After ten years, the Ministry of Finance has failed to enforce what can be considered as the two most important of the
seven features/modules of the Integrated Financial Management and Accounting System (IFMAS).
When contacted on Tuesday, Financial Secretary Nirmal Rekha said that the best person to pose questions about the status of the two modules would be the Accountant General, Jawahar Persaud.
“He has responsibility for that and as such he would be better able to answer such questions.”
Rekha noted, however, that the Ministry of Finance has put several mechanisms in place to improve its systems.
Accountant General, Jawahar Persaud, said, yesterday, “I am annoyed with the (June 4, 2014 article) published in Kaieteur News. I was never contacted by this publication.
“The article has already been published and I will not speak to Kaieteur News ever about any financial matter regardless of whether it concerns the Ministry of Finance.”
But Junior Finance Minister, Bishop Juan Edghill, stated that the reason for this is because the Ministry lacks the capacity to do so at this point.
IFMAS was implemented in January 2004 under former President Bharrat Jagdeo to modernize the business of the government. The cost of the project was US$660,000 ($132 M).
According to the website of the Ministry of Finance, the IFMAS is responsible for recording all financial data generated by the Government and the payment function with reference to the issuing of cheques and the reconciliation of the main Bank Account, the recording of warrants; contingencies fund advances, deposit fund advances and the generation of the annual financial statements.
It also corrects any mistakes made by Government Ministries, departments and Regions which may have inputted incorrect information. The generation of financial reports of all aspects of the data is also possible in this unit.
In an attempt to explain why the Finance Ministry has not operationalised the other two modules, Edghill said, “It must be recognized that, the IFMAS is a foolproof and reliable system from which the Finance Ministry generates its financial statements which are in turn used by the Auditor General.
“The two modules have not been operationalized because we are still building a capacity for them. It requires technical support and the training of people and those things take time. We are in the process of building that capacity.”
Attempts to contact the Minister of Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, yesterday on the issue, proved futile.
The absence of the two features, many financial analysts opined, have opened up the floodgates for mismanagement and lack of proper accountability with regard to assets and consumables acquired by the government.
In speaking with this publication, former Auditor General and anti-corruption advocate, Anand Goolsarran, told this publication that the system was expected to ensure that there would be a more accountable mechanism for recordkeeping as it relates to Government’s procurement.
The IFMAS system which was adopted by the Finance Ministry is a reconfigured version of the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) which is the trade name for the software sold by FreeBalance.
FreeBalance is a Canadian company that specializes in software designed for large scale, financial management, especially public financial management.
IFMAS has seven specific modules which were integrated into the Government’s budgeting, accounting and reporting systems, namely the Appropriation, Expenditure, General Ledger, Budget Preparation & Reporting System (BPRS), Purchasing, Revenue and Asset & Inventory Modules.
According to FreeBalance, the Asset and Inventory module allows Governments to track a range of variables such as, “… renewal of service contracts, insurance policies, warranty periods, software licensing and services rendered.”
It lets Governments monitor modifications to asset records and manage asset items in all of the previously mentioned areas.
The company also provides automatic item depreciation calculations that help governments “identify the true value of public assets.”
The Purchasing Module offers an even more interesting range of services. According to FreeBalance, it provides “an integrated procurement process” that “manages multi-item requisitions and purchases and the receiving process”. The module’s overview goes on to state that it allows for flexible expenditure management around “hard limits, percentage limits, budget, and waiver ceilings.”
It also offers the creation of “obligations” for purchase orders that see subsequent liquidation upon receipt and payment of goods. The system even tracks shipments against purchase orders.
In the absence of these two modules, the Auditor General’s report is fraught with reports of goods that go ‘missing’, budgetary excesses by numerous Government agencies, and the constant cry of procurement inconsistencies across the board in every single facet of Government.
Goolsarran said that in the absence of the modules, there are several crucial implications. He stated that in their absence, Guyana has a less than desirable accountability framework and as such, billions of dollars in assets and consumables can go untracked.
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