Zimbabwean Parliamentary Staffers Continue Training Through Partnership with Rockefeller College

A group of smiling people pose inside the U.S. Capital in front of a sculpture and two paintings
Members of the Zimbabwe parliamentary staff meet with Congressman Paul Tonko (D–NY) at the U.S. Capitol in June. (Photo by Sladjana Bijelic)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2022) — A group of 12 members of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary staff visited Albany and Washington, D.C., in a summer study visit hosted by Rockefeller College. The three-week visit was part of a broader professional development training program in public financial management organized under the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Strengthening Project, implemented through Rockefeller’s Center for Policy Research (CPR).

CPR’s Zimbabwe Project is funded through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and focuses on capacity building through technical assistance and educational programs with the objective of strengthening the country’s legislative oversight of the executive, improving the national budget-making processes, and enabling informed and timely passing of legislation.

People sitting at long tables on the edged of an ornate room in the NYS Capitol.
The group meets with the New York State Senate Finance Committee staff during the Albany leg of their visit. (Photo by Amalini Fernando)

The program started in late June with a week in Washington, D.C., focusing on the U.S. federal budget process, and included visits to the Congress where the group was hosted by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), and meetings with D.C.-based federal agencies and think tanks concentrating on budgetary and fiscal policy matters. This included the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, Congressional Research Services, as well as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Federal Funds Information for the States. The group also made a visit to Maryland State Legislature in Annapolis, where they learned about that state’s legislative role in budget-making processes.

During their two weeks in Albany, participants got an in-depth look at New York’s budget process, its institutional arrangements and the fiscal analysis necessary to ensure a well-informed budget process.

“The group’s first week in Albany was classroom-based workshops on public financial management issues in the United States and New York, with content delivered by Rockefeller College faculty specializing in public finance and practitioners with extensive experience working on public finance issues in the New York State government,” said Sladjana Bijelic, CPR’s principal investigator and program director for Zimbabwe Project. “These workshops were followed by meetings with professional staff at the New York State Division of the Budget, New York State Senate Finance Committee, Assembly Ways and Means Committee, the Office of the State Comptroller and New York State Association of Counties, to name a few.”

The delegation was also hosted at the New York State Assembly by Assembly Member John McDonald, 108th District, and welcomed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Rockefeller College Interim Dean Julie Novkov welcomed the group to the College, noting that “strengthening legislative institutions is of critical importance in a rapidly changing world. … Now more than ever we need people who make a deep commitment to excellence, professionalism and high ethical standards in the service of the public good.”

This intensive three-week training program was part of a broader public financial management training prepared and delivered by the CPR’s Zimbabwe Project.

This training program began in January 2022 with foundational content in public financial management delivered by Associate Professor Gang Chen and Assistant Professor Mikhail Ivonchyk of Rockefeller College,” Bijelic said. “The current training in the United States focused on peer-to-peer learning and provided a comparative perspective. Our next training modules will focus on tools and methodologies and building analytical skills.”

A number of Rockefeller College faculty members and alumni specializing in public finance participated in the July training. Chen moderated the sessions at Rockefeller, while Associate Professor Ashely Fox delivered a workshop to the group on health care financing. Public Service Professor Kevin Bronner and Associate Professor Lucy Sorensen shared their professional experience and research interests in the field. The group was also introduced to a panel of Rockefeller College alumni who now work in public finance in the Capital Region, including at the Division of the Budget, the Office of the State Comptroller and the New York State Assembly.