March 20, 2019
Supporting Rwanda’s PAC and Parliament as They Strive for Excellence
In Rwanda, accountability is taken seriously. As the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) told us, Rwanda’s President has stressed the importance of accountability, urging parliamentarians to examine whether the money spent by government is improving the lives of Rwandans and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The PAC and the entire Parliament recognize the importance of their role—and they are committed to meeting the high expectations placed on them.
Through our International Governance, Accountability and Performance program (2018-2025), CAAF is supporting the goal of strengthened oversight, accountability and governance in Rwanda. In this program, funded by Global Affairs Canada, we are helping to increase the effectiveness of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) of Rwanda and the country’s PAC. In this capacity, we recently delivered our first training for the Rwanda PAC and were honoured to be invited to speak to the full Parliament about effective oversight and accountability.
CAAF’s delegation—President and CEO John Reed, Director of Oversight Lesley Burns, and Board member David Christopherson, who is a Vice-Chair of the Parliament of Canada’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts—traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, in January 2019. They led a two-day workshop for the PAC and the Budget Committee, and then addressed the full Parliament.
Sustaining an effective Public Accounts Committee
Since its establishment in 2011, Rwanda’s PAC has developed a strong relationship with the OAG and implemented many good practices. The PAC is reviewing the majority of the Auditor General’s performance audit reports and meets with the OAG before and after its hearings. PAC members also often take the notable step of conducting field visits before hearings to familiarize themselves with the topic being reviewed.
Now, following the country’s September 2018 election, the new and returning PAC members want to continue building on that good foundation.
In our workshop, titled Sustaining an Effective Public Accounts Committee, we worked with the PAC and Budget Committee to consider their roles and responsibilities and explore good practices for an effective oversight committee, drawing on the research presented in our Accountability in Action publication. Mr. Christopherson, who is currently the longest serving member of the Parliament of Canada’s PAC, spoke about his experience and about the importance of an effective PAC. The Auditor General, Obadiah Biraro, and senior members of the OAG participated and Mr. Biraro presented on the role of the Auditor General. Via videoconference, Ed Ryan, Executive Director at the OAG of British Columbia, and Matthew McGuire, Co-founder and Practice Director of the AML Shop, presented an introduction to parliamentarians’ role in preventing money laundering and illicit cash flows.
In exercises, participants identified key points in performance audit reports and practiced developing effective, implementable recommendations. We also challenged participants to summarize the steps they could take to further increase their effectiveness. They committed to continued improvement, focusing particularly on their follow-up process and on ensuring support staff have the tools they need to assist the committee.
Our messages to Parliament
On January 23, we joined Auditor General Biraro and the Honourable Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the Chair of Rwanda’s PAC, in addressing Parliament.
In her opening remarks, the Speaker, Right Honourable Donatille Mukabalisa, affirmed the Parliament’s support for effective oversight of government spending. She said that what the workshop participants had learned would help them all improve in this regard.
Mr. Biraro and Mr. Ngabitsinze described the role of the OAG and its relationship with Parliament, provided an overview of performance audit, and summarized the topics covered during the workshop. They both encouraged Parliament to continue its commitment to improvement: The Auditor General called on the full Parliament to think about what training it would benefit from and, to his fellow parliamentarians, Mr. Ngabitsinze said, “Together, we need to strive for excellence.”
Reflecting on his 14 years of experience serving on the Parliament of Canada’s PAC, Mr. Christopherson told the parliamentarians, “I have learned that I have a personal and profound responsibility to my country to only put the interests of our citizens first.” He said that each parliamentarian’s personal responsibility includes working with the Auditor General, reading and understanding reports, asking precise questions to get to the root cause of government waste, and playing a role in developing a parliamentary report. Fundamentally, this is a responsibility to ensure that the same mistakes do not happen again. Mr. Christopherson stressed how important it is for members to build and maintain trust through honest work.
Mr. Reed spoke about CAAF’s work and the objectives of our partnership with the OAG of Rwanda and, by extension, with the PAC. He reiterated that the work of the OAG and of parliamentarians—and our partnership with them—is ultimately all about making an impact for the people of the country: “After all, whether we are talking about health, education, housing, infrastructure, gender equality, the environment, or sustainable development, this is all for the benefit of Rwandan citizens.” CAAF and the OAG take this responsibility seriously in our partnership, he said, and are committed to achieving results for Rwandans.
Formalizing our partnership with the OAG and looking ahead
During this mission to Rwanda, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the OAG. This MOU confirms our joint commitment to achieving the expected results of the International Governance, Accountability and Performance program and outlines our respective responsibilities in the program. CAAF will sign similar MOUs with the three other countries participating in this program.
CAAF looks forward to working with the OAG, as well as the PAC, over the course of this seven-year program. At the end of our workshop in January, the PAC expressed its commitment to further training and to continuous improvement, and we will be glad to support this. Together, we can further strengthen oversight and accountability and contribute to results for the people of the country.
As Mr. Reed said in his address to Parliament, “With a strong base of good practices and dedicated parliamentarians, Rwanda has the opportunity to be a regional, if not global, leader.” He added, “If this is your ambition—to be a regional and global leader—we, the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, will be with you every step of the way.”