The Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC), with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is implementing a program to help the Government of the Republic of Angola (GRA) improve the management of public financial resources. As Angola is now experiencing a difficult financial period due to the international drop of oil prices and the country’s heavy dependence on oil revenues, the FSVC activity is vitally important. FSVC works with the GRA to address and improve inefficiencies in budget management and tax collection; help improve the ability of civil society organizations (CSOs) to advocate for budget reform; and effectively monitor government expenditures in Angola.
From July 27 to 29, FSVC conducted a three day workshop in Luanda on “Best Practices in Budget Processes and Fiscal Policy” for 13 representatives from seven different CSOs.. This training marked the first engagement with CSOs under FSVC’s objective to strengthen their capacity to demand greater public accountability. The workshop was led by two FSVC volunteer experts: Mr. David Lara, Deputy Budget Director for the New York (NY) State Budget Office, and Mr. Rahul Jain, Senior Research Associate from the Citizen’s Budget Commission in New York. The experts provided a comprehensive training that included a variety of topics, including details on the NY state budgeting process and cycle, opportunities for CSO engagement in Angola, and effective monitoring and evaluation techniques. The workshop also covered best practices in budget preparation, negotiation, and scenarios that required participants to engage in budget negotiations and determine a budget based on expected revenues and expenditures.
As a result of the great success and feedback from GRA financial authorities and CSO members, Mr. Lara was invited to give a presentation to over 40 senior members of the Ministry of Finance. Participants included the Secretary of State of the Treasury, Mr. Leonel da Silva, national directors, and department heads. Drawing upon parallels between the Angolan and NY economies, including budget size, number of government agencies and employees, and the reliance on a single sector (oil sector) to generate revenues, Mr. Lara provided an overview of how the State of New York solved its 2007/2008 financial crisis by focusing on budget prioritization which resulted in spending cuts to make up budget shortfalls.