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November 12, 2010

Renewing WAEMU PFM Regulations: New Challenges, Steps Forward

Posted by Renaud Seligmann, Jean-Baptiste Gros et Benoît Taiclet

In the late 1990s, WAEMU ministers of finance adopted a set of common regulations to harmonize public expenditure management systems within the WAEMU region. The objective of the harmonized Public Financial Management (PFM) Framework was to present trustworthy, sincere, and comparable pictures of WAEMU member countries' public finances.

This framework has recently been renewed through the adoption of six new regulations (directives): one regulation assessing public finances transparency in general, five others covering respectively budget laws, government accounting, budget classifications, central government chart of accounts (COA), and central government operations (tableau des opérations financières de l’Etat - TOFE).

Drawing lessons from experience, the WAEMU legislature took into account the gap formerly observed between rules and principles posed by the first generation of regulations and actual practices, which revealed contrasting situations within the eight WAEMU member countries. This is why the new regulations—though inspired by best practices in budgeting, managing, and accounting—do not simply duplicate exogenous PFM systems, but aim to address challenges and specificities of the sub region. In addition, the new regulations fulfill the needs of member countries as they set ambitious objectives to be implemented in a reasonable time frame:

  • Ambitious objectives such as budget programming, significant changes of internal and external control methodologies, modernization of expenditures management, implementation of accrual accounting and standardized classifications facilitating a converging image of governmental expenditures.
  • Reasonable time frame, including a three-year deadline to internalize the common regulations within the domestic legal framework and subsequently, a five-year period (from 2012 to 2017) to implement the new legal framework.

Nevertheless, prerequisites (such as an improved budgetary discipline) are needed before the new concepts can be introduced. The WAEMU council of ministers wisely decided to support the implementation of the new regulations through a Program for the Reforms of the Harmonized PFM Framework. The program was adopted by the WAEMU Commission in December 2009 to facilitate a smooth internalization of the common regulations, and eventually, their implementation in member countries.

As shown above, several success factors already exist; a framework and a support program have been laid off and resources are available. In addition, the implementation of the program benefits from the remarkable partnership build by several donors and partners, the WAEMU commission, the World Bank (pole of Pretoria), the International Monetary Fund and its regional technical assistance center AFRITAC West, the United Nation Development Program (pole of Dakar), and the African Development Bank.

A first outcome occurred with the recent publication of five implementation guidelines, jointly elaborated by the above partners within one year of hard work. Those guidelines gather a significant sum of knowledge and expertise to back up the implementation of the common regulations.

For more details about the guidelines, consult: WAEMU Commission website and the IMF PFM blog post (in English and French).

In order to build success from these first outcomes, the four partners and the WAEMU Commission have agreed to continue capacity building efforts as follows:

  • Developing a network of professionals

The objective is to develop a group of professionals sharing common interests, and complementary skills needed to facilitate the implementation of  PFM reforms. The group will have the opportunity to share common topics and concerns. Four groups of professionals have been identified so far, with the following focus:

1)      Resources allocations: statistics, macroeconomic forecasts and planning, budgeting, budget control

2)      Public expenditures processes: budget execution, payments, IFMIS development, financial reporting

3)      Control: National audit, governmental inspections

4)      Governance : Parliaments and civil society

Through dedicated websites, each group will share questions and answers, and on line data. Online meetings will be organized to discuss key topics and new concepts.

  • Supporting internalization of common regulations into the respective domestic legal framework

The aim is to facilitate debates and solution sharing among staff in charge of drafting the domestic  legal framework and to ensure consistency of draft laws with the WAEMU regulations. Upon requests from member countries, advice can be provided through the group by a panel of experts, before the domestic draft law is submitted to the political level for approval. The website mentioned above should thus provide a convenient place to share experience and best practices in drafting the laws. Furthermore, it is expected that experts will organize country missions throughout the sub region, to underscore the main practical challenges to be overcome by local teams in charge of preparing the internalization of the common regulations.

  • Implementing a training program

Member countries will have to develop training programs aligned with the reform objectives and well sequenced action plans to implement new concepts such as performance-based budgeting, multiyear programming, PFM deconcentration, and accrual accounting. The WAEMU Commission has already started an information campaign to raise the awareness of administration schools regarding the new regulations; eventually, those schools will be provided with training tool kits.

  • Monitoring reform implementation

A unit in charge of monitoring the implementation of the reform will be established at the level of the WAEMU Commission. A monitoring scorecard, under development, will facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of reforms, the status of the internalization of the common regulations. Eventually, a survey will be undertaken to assess the impact of the reform on the overall performance of the PFM systems.

  • Financial management information systems (FMIS)

The intention is to assist member countries adapting their FMIS to the new system and ensure it is sustainable. Through the new managing and accounting standards, the common regulations call for broader information sharing and improvement of the effectiveness of public spending processes. Although FMIS currently in force in member countries are of various generations, their ability to move forward to the new standards have not been tested so far, which is potentially risky. A WAEMU mission will visit member countries to assess the continuity of the systems and check their capacity for a smooth transition toward the renewed WAEMU framework.

Partners supporting the reforms expect the coordinated and/or joint actions outlined above will pave the way for a progressive and pragmatic implementation of the new WAEMU Harmonized PFM Framework.

Note: The posts on the IMF PFM Blog should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy.

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