Task force to do government books

| 24/03/2009

(CNS): Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson has announced that a special task force of accountants will be formed in order to tackle the outstanding financial reports. During his presentation of the Supplementary Appropriations Bill to the Legislative Assembly on the last day of business yesterday, Jefferson said the group would be made up of accountants from inside the civil service in the first instance but external number crunchers will be brought into the task force from the beginning of the new financial year.

With a budget deficit of almost $29 million, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said the country was moving along a dangerous path and the issue ofthe outstanding government accounts was more important than ever. “As the government hasn’t published any audited accounts in four years, we don’t have the facts, members of this House can’t see what is happening with government spending,” he said. He added that he was very disappointed that the accounts had not been present as it was proof of the pudding about what had happened with government spending and there was no other way to know the facts.

Jefferson said that accounts were now finished for the year 2005 and just neede to be compiled into the report, but the problems of Hurricane Ivan and the new requirements of the PMFL had put pressure on CFOs. He said while these were not excuses they were explanations. Jefferson stated that the taskforce would remove the pressure on CFOs, who would be freed up to concentrate on keeping departments’ accounts currentwhile the external accountants would deal with the backlog.

“The importance of this area is fully understood. It is being taken seriously and there is an action plan in place with the establishment of the taskforce,” he added.

The significant delinquency of government financial reporting was exposed in July of last year when Auditor General Dan Duguay released a report, the State of Financial Accountability Reporting, which revealed that every government ministry and statutory authority was behind in its audited accounts. Some were more than four years behind which has prevented government from compiling full reports for any year since it has been in office.

Since the revelation there has been some considerable controversy about the report, with departments denying the position set out by Duguay’s report only to miss more deadlines. However, Duguay told CNS recently that his office continues to work will all the entities that are behind, and he says some improvements have been made. However, the establishment of the taskforce is the first concrete indication that the Portfolio of Finance has a plan to deal with the problem.

In the wake of the report, Governor Stuart Jack raised his concerns and said the delays went to the heart of good governance and said he expected to see the matter addressed. On 6 August he said audited financial statements are important for the accountability of government and hence for good governance and the delay in finalising the statements could not be allowed to continue.

On 6 August 2008, the governor said he expected COs and CFOs of all government entities to give the highest priority to quick progress towards meeting the requirements of the law and of financial accountability to the Legislative Assembly, particularly the Public Accounts Committee, and the public. Several dates for the Public Accounts Committee to meet were set and missed.

Osbourne Bodden, Chair of the Committee, also released a statement in August saying the committee acknowledged the long standing problem with the lack of timely financial statements being made available for audit by the audit office and it would commence witness calling and testimony by early September. Bodden said he strenuously recommended that a specific deadline be given and once passed that the audit office proceeds with issuing its report.  

However, the committee did not meet before the dissolution of the House and will not now do so until after a new administration and therefore new committee is formed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Headline News

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is Ludicrous!!!  This should be treated like a federal crime!! The Definition of Accounting is it is the Language of Business.  For 4 years the Government has not produced financial reports???  What Language are they speaking, goo goo gah gah, goo goo gah gah like babies who have not learned to speak yet?  And this is how you expect to run a Country to be successful??? 

    In my opinion the only problem that could cause this could be one of these 3:

    1.  Unskilled accountants.  (which would not be the fault of the unskilled accountants but the fault of the one who hires them.)

    2.  Not enough accountants, thereby causing great overload distress on the accountants who are hopefully properly skilled and talented to do the accounting job.

    3. Government is deliberately trying to hide wasteful spending whether due to ignorant spending or due to corruption spending or both combined.

    Any other suggestions as to why this could be??? 

    You know, i have to say, Choppy is the only Candidate i have heard emphasizing on the fact that Government is a Business and the Business needs to be run properly like a proper run Business!!!  Just for that Choppy needs to be voted in, finally someone who can see how crucial and critical proper Accounting means to the success of the Business/Country!!!  (That would result in free healthcare for those who need it, just to mention a note on what it would mean if there was proper Accounting, because it would stop so much wasteful spending thereby freeing up finances that can be used for good services to the People/tax payers.)

    Accounting is the Language of Business!!!  NO PROPER ACCOUNTING MEANS NO SUCCESS!!!!!!

    THERE NEEDS TO BE AT THE HEAD OF FINANCE AN INVESTIGATIVE ACCOUNTING TEAM THAT INVESTIGATES THE SPENDING OF EACH DEPARTMENT, THEREBY REDUCING ALOT OF THE CORRUPT/IGNORANT WASTEFUL SPENDING THAT GOES ON!!!  A TEAM OF INVESTIGATIVE ACCOUNTANTS AT THE TOP!!!   Government needs to place an investigative team of Accountants permanently over EACH ONE OF THE DEPARTMENTS, with one investigative team of Accountants at the Top with the Financial Secretary to oversee all the other investigative teams!! That would make these Department Heads think twice before writing that cheque or spending that petty cash money!!!  If they know it will be investigated, then they will be more careful!!  And you know a funny thing also, it is incredibly amazing how the small figures add up to one very large figure, it’s not just the large figures that need investigating, it’s everything they spend from the smallest to the largest figure that needs investigating!!!  Make Sense???

    SHAME ON YOU GOVERNMENT LEADERS TO ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE FOR 4 YEARS!!! 

    I AM IN ABSOLUTE UNBELIEF THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED???  4  YEARS???

    MR. DART, COULD YOU PLEASE PUT SOME INPUT OF INFORMATION INTO THIS COUNTRY’S LEADERSHIP AS TO WHAT ACCOUNTING IS???

    Also, you could have numerous Accountants, but if some of them are not competent and skilled, then it’s just as well they are not there.  You must have skilled Accountants that are competent to do the job efficiently and effectively!!!  Starting from the Accounting Heads!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s another suggestion as to why, Accountants are in place, they are skilled and capable, but they are asked to do so many other things that they do not have time to do what they were hired for.

      Ask Any CFO in Government and they will tell you, as long as a document has a number on it, it automatically becomes their job.

      There are 9 CFOs in the Government and they account for over $500 Million in operating expenses spread over 120 departments employing almost 4,000 people. This ofcourse does not include capital.

      So whether it is preparing a tender document, checking the payroll, writing performance agreement, preparing budgets, tracking project costs, preparing annual accounts, sitting on boards or posting a $5 bill for water from flowers … they’ll tell you, it falls on their desk.

      Contrast that to what Chief Financial Officers actually do on a day to day basis in private sector organizations and you will get an understanding of why these people can’t find time to get the annual accounts done.