Public finance law to change

| 04/01/2011

(CNS): The way public finances are managed is to be changed during 2011, the premier has revealed, as he says it is the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law which have cause the surge in bureaucracy for government. McKeeva Bush told CNS that many of the stumbling blocks to projects and plans to get the economy going that he has encountered since coming into office are down to the PMFL. He said the law was introduced to make government more open, and even though it was important to be transparent, the law shouldn’t hold up efforts to improve the country’s financial fortunes. The premier said it would be reviewed and changed over the coming months to preserve the principles of transparency but allow things to move ahead more quickly and remove the red tape.

Bush said the country had to encourage development in order to create jobs and stimulate the economy. “But we have areal problem with bureaucracy,” he said, speaking at a brief press conference during the recent regional conference hosted by the Jamaican Building Society at the Ritz Carlton.

Speaking about the differences he encountered coming to office in May 2009 in comparison to his previous time as the country’s head of government, he said the biggest problem was the procurement process and the impact of the PMFL.

The premier pointed to the changes under the law that had created a system that slowed things down. “The trouble was everyone said government had to be more open and we needed to change the laws for the government procurement process but it has created bureaucracy.”

He said elements of the PMFL were just not workable and too costly for a small country and the law had to be revised

“While we want good governance and we will preserve many of the tenets of the law, it has to be made workable,” Bush said, adding that the auditor general was already looking at the PMFL and the procurement process.

Bush came under fire in 2010 and was accused of breaking the law when he overrode a decision made by the Ministry of Finance’s technical team and the Central Tenders Committee for the provision of financing for government’s loan of $155million. At the time Bush said the choice made by the team and the CTC was not good value for money for government. As a result, in a controversial move he negotiated a separate deal with New York based firm, Cohn and Company, but the full details of that loan agreement have not yet been finalised.

Bush has also publicly criticised some of the boards, the overseas government authorities and processes, as well as the 21-day public review period before a law is brought to the Legislative Assembly for debate and passage. Since taking office he has railed against red tape and what he has described as the dragging of feet over government business.

In his recent general report on the state of government finances, Auditor General Alistair Swarbrick also recommended a review of the public management and finance law. His office is also currently examining the government procurement system and how central tendering works.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully by streamlining the PMFL, we can get back to basics and fully determine why we needed such a grandiose system in the first place which is clearly not working.

    There are just too many accountants spinning wheels in the system and not delivering value for money, WHEREAS the staff that are actually producing work and value are not being recognised.

    No one can explain how the system really works! Surely this is why New Zealand abandoned it. It makes no sense.

    If an accrual system is needed then just look at how the private sector does it without all the needless reporting that no one reads or uses.

    • Anonymous says:

      So private firms here and elsewhere operate on an accruals basisand don’t bother with "needless reporting that no one reads or uses", Anon Thu 19:27?? I trust you have nothing to do with any of the several companies here and abroad of which I am a shareholder because I can assure you the reports are frequent, well presented and evaluated by management and we shareholders alike, neither of whom – for obvious reasons – wish to see unwelcome or dangerous trends. And what are these QUARTERLY reports that CNN, Fox News, CNBC and Bloomberg anxiously await and report on year in year out?

      But I guess it doesn’t matter as we are just a small country with a near $600 billion budget and supposed to be the fifth offshore centre in the world. Who the hell cares about reporting on where all the money goes? Just let the civil servants and politicians spend, spend. No one ever brings them to account for their poor management or praises them for sound management. But I would bet if we all had some ofour own money invested in the Government we would want to see as often as possible – quarterly or semi annually – how it was being managed.

  2. Dennis Smith says:

    Finally had a look at the Public Management and Finance Law (2005 Revision) Now I understand way its difficult to move quickly, especially when the Government doesn’t have current management accounts. The problem here is that this is an all or nothing situation. Its either working or its not, and anything in between just creates a bigger logjam.

    The problem is that it very difficult, if not impossible to strip the PMFL down into something simpler. What would you cut out? On examination every section seems to have a well-intended purpose and plugs a gap that could cause an integrity or control problem.

    Maybe the real problem is CS’s unwieldy infrastructure. When every politician over the last 30 years and the CS itself has added a bit of this and some of that to the functions of government you end up with an unmanageable mess. A big bunch of worms wiggling in a bucket.

    Businesses build their operations within a structure of control systems and processes that are measured and managed by data outputs.  New projects, tasks and responsibilities are fitted in from the beginning or they are not started. I suspect that the CS jumped into new projects and expansions without any control or evaluation mechanism in place, hence the need for a Public Management and Finance Law.

    No government can afford to be all things to all people. Instead of chopping the PMFL law down to size, I would start by concentrating on streamlining core competencies and criticalneeds, cutting out the dead wood, pulling a lot of the worthless worms out of the bucket. After all of these years there must be a lot of dead ends lying around.

    Simplify the problem and then you can you simplify the solution.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Public Management and Finance Law is not the real problem.

    Entering financial data into a computer system is not hard. Filing documents properly is not hard.

    The government uses a state-of-the-art financial computer system. The National Archive routinely offers high quality courses (thank your Dr. Pedley)  to civil serants on how to build and maintain a professional filing system. The Civil Service has been given the tools and the training to get the job done.

    There are no VALID reasons for not getting the above tasks done. The main INVALID reasons are incompetance, laziness and a lack of caring on the part of both management and the front line civil servants. Everything else are mere excuses.

    The fix? Send some of the local Civil Servantoverseas for 5 year internships so they can learn how to be professionals.


    • Anonymous says:

      Quite right Anon 9:18. Even better than your internship idea would be to put Chief Officers on three year fixed term (but renewable) contracts – an idea that was rejected (surprise!) by the then chief officers in the late 1990s. That would solve MANY problems very quickly.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m still waiting for the substance which was suppose to justify not complying with the process. i.e.  What is the interest rate from Cohen, why is it taking so long? could it be that they can’t deliver and you are now between a rock and a hard place? I am waiting with baited breath to see how you’ll explain this one to the country.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Many of us civil servants have long memories and Mr Bush used to complain bitterly about bureaucracy, auditor-generals, due processes and civil servants holding him and the country up way back in the nineties long before the PMFL ever came into being. But the PMFl makes a great whipping boy for politicians like him and also for civil servants who don’t like accountability and transparency.

  6. EyesWideOpen says:

    more circumvention of the process a wa?

  7. Anonymous says:

    “While we want good governance….." 

    Very inconsistent statement by the creator of the phrase "Subtance over Process" to justify the violation of many laws just to assist his cohorts.

    Good process = compliance.

    PMFL ensures that accounting tracks are left in the accounting sands, and that my friends is not what he wants – he wants to ensure the information must be erased and / or covered up.

    What a year we now have to endure with the promised erosion of government accountability.