Kick off Parliamentary Staffers Training Programme in Skopje

Between 23 and 25 September CESS organised its first training course for 15 parliamentary staffers of different working bodies in the Macedonian Parliament. For this purpose we got permission to make use of the excellent facilities of the newly established Parliamentary Institute, which is located within the parliamentary building. The aim of this first training course was to assess the working processes and the practical working dimensions within different parliamentary working bodies in Macedonia. To achieve this goal we designed a training course consisting of various components.

During the course of the workshop we focussed on process management and shared practical tools with the trainees, which could help them improving the quality and effectiveness of their work. Together with the trainees we identified the definition of a process and discussed obstacles that hinder the effectiveness of their work. These obstacles are all rooted in either the process, in the infrastructure (such as IT), in the organisational and management design and/or in the culture of the organisation. For the trainees it was important to learn that a process is only effective when not every department (or committee) upholds its own quality levels, but that it is being adopted by the whole organisation. 

During a one-day simulation game the trainees were asked to prepare a parliamentary inquiry in a fictitious country. The (fictitious) case was that the Minister of Defence had ordered 35,000 uniforms for the army without opening the granting process to competitive tendering. Parliament had requested the installation of an inquiry committee to get to the bottom of this. First of all the members of the inquiry committee had to agree on the objectives of the committee (procedures, list of witnesses, etc.). In the afternoon the staffers technically prepared the committee hearing (location, date/time, availability of witnesses, agenda, taking notes, including a recommendation to inform the press or not). At the end of the day the clock was moved with a couple of months and the recommendations of the inquiry committee were presented: amongst others, it was advised to change the rules for competitive tendering, to intensify scrutiny of the Defence budget and to file a motion of no-confidence at the Minister of Defence. During the day the trainees experienced the different duties and subsequent behaviour of parliamentarians, staffers, ministers, Government officials, military personnel and journalists and the many different considerations that arise: ranging from political, personal, operational, financial to legal. 

In a session on the Dutch parliamentary system several differences between the Dutch and the Macedonian Parliament were discussed. A notable difference is that in Macedonia the chair of a working body is a political position, in the Netherlands the committee chair is a technical position, he/she is supposed to conduct proceedings in a neutral fashion. Also a difference exists in the number of committee staffers in both countries. In the Netherlands the committee staff is relatively small, in Macedonia there are many staffers for the working bodies. On the other hand, in the Netherlands Parliament every MP has a personal assistant and the political groups also have staff, in Macedonia every five MPs have one personal assistant. The result could be that in Macedonia staff of the working bodies is asked to compose policy papers for political parties, because they lack their own staff. In the Netherlands, Parliament tries to uphold the difference between the political neutral staff administration and the political staffers of the MPs.

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