By Kiana Wilburg
It appears that the penalties already listed in the nation’s financial laws just aren’t enough to deter officials from committing the hundreds of financial indiscretions which are found each year by the Audit Office and later discussed by the Public Accounts Committee.
The innumerable instances of financial transgressions are not only frustrating to the PAC, an oversight committee of the Parliament, but have also caused members to issue a recent call for harsh penalties.
Such calls were made as recent as Thursday during a sitting of the House.
PAC Chairman, Irfaan Ali was at the time, moving a motion for the House to adopt the Committee’s reports which are based on the examinations of the public accounts of Guyana for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Ali told the House that the PAC worked tirelessly towards successfully completing the reports. In fact, he shared that there were 14 meetings, some of which went on for 14 to 16 hours.
There were a few speakers on the motion, with Jermaine Figueira of the Government’s side being one of them.
The Parliamentarian said, “I am mindful of the need for the ritual of financial oversight by the PAC. While this continues to be important, the time is opportune for me to note, that there is a need for concerted efforts to be made to address the issue of the quality of human resources used in the system and the structure in which they are deployed to head various ministries and departments. There are recommendations on this in the PAC report.”
Figueira continued, “…We must aspire to groom professional public servants and as far as possible, do away with the culture of contracting accounting officers. The recommendations in the 2010 and 2011 reports speak directly to this issue.”
He added, “There is also a need to amend Sections 48, 49, and 85 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) with the aim of broadening the descriptions and amplifying the penalties to give greater clarity when interpreting this Act. This will enhance the deterrent properties in the Act intended to dissuade perpetrators of accounting malpractices.”
This recommendation was later endorsed by his other colleagues of the PAC.
Figueira closed by noting that he has no doubt the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan will soon inform the House of the measures to be taken, in light of the PAC’s report via the Treasury Memorandum.
Opposition Member Juan Edghill also spoke on the motion. The Parliamentarian said, too, that he is also looking forward to the Treasury Memorandum.
He noted, however, that given the work of the PAC on the reports of the Auditor General, there is a clear need for more responsive and responsible accounting officers. The politician stressed that a level of comfort is certainly needed when it comes to public funds in Guyana and how they are accounted for.
PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali thanked the speakers for their contributions as well as the staff of the National Assembly and the media which provided ample coverage. He urged his colleagues in the House to read the PAC’s report, which he said is filled with very instructive recommendations on the way forward.
The motion was then put to a vote and carried.
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