As a result, PAC unable to even scrutinize other areas – PAC Chairman
In the United Kingdom, the Auditor General’s report is no more than 20 to 30 pages. But Guyana’s Auditor General’s report is over 200 pages long. This reflects that Guyana’s accounting system is not properly managed. In fact, it says something even more alarming, and that is that the Public Accounting System is in a total mess.
This was the deduction of the Chairman of the PAC, Carl Greenidge, who explained that because of the lengthy AG reports among other factors, the Committee is unable to look into other important matters.
The PAC which exercises oversight over the monies spent by the government is supposed to do more than just examine the reports of the Auditor General; even though this is one of the core functions.
One of its responsibilities is to monitor government’s plan on how it borrows money from International or Regional lenders.
Greenidge explained that he is not aware of the PAC addressing debt in the past.
While debt and the Government’s approach to it are important because it affects tax and other monetary policies, the politician said that the Committee has not examined this aspect because the time required to examine the AG’s report has been inordinate.
He said that the report has been mostly a list of accounting irregularities and financial and administrative failures. Some of these chronic problems involving the misuse of taxpayers’ monies have been carried over for years without a solution.
He added, “It has, for example, taken eight years to deal with accounting problems at GECOM. There are other cases such as Government’s failure to take decisions regarding accounts of outdated public corporations, also of closing inactive bank accounts and the inconsiderable number of cases of millions of overpayments to contractors.”
The PAC Chairman said that he has observed three things: the AG’s report is too long; the amount of time that can be devoted by Members of Parliament to the PAC exercise is too short because the Opposition Parliamentarians are part-time, and lastly, more accounts and legally-related technical support is needed.
Greenidge explained that due to the failure of Ministries to be compliant with the recommendations of the AG, disorder from the previous year is added to the next year’s infringements as outlined in the AG’s report.
He reminded that as a result of this, his introduction to the discussions on the 2012 accounts has been that the Committee is going to be very intolerant if future matters coming before it are largely of an administrative nature or matters on which the Auditor General has already given advice and ministries have failed to act.
Additionally, he posited that the details of the AG’s “extremely long” annual report reflect the failure of the system to ensure that Ministries enforce regulations and or follow the requirements of the law.
In providing an example, Greenidge pointed to the lack of efficient preparation of losses reports prior to turning to Police for action.
He said that much of the time the Police can do very little because of that deficiency. As a result, the Committee would have to deal with such matters which arise from improper administration.
The Auditor General he said has been told by the PAC to recommend that agencies or individuals are prosecuted once there is failure to act after one warning.
“But who can take such action if the Ministers and Permanent Secretaries do not? The PAC cannot. The body can only recommend action to the Assembly. Admittedly, it could have done more in the past,” the Parliamentarian asserted.
In addition, Greenidge said that since the Public Sector’s accounting and auditing framework is weak, the AG devotes a lot of time to relatively significant as well as very insignificant matters (inevitably mostly the latter) and the PAC has to be drawn in.
He posited that this is not the best use of Parliamentarians’ skills.
“If the basic accounts were not so improperly managed, instead of 400 page reports, we could, like the United Kingdom, have a 12 to 20 page AG report which would allow us to look at matters such as debt and also allow the Auditor General to do the same,” Greenidge concluded.
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