Promising Steps Towards Addressing Funding Challenges of the Pan African Parliament - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Promising Steps Towards Addressing Funding Challenges of the Pan African Parliament


In a recent meeting with the Bureau of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) led by the President, H. E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Dr. Naledi Pando, made a commendable promise to engage the relevant organs of the African Union (AU) in addressing the funding challenges faced by the Parliament. This commitment marks a significant step towards ensuring the sustainable operation and effectiveness of the PAP in fulfilling its mandate as the legislative body representing African citizens.

The Pan African Parliament plays a crucial role in advancing continental integration, promoting democracy, and addressing key issues affecting the people of Africa. However, one of the persistent challenges hindering its optimal functioning has been inadequate funding, which affects various aspects of parliamentary activities, including holding plenary sessions, conducting committee meetings, supporting research and analysis, facilitating participation of parliamentarians from member states, and maintaining essential infrastructure and services.

Minister Naledi Pando's promise to intervene and advocate for addressing the funding challenges is a testament to South Africa's commitment to supporting continental institutions and strengthening pan-African cooperation. By engaging with the relevant organs of the AU, including the AU Commission, the Committee of 15 Finance Ministers (F-15) and the Executive Council, the Minister aims to mobilize resources, explore funding mechanisms, and prioritize financial support for the PAP's operations and activities.

The significance of this commitment lies in its potential impact on enhancing the PAP's capacity to fulfill its mandate effectively. Adequate funding is essential for promoting transparency, accountability, and oversight within the Parliament, facilitating meaningful participation of parliamentarians from diverse backgrounds, promoting dialogue and consensus-building on critical issues, and strengthening the institution's role in advancing the AU's Agenda 2063 for Africa's development and prosperity.

Furthermore, Minister Naledi Pando's proactive approach reflects a broader recognition of the importance of parliamentary diplomacy, collaboration, and multilateral engagement in addressing continental challenges and advancing shared goals. By leveraging diplomatic channels and advocating for sustainable funding solutions, South Africa demonstrates leadership and solidarity in supporting pan-African institutions and fostering continental unity and cooperation.

An understanding and appreciation of the basis for Dr. Nalendi Pandor’s promised intervention in addressing PAP’s budget crisis will require a perusal of past AU budgets from the inception of PAP in 2004 till date. For example, PAP’s budget in 2009 was a little over USD 13 million at a time the total AU budget was about USD 170 million (representing about 8% of the AU Budget). By 2023 (fourteen years later), it had fallen to a little less than USD 12 million implying failure to take into consideration, inflation and cost of living increases, and notwithstanding the fact that the total AU budget during the period increased from about USD 170 million to close to USD 700 million. In other words, PAP’s budget went from 8% to less than 2% of the total AU budget!

The reduction in the PAP’s Budget continued in 2024 with a budget of US$10 570 625. This is even as the Executive Council during the February 2023 AU Summit, considered the 2023 budget inadequate and directed a review.

A breakdown of the 2024 budget of US$10 570 625, shows that US$8 038 113 is going towards staff costs with only US$2 088 820 remaining for the other operations. This gives the impression that PAP’s primary function is the payment of staff salary. However, Article 12 of the PAP Protocol makes it clear that the staff are supposed to assist the Parliament in the discharge of its duties. In other words, under the current budget, parliamentary activities are treated as secondary.

US$900 000 had been allocated for the two plenary sessions for 2024 yet one plenary session requires about US$1.7 million. The amount allocated for the two sessions is therefore, not even enough to host one session.

Again, US$530 000 had been allocated for the two Committee sittings for 2024 when one Committee sitting requires about US$800 000. This implies that the amount budgeted for the two sittings is again inadequate for one committee sitting.

One therefore wonders the criteria and rationale used in making these budget cuts especially at a time when the total AU Budget was increasing. Article 13.2 of the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP Protocol) states the “The Pan-African Parliament shall meet in ordinary session at least twice a year, within a period to be determined in the Rules of Procedure. Each ordinary session may last up to one monthThe two ordinary sessions each of which may last up to one month, are held in May and October.

The Pan-African Parliament was established by Article 17 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union which is the supreme law of the Union and the composition, powers, functions and organization of the Parliament are contained in the PAP Protocol. The objectives for establishing PAP are clearly articulated in Article 3 of the PAP Protocol while its functions and powers are spelt out in Article 11.

The Parliament holds two Committee Sittings annually in March and August. PAP also hosts a Conference of the Speakers of Africa’s Regional and National Parliaments in August annually as per Article 18 of the PAP Protocol. These meetings are therefore mandated by the PAP Protocol which was ratified by the Member States of the AU.

Parliamentary Committees play a vital role in the legislative process, oversight, and policy development within the PAP. Adequate budgetary provisions are essential for supporting committee activities, including research, expert consultations, public hearings, drafting reports, and conducting inquiries, which contribute to informed decision-making and accountability.

In that regard, it needs to be stated that a major component of PAP’s budget for both plenary session and committee sitting is the cost of translation and interpretation. This is because both Article 25 of the Constitutive Act and Article 17 of the PAP Protocol provide that the working languages shall be African languages, Arabic, English, French and Portuguese. Thus multilingual interpretation services although mandatory, are also essential for facilitating communication and collaboration among parliamentarians from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Adequate budgetary allocations are therefore needed to maintain high-quality interpretation services during plenary sessions and committee meetings, ensuring effective communication and understanding among participants.

Further reviews of the past budgets show that the approved budget for PAP in 2015 was over $29 million. In 2016 it was over $32 million while in 2017 it was over $22 million. Unfortunately by 2024, the approved budget went down to $10.5 million without any rational explanation for such drastic reduction notwithstanding the fact that the AU total budget had steadily increased annually over the same period.

The record shows that PAP’s budget went from about 10% of the total AU budget in 2007 to less than 2% of the total AU budget in 2024. What is more disturbing is that the Executive Council in July 2022 and February 2023 acknowledged the inadequacy of the budgetary provisions and directed that the budget of the Parliament should be reviewed to enable it fulfill its mandate but the directive was ignored.

Instructively, when the PAP approved budget in 2015 was more than USD 29 million, the Executive Council at the Twenty-Seventh Ordinary Session 7 – 12 June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa (Decision On The Report On The Activities Of The Pan-African Parliament (PAP)) Doc.EX.CL/920(XXVII), reiterated “the need to provide requisite resources to PAP to enable it carry out its mandate in line with the Protocol establishing this important AU Organ”.

It is therefore baffling that notwithstanding Executive Council directives, the budget of such an acclaimed important organ of the AU can be cut from about thirty-two million USD in 2016 to about ten million USD in 2024 when no other organ of the AU suffered such budget cuts. On the contrary, the budget of some organs and institutions witnessed increases during the above period. Equally baffling is the blatant refusal to comply with both the Executive Council decisions to review the budget as well as Article 11.2 of the PAP Protocol (ratified by Member States) which empowers PAP to discuss its budget and the budget of the AU “and make recommendations thereon prior to its approval by the Assembly”.

As stakeholders and observers, we therefore commend Minister Naledi Pando's promise to intervene and advocate for addressing the funding challenges faced by the Pan African Parliament. We urge other AU member states and partners to join efforts in ensuring that adequate resources are allocated to the PAP, thereby strengthening its role as a vital institution for promoting democratic governance, legislative oversight, and inclusive development across Africa.

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