Comparative Public Administration
Compare and contract the budget processes and systems of fiscal accountability in Presidential and Parliamentary systems of Government.
Lyn Marie James
There is diversity of forms of government (Laundy, 1989) and different ways of classifying them and as such, this paper sets out to discuss the budgetary powers of the legislature under different forms of government, and the environment that informed the political structures. The paper discusses the different forms of government systems that exist in various countries with specific focus on the Presidential system as obtained in countries such as the United States of America and the Parliamentary “Westminster” form that exists in countries such as the United Kingdom. The different forms of budgets are discussed including their advantages and disadvantages, with particular reference to the degree of the legislature’s political control over the executive in the budget process. Specific areas of budgetary control by the legislature are identified - mainly those exercised prior to the adoption of the annual budget and various factors that determine the power of the legislature to shape the annual budget. The budget cycle and its various stages are identified in the context of the role of political institutions on fiscal outcomes of the budgetary process. Key challenges to public budgeting systems in presidential and parliamentary systems are examined to discover factors such as how to retain the advantages of strong executive authority required to ensure fiscal discipline and sound public finance management while providing the institutional checks and balances that guarantee accountability, ensure restraint and prevent corruption (Santiso, 2005). The paper concludes with a discussion on the way forward with respect to strengthening the independence and performance of oversight institutions, civil society oversight and fiscal transparency with a view to enhancing accountability in public finance management.
General Background of the Study
A Budget is one of the most significant documents of any administration since its decisions affect the nation as a whole, state and local governments, and individuals. In some Western European countries, the origins of national budget systems can be traced to the institutional arrangements prevailing before democracy was introduced. Monarchies had royal treasuries to manage government finances, sourced by obligatory taxes on citizens. In a few countries, the “constitutional” arrangements for budget systems have an inheritance dating back several centuries. Although many changes and reforms in the legal framework for budget systems have been introduced over the centuries, a few ancient features still prevail – especially in the United Kingdom and France. These in turn were inherited by the former colonies of these two countries, whose legal frameworks for budgeting still bear resemblances to those inherited at independence. Governments have collected taxes and utilized the resulting proceeds to support armies and civil administration even before the advent of money (Webber and Wildavsky, “A History of Taxation and Expenditure in the Western World”, 1986). However, the roots of contemporary budgetary practices can be traced to the development of the English Constitution. The Glorious Revolution of 1689 established the supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy, and thereafter, at least in principal, the King, and later the Prime Minister, could request certain taxes or various expenditures, but only Parliament could authorize them (California Department of Finance, 1998). In the United Kingdom, budgetary control at first extended only to the armed forces, to prevent the King from assembling a force large enough to unseat Parliament. For example, Parliament controlled appropriations for the army and for ships in port, but not for ships at sea...
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