Our meeting with the Finance Committee and chairs of subject committees in the Malawi National Assembly provided the chance to debate financial scrutiny and audit processes across the Parliament. While the topic might seem dry, the things we take for granted were of great interest to the parliamentarians we met.
We were quizzed in detail about the ability to require ministers to give evidence to committees and to be able to scrutinise the government’s budget proposals properly.
Our system of subject committees reporting to Finance Committee was seen as a good way to shed light on issues such as health and education. We illustrated our presentations with examples of issues that the Scottish Parliament had dealt with. We also discussed the importance of having an independent audit function to scrutinise expenditure. I used the examples of the Gathering Report and the more recent Accounts Commission Report on Local Government Capital Projects to illustrate how Parliamentary scrutiny and transparency work.
One specific proposal we have been asked to take back home was the question of transparency of donor aid and development projects. Malawian MPs expressed interest in knowing how funding allocations were made by our Government and the expected outcomes of projects in their constituencies.