as well as increase system efficiency.

The portal will on monthly basis provide both dynamic and static reports on direct budget users, budgetary execution by direct budget users, by source of funding, by source and functional classification, by its economic classification. In the first phase the Portal will be tested by the Committee on Finance whilst in the next two phases it will be opened to all MPs and the public.

This pioneering and highly politicized process was led for three years by the GOPAC Chapter Serbia, the Committee on Finance, State Budget and Control of Public Spending, namely its Working Group for the Introduction and Development of the Public Finance Monitoring Portal and technical group supported by the UNDP/SDC Project “Strengthening the Oversight Function and Transparency of the Parliament”.  The Working Group for the Introduction and Development of the Public Finance Monitoring Portal was established on 18 February 2015 comprising all party whips and GOPAC Chapter. The Development of the Portal was envisioned by the Action plan for the implementation of the Republic of Serbia National Anti-Corruption Strategy for the period 2013–2018 and the UNDP/SDC project.

The Portal was developed within the Project “Strengthening the Oversight Function and Transparency of the Parliament” implemented by UNDP Serbia and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and was financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

SOURCE: UNDP, 7 December 2015: http://www.rs.undp.org/content/serbia/en/home/presscenter/articles/2015/...