Confronting numerous challenges
Developing countries such as ours are faced with numerous challenges which are rendered even more difficult in an environment of adversarial politics when every action by the government, however noble and well-intentioned, is twisted and distorted by opposition elements in order to score cheap political points.
As I mentioned in a previous article, there are some people in our society who are so consumed by their dislike for this current administration that there is nothing that the government could do that is considered good enough for them.
Yet the record would show that the quality of life of the Guyanese people has improved significantly since the coming to office of the current PPP/C administration on October 5, 1992. This is due mainly to the hard work put in by policy makers and those responsible for the implementation of government’s policies and programmes. These are individuals who work beyond the call of duty to serve their country and improve lives, but despite their hard work, they are often vilified by those who seek to denigrate their efforts and contributions out of narrow partisan interests.
This is not to suggest that policy makers and those in positions of authority should not be held accountable for their performance on the job. In fact, there are several mechanisms, including those at the highest level of Parliament, where public officials are required to appear before and respond to questions raised by those in authority.
In the case of government ministers, there are the Sectoral Committees which are chaired by opposition Members of Parliament. These are powerful parliamentary bodies which have the power to summon any Minister of Government to answer questions relevant to his or her respective ministry or agency.
Then there is the Public Accounts Committee, again chaired by an opposition Member of Parliament, before which Accounting Officers in the public sector are required to respond to queries raised in the Auditor General’s Report.
The Auditor General’s Report is now prepared and submitted on an annual basis since the assumption to office of this current administration. Prior to 1992, there were significant gaps in the presentation of the Auditor General’s Reports. As such it was difficult to make any real sense as to the state of government’s financial records, including the reconciliation of bank statements.
Much progress has been made in terms of reconciliation of bank statements and accountability of public funds with the introduction of the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMAS) which now provides accounting officers with real-time information on financial transactions. Through this mechanism, it is now possible to retrieve financial information from sector ministries centrally. This is a significant management and accountability tool used by the Accountant General to exercise oversight over the country’s finances.
The Auditor General has also introduced what is called a ‘value for money audit’ which goes beyond checking on the extent to which there is conformity with the financial and tendering procedures and regulations to one of ascertaining whether or not there is dollar optimization having regard to budgetary allocations.
These are significant steps in terms of financial management and accountability. The compilation of the Auditor General’s Report has been greatly enhanced with the introduction of the IFMAS system.
The above is not intended to create the impression that the system of financial management and accountability is perfect, but simply to make the point that there have been, over the years, significant innovations in the oversight role of relevant authorities to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s finances.
Service to one’s country is a sacred duty. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Service thy duty, reward not thy business”. So many public servants and officials of state have been making their contribution to society without looking forward to rewards that it is impossible to name them all.
Many of these are not in the top echelons of the public service, but they make their contributions in their own quiet and unassuming ways. I refer to our teachers, nurses and other public servants who serve the people of this country and who have never succumb to the temptation to seek greener pastures.
This ‘greener pasture’ syndrome is indeed a challenge for Guyana as indeed for so many other developing countries. A significant number of our graduates leave for North America and other overseas destinations upon serving their contractual obligations to the government.
Some even seek to circumvent their obligations to serve by paying off their contracts.
This is certainly a drag on our capacity to develop our country.
This is why we have to respect and salute those who have remained and serve this country and who have resisted the temptation to offer their services outside the shores of Guyana.