PBOWatch: Okay, the Parliamentary Budget Office has now officially put more thought into those quarterly budget reports ...

… than the party that came up with the idea to have the government provide them in the first place. Or so it seems from the latest briefing note, released earlier today:

• The PBO recommends that Parliament establish an appropriate provisional reporting framework prior to the release of the Government’s reports to ensure the appropriate information is being collected up-front — on the understanding that these reports can be improved over time as information accumulates and the situation evolves.

• This note provides the PBO’s view on some key information requirements for the content of these reports — the central goal of which should be to provide Parliament with accurate, timely, and easily understood information that details: recent economic and fiscal developments and prospects; the implementation and effectiveness of budget measures; and the budget results in light of its guiding principles.

• The specific contents of future progress reports to Parliament may include:

o An evaluation of economic developments relative to Budget 2009 assumptions, and an assessment of economic risks that uses an updated survey of private sector forecasters and, if applicable, the Government’s own forecast.

o A summary of recent fiscal results and analysis of fiscal risks, as well as an estimate of the Government’s structural budget balance and statement of its fiscal targets.

o A clear implementation and oversight framework that describes for each budget measure: the spending authority and delivery mechanism; implementation indicators and progress benchmarks; and expected output and/or outcome indicators. This note provides specific examples to illustrate these concepts.

o A discussion of progress relative to the three guiding principles that Budget 2009 be: timely; targeted; and temporary.

And that’s just from the summary — the full report runs fifteen pages, and includes a very helpful backgrounder on parliamentary oversight, and extensive analysis – with tables, even –  of the sort of information that will be useful in determining exactly whether the money is being spent in accordance with the stated goals of the budget. They’ve even provided a sample spreadsheet!

Now, it’s possible – although somewhat unlikely – that the Liberals have released a similarly detailed outline and ITQ missed it – or, alternately, that they specifically requested that the PBO put together this report, in which case I will cheerfully update this post. But at the moment, it looks like the parliamentary budget officer is putting more effort into making sure that these reports – the first of which, incidentally, is theoretically due by the end of March – hold the government accountable than the Official Opposition.

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