BBL: The Missing Link? Parliamentary Budget Offices as Elements of Good Governance

Date: Thursday, Dec 3, 2015

Time: 12:30 - 2:00pm

Location: J6-050 (World Bank J Building), 701 18th Street, Washington DC

Key Discussion Points

  • When anything goes wrong, blame it on the politician, but the countries that become successful are where politicians become accountable and responsible. Politicians, as people, are normally quite similar. Rather, it is the institutional environment that they operate within which determines their behavior.
  • Difference between the executive and the legislature. Executive has an army of economists and accountants to create projections. Legislatures are at a disadvantage as they don't have this. This can have implications as to budget allocations. The second questions is, even if the allocation is correct, are the national objectives being achieved with economy and efficiency.
  • Second assymetry is between the majority and the opposition. Majority will understate costs and overstate benefits. Opposition will do the reverse. PBOs provide an objective perspective that is often more accurate and can allow for a more informed discussion.
  • 2 elements are needed, that are reinforcing: independence and professionalism. With these two elements, you can find a sweet spot where you are not seen as supporting the opposite, or supporting the legislature against the executive, or supporting the state against the public.
  • Global networks of institutions that face independence challenges can be tremendously helpful (such as those that serve Supreme Audit Institutions and corruption hunters). GN-PBO, bolstered by the launch of the e-PBO platform, 
  • Key objectives of a PBO:
    • Stablizing the economy and the flow of revenue, so that the IMF doesn't have to come in as the fireman. 
    • Ensuring a strategic allocation of resources. 
  • Some countries with the most established PBOs took over 200 years to create their parliamentary institutions. We can't expect countries who have recently transitioned to democracy to have fully independent and professional PBOs and similar institutions overnight. These processes take time. Nonetheless, not every country needs 200 years, especially as we have global networks that are fantastic at distilling and distributing good practices.
  • Ultimately, each PBO will do this in their own, unique way, according to the political context they are operating in.


  • How should a PBO best interact with the media and civil society?
  • What are some key criteria to look at in order to assess if a PBO is operating effectively?


Sahir Khan

Ex-Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, Canada, and Visiting Senior Fellow

University of Ottawa



Renaud Seligmann

Practice Manager, Public Resources Mobilization and Management, Africa

Governance Global Practice, World Bank

J Romulo Emmanuel Jr. Miral

Director-General, Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department

The Philippines

Mohammed Hardi Nyagsi

Director of Budget

Parliament of Ghana

Sorangel Gonzalez

Economic Consultant, Parliamentary Budget Office, Chamber of Deputies Budget Office

Dominican Republic



To effectively analyze and evaluate increasingly complex reforms and policies, it is important for parliaments to have the institutional, technical, and analytical capacity to take on the magnitude of their budgetary responsibilities. The creation of Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs) within parliaments is an institutional innovation that enables the legislature to engage in budget formulation and oversight in a more objective, transparent and effective manner.

This session will highlight the emerging evidence on how a well-functioning PBO. The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) provides independent analysis to Canadian Parliament on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, estimates the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction. can help to enhance the veracity of budget figures generated by the Executive, thus encouraging more robust data through stronger parliamentary participation in the budget process in Bank client countries. In addition, panelists will discuss the impact of their participation in the Global Network of Parliamentary Budget Officers (GN-PBO), and the Network’s new online collaboration platform,, will be launched.


The Parliamentary Strengthening Cluster (PSC) seeks to enhance the capacity of parliaments to effectively perform their functions in order to better contribute to open and collaborative development.  As a core business of the Governance Global Practice, empowering parliaments enhances participation, transparency and demand for accountability in the budget process, constructively contributing to stronger public financial management systems. The PSC employs an innovative integrated model for delivering parliamentary strengthening services which scales and accelerates impact by linking parliaments to global practitioner networks, feeding global good practice into World BankThe World Bank is a United Nations international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programs. The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group, and a member of the United Nations Development Group. The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty. According to its Articles of Agreement, all its decisions must be guided by a commitment to the promotion of foreign investment and international trade and to the facilitation of capital investment. projects. The mutually-reinforcing nature of the integrated model ensures lessons learned through project implementation are in turn looped-back to the practitioner networks, enriching global good practice. 


Recognizing the importance of PBOs for parliaments to effectively perform their functions, the World Bank and University of Ottawa established the Global Network of Parliamentary Budget Offices (GN-PBO) in 2013 as a platform for knowledge and experience sharing on good practices, concepts, challenges and opportunities related to the design, establishment, and operation of PBOs around the world.

The network brings together three core groups: 1) PBO staff, 2) technical staff from parliamentary secretariats that provide parliamentarians with budget analysis, and 3) external research units that support parliamentary engagement in the budget process through provision of budget analysis.

Currently, GN-PBO members consist of established PBOs (Kenya and Uganda), newly established PBOs (Dominican Republic, Georgia, Liberia, Nigeria, Seychelles and South Africa), jurisdictions in which PBOs are being considered (Ghana, Tanzania, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Secretariats or Parliamentary Training Institutes that perform the functions of a PBO (Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam).