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Why SA’s public finance watchdog failed its mandate on nuclear

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The Parliamentary Budget Office had 10 months to prepare its findings about the cost of a nuclear programme, but its final report was little more than a summary of other institutions' work, explains Seán Mfundza Muller, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Johannesburg.

South Africa’s Parliamentary Budget Office is a largely unknown but important institution. It was established in 2009 to provide technically credible, independent advice to members of parliament about public finance and economic issues.

Evidence from other countries suggests that the credibility and independence of such an office is only truly tested when it is asked to provide advice about a politically significant issue. South Africa’s Parliamentary Budget Office recently faced just such a test when it advised MPs on the country’s proposed procurement of nuclear energy. The nuclear plan has been estimated to cost as much as R1 trillion.

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