THE role of independent public institutions is in the spotlight like never before. As Thuli Madonsela’s term comes to an end, there is intense scrutiny of the process to appoint a new public protector. Unfortunately, such awareness sometimes comes quite late, once things have gone awry, and is limited to a small number of institutions. If closer attention was paid to appointments and actions across all public institutions, we might avoid some of these crises and have strong independent institutions when we need them most.In the context of what may be reasonably described as an assault on public finances by vested interests, it is useful to consider the status of a recently established independent institution: the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). The office was established by the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (2009) to provide Parliament with independent technical advice and analysis on issues related to the national budget and money bills. Money bills typ...

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