AFIDEP, through the Malawi Parliament Enhancement Project (MPEP), convened a workshop with technical personnel in Malawi parliament to review and explore strategies to improve the performance of the various Parliamentary Committees. Photo: Evelyn Kasambara/AFIDEP.

Between 30 November – 2 December 2018, AFIDEP, through the Malawi Parliament Enhancement Project (MPEP), convened a workshop in Salima, Malawi, with technical personnel from the Malawi Parliament to review and explore strategies to improve the performance of its various parliamentary committees. Participants at the workshop included parliamentary clerks, and finance and budget analysts. The Head of Monitoring and Evaluation Division in the Uganda Parliament, Josephine Watera, and the Content Advisor of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, Mamphago Modiba, complimented AFIDEP’s facilitators at the workshop.

Committees are vital in ensuring that Parliaments effectively carry out their mandates. Increasing the competencies of committees allows them to successfully deliver on their long-term oversight, legislative and representational functions. Besides looking at performance, participants at the workshop conducted a mapping exercise to determine the capacity needs for improving the management of committee performance; how to introduce monitoring, learning, and evaluation in a parliamentary setting; and strategies to overcome challenges in implementing committee work-plans.

Participants were able to identify areas they lack knowledge in and also learn from the success stories coming out of other African parliaments. One such story was how committees in the South Africa Parliament are required to submit their own quarterly, annual and five-year legacy reports, which are self-assessment tools used by the committees for reflection and proactive improvement. The mapping exercise revealed the need for capacity building in the development of work-plans, monitoring and evaluation and tracking the performance of committees. Lessons were drawn from the Uganda Parliament on how the engagement of all stakeholders in committees greatly influence the outcomes of performance measures, and also on the critical need to build the culture of Parliaments as institutions of monitoring and evaluation.

The forum was also a time to reflect on achievements and work done over the past four years since the incumbent Malawi Parliament took seat. At the beginning of the workshop, Grace Mganga, Chief Clerk Assistant (Committee Services) at the Malawi Parliament noted, “It has been a long four years and as a team, we haven’t reflected. I am looking forward to learning how we can improve in time for the next Parliament.” Others anticipated learning effective ways of developing work-plans for Parliamentary Committee sectors and gaining skills to track and monitor performance. Having their counterparts from the Uganda and South Africa Parliaments provided an opportunity for shared learning, the exchange of best practices and to network with their peers.

The workshop did meet these and other expectations; Sangwani Mseteka Phiri, a Budget Analysis and Public Finance Management Expert at the Malawi Parliament, for example, was able to gain further insight into how her role can add value to the parliamentary committee processes. “Being relatively new to the Parliament of Malawi and expected to work with three committees: the Public Accounts Committee; the Budget Committee; and the Government Assurance Committee, the presentation on functions and mandates of committees was particularly helpful in enabling me to understand the roles of committees and how as a budget analyst I can fit in and work with them,” she said.

The workshop was a preparatory workshop for committee Chairs, scheduled for 17 – 18 December 2018.

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