Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, after examining the Annual Reports of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC),
has said that the entity is just another example of the perpetuation of Jagdeo’s legacy of financial lawlessness, a situation that is as wide as it is deep.
On his website, Chrisram.net, the accountant provides further details about his findings of the reports of the Commission for the years 2005 to 2012 which were all laid in Parliament in November, 2013.
Ram said that the state of financial lawlessness created by former President Bharrat Jagdeo, surely allows for the GFC’s “incomplete and deceptive” reports to be tabled and accepted by the National Assembly without any questions being asked or challenges posed.
Ram asserted that the chaos created is one in which the national accounting body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana, remains silent even as basic rules of accounting are violated with impunity.
The state of lawlessness that exists, is “One in which the parliamentary bodies are paralysed by their own mediocrity. One in which we even have a mini-parallel Consolidated Fund called NICIL, and where the evidence of slush funds everywhere mounts,” he added.
On his website, Ram said that the Government will not allow it, and the weak opposition will not even ask for it, but only a wide-ranging, independent investigation into the public financial management of this country generally, and of NICIL specifically, can stem the relentless decline in accounting and accountability. The people of Guyana must demand it.
Since the Commission tabled its annual reports for the years 2005 to 2012, it has attracted several criticisms for its glaring deficiencies and violations of best accounting practices.
There was a published series on the said shortcomings of the reports done by Janette Bulkan and John Palmer.
In their analysis, they pointed to the fact that the ad hoc manner in which the report was prepared, would suggest that
the reports were written long after events took place, because the reports for the years 2005 and 2006 make reference to the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which was not implemented until mid 2009.
Highlighted as well in their detailed report was the Commission’s failure to address the implementation of national policies and strategies in their annual reports.
Bulkan and Palmer argued that, “this failure to present the most basic characteristics conventional in reports of government agencies – that is, the reporting on performance against national policies and strategies approved by the National Assembly – is a serious deficiency in the direction and management of the GFC.”
They said that it makes it unnecessarily difficult to trace trends in performance. The duo said too, that the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources should demand that the GFC among other agencies, report on their performance against policies.
Another point they mentioned was the failure of the Commission to report on performance of the forest sector. They explained, “Annual reports should tell what actually happened in relation to what was planned, and to explain the differences. Apart from congratulating itself in most years on achieving more than 90 per cent of its plans, the GFC makes almost no attempt to show its plans or to comment on what actually happened in relation to those plans.”
They continued, “The Annual Reports from 2005-2012 mostly concentrate on process, not on performance, yet at the same
time fail to situate the activities within the national forest policy process…There has been no attempt in these eight reports (2005 to 2012) to compare progress against the national forest policy (1997) and national forest plan (2001)…”
The duo also said that the GFC operates a relatively large number of externally-funded projects. These, they said, include several capacity-building/training projects during 2005-2012.
“Certainly it is important to say how many GFC staff went for what kind of training, where and when. But it is also important to indicate what lasting benefits have been obtained from this training, how GFC procedures and practices have changed as a result of the training, how national policies and strategies are better addressed by better-trained staff, and how overall and specific performances have improved,” Bulkan and Palmer expressed.
The audited accounts of the Commission, they posited, make no explicit mention of the sub-accounts for the numerous projects; who has been undertaking the external audits of these projects, and with what results. These questions raised have not been answered by the Forestry Commission or by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.
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