I have already written a couple of articles about the Parliamentary Budget Office, in which I worked for two years and one month, touching on what it should be doing (but isn’t, or isn’t doing well enough) and one rather significant failure. I suspect that I will write more in future on related matters.
For the moment, however, I thought it would be useful to lay out my own work while in that office. Despite difficult circumstances I am proud of the quality of the work that was produced and it seemed appropriate to put together a short catalogue here.
The Office has a website but, for reasons not in the public domain, does not consistently publish its outputs or requests received. Fortunately, if work is ever presented to committees of Parliament reports and slides almost automatically enter the public domain – both by law and the Rules of Parliament (committee meetings are open to the public except in exceptional cases) – and are usually published by virtue of the invaluable work of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group. Although at least 50% of my work was never reflected in this fashion, I catalogue here what I can.
In most instances, the work would have benefited from greater specialisation (as the very broad range of topics below attests!), more time and greater access to relevant information – all of which are characteristics of the most successful PBOs. For example, for the report on SOEs we did not get data that would have enabled (in the time available) an analysis of financial ratios across various SOEs. Nevertheless, what was produced mostly holds-up well in comparison to other institutions.
I was the team leader and/or main author of:
- Report on the Financing of State-Owned Enterprises for the Standing Committee on Finance [slides, full report, PMG source]
- Advice on the Eskom Special Appropriation Bill and Eskom Subordinated Loan Special Appropriation Amendment Bill for the Standing, then Select, Committee on Appropriations [slides; PMG source#1 and PMG source#2; we did not have time to produce a detailed analysis]
- Report on the Fiscal Sustainability of Social Grants for the Standing Committee on Finance [slides 39-40; PMG source; the full report has never been presented or published but it is referred to in these slides on the 2016 Budget]
- Report on the Accuracy of the National Treasury’s Fiscal Forecasts [slides 36-38 from the 2016 Budget presentation and slides which were presented after my departure; PMG source and PBO source; the full report has not been presented or published]
The report on Treasury’s fiscal forecasts was probably the technically most sophisticated piece of work the Office has done and is as sophisticated as anything I have seen from any PBO internationally. It is heavily informed by the work of Charles Manski on policy uncertainty and, more directly, insights from the literature on forecast accuracy (which I became aware of at Oxford, from being taught by Andrew Patton). I intend to publish at least two academic papers related to this work.
In other cases some substantive contributions are contained within annual presentations by the Office on the Budget or the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement: [this list will be completed as/when I have time]