A Performance Review of the Joint Public Accounts Committee at the Union Parliament in Myanmar At International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

I. Background

A healthy, stable democracy rests on the functional mechanism of checks and balances. Especially, society’s ability to keep the executive power in check and prevent power abuse is fundamental to good governance. The absence of checks and balances often creates a situation where political power is over concentrated in the hands of a few entities and individuals in the executive branches and the accountability of government to the public is not adequately assured at the central and local levels of government. Along with independent, professional watchdog institutions such as the anti-corruption agency, ombudsperson’s office, and auditor-general’s office, legislative oversight of the executive branch is at the heart of checks-and-balances in a democratic society.

One way in which a legislature oversees and hold the executive branch accountable is through its involvement in the national budget cycle. In many democratic countries, tremendous responsibility lies with legislatures to ensure transparency, efficiency, and accountability in the use of public funds. In general, a national budget is processed based on a series of decisions in the annual budget cycle of the four stages: (1) preparation and submission; (2) approval; (3) execution; and (4) audit. While the executive government prepares a budget proposal, it is a legislature who reviews and approves the budget. Furthermore, once a budget is approved, legislatures monitor and oversee how the budget is executed. Finally, supreme audit institutions prepare audit reports for the scrutiny of legislatures.

For many legislatures, committees are central to oversight work. Committees provide the critical division of labour and specialization that legislative representatives need to process enormous documents and data in carrying out their oversight tasks and responsibilities. Legislative oversight in Myanmar is no exception. In the budget cycle in Myanmar, the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC) at the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which takes its membership from a public accounts committee of each of upper and lower chambers, has a leading role to play.

At the approval stage of the budget process, the JPAC is responsible for reviewing the annual national budget as proposed in the Union Budget Bill and submitting a report to the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Another key committee is the Joint Bill Committee which reviews legal aspects of the Union Budget Bill and prepares its report to be submitted to the Speaker.

Both the JPAC and the Joint Bill Committee receive inputs from ad hoc Joint Planning and Budget Review Groups which are tasked to review projects from a draft national planning law and budgets of ministries and organizations from a draft union budget law. At the execution stage, the JPAC reviews mid-term and annual Union Budget reports from the executive and prepares its own report on findings and recommendations to be submitted to the Speaker. Finally, at the control and audit stage, it is the JPAC who reviews the audit reports.

As part of the effort to better understand what worked in the past and draw practical lessons for parliamentary oversight in the future, International IDEA will commission a comprehensive review of the JPAC performance during the second Hluttaw from 2016 to 2021. The main objectives of the comprehensive review are two-folded: to take stock of the JPAC’s roles, responsibilities, composition, organizational structure, processes, and procedures, resources, and outputs such as committee reports, and to develop practical lessons and actionable recommendations for a new parliament.

To design and carry out the study, International IDEA will seek a highly qualified research consultant with global experience and in-depth expertise in legislative oversight, especially financial oversight.

II. Objective of the Assignment

The objective of this assignment is to help the International IDEA team design and carry out a comprehensive review of the JPAC performance during the second Hluttaw from 2016 to 2021.

III. Scope of Work

In consultation with the resource person and the SHWEBO project team, the consultant will have to undertake the following activities:

  1. In collaboration with the International IDEA team, conduct a background desk research, including a review of relevant English literature and documents related to Myanmar parliamentary budget oversight and decision making,[1] and video/phone interviews with stakeholders and resource persons;
  2. Based on the background desk research, prepare a research brief (a 5-7 page narrative report) for the review and approval of the International IDEA team, whose sections may include but not limited to (1) problem definition and analysis; (2) goal and objectives of the study; (3) diagnostic focus and questions; (4) a conceptual framework (e.g. JPAC overall performance (output quality) = committee mandate, structure, and process + committee capacity + external environments); (5) data collection and analytical methods; and (6) timeline;
  3. In accordance with the approved research brief, work with the International IDEA team to collect and analyze available qualitative and quantitative data;
  4. Present to the International IDEA team key findings from a data collection exercise;
  5. Prepare and submit a first draft narrative report (approximately 40 pages) for the review and comment of the International IDEA team;
  6. Ensure that the report is prepared in accordance with the International IDEA Editorial Standards 2018; and
  7. Based on the feedback from the International IDEA team, prepare and submit a final draft narrative report.

IV. Timing and Work Plan

The period of performance is from July 19, 2021 to December 31, 2021. The total number of working days in this assignment may not exceed 50 days or 400 hours.

V. Deliverables and Reporting Requirements

The consultant will report to the Programme Manager and work closely with members of the SHWEBO team and the resource person. The consultant shall submit the following deliverables:

  1. Research brief (mid August 2021)
  2. PowerPoint presentation on key findings (early October 2021)
  3. First draft narrative report (early November 2021)
  4. Final draft narrative report (early December 2021)

VI. Monitoring and Evaluation

  1. Timely submission of all the deliverables satisfactory to the project team.

I. Qualifications

  • Minimum 10 years of relevant work experience, including substantive analytical work on parliamentary financial oversight, including budget review, monitoring, and audit scrutiny.
  • A Master’s degree (or equivalent) in public administration, public policy, law, finance, economics, or a related discipline.
  • Good understanding of governance challenges and political institutions and landscape in Myanmar.
  • Proven teamwork and leadership skills, working with multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Excellent communications skills, both in oral presentations and in writing technical papers, policy briefs, independent reports etc.

[1] English versions of JPAC public documents such as committee reports will be provided by the International IDEA team.

How to apply

Please send your CV, cover letter, and a daily fee rate at shwebo@idea.int

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