Nothing has changed when it comes to government accountability, transparency and corruption. In fact, the latter seems to have become more pervasive under the APNU+AFC judging from the Annual Reports of the Auditor General for the years 2015, 2016 and now 2017.
The APNU+AFC which assumed the reins of office in May 2015, inherited a governmental system adrift with financial malfeasance as was evident by the reports of the Auditor General for those years when the PPPC ruled. The fruit of government accounts has gotten more rotten
The APNU did promise to improve accountability and transparency and reduce corruption. It has not delivered on that promise because it has failed to reform the bureaucracy. The government wrongly assumed that a change of personnel would bring about improvement. It has not.
The situation has not improved. There seems hardly a government Ministry which was untouched by financial irregularities and breaches of the country’s financial regulations.
The Auditor General’s primary task is to pronounce on the integrity of the financial statements of the government and the systems which are in place.
What he has uncovered in terms of irregularities, suspected fraud and breaches of financial regulations may therefore only be the tip of the iceberg.
He may have barely scraped the surface when it comes to corruption within the government.
How for example, would he ever detect if a transaction, even though following all the financial laws and regulations, did not involve a kickback?
His office cannot detect this. It has long been rumored that kickbacks are part of the underbelly of government procurement of goods and services.
The annual reports of the Auditor General are therefore not an effective tool to root out corruption. In fact, many of the same issues seem to be appearing each year. This shows that despite the defects being identified by the Auditor General, not much has changed.
Government has become too big to be effectively managed. Guyana is too small a country and its revenue base is too limited for government to be spending G$ 500 M per day.
Government needs to be shrunk. Instead it is being expanded with a whole range of new agencies and departments being created. Guyana needs to reduce the size of government which has become grossly inefficient.
In fact, instead of offering annual wage increases, the Minister of Finance should consider reducing the work week for the public service from five days to four days. Most of the work done each week by public servants at present can be easily condensed into three days. A four day work week would result in a 20% increase in hourly wages.
Savings in overheads will be generated by cutting the work week. These savings can be ploughed into improving efficiency.
Apart from reducing the size of government and cutting the work week, government should establish audit departments in every Ministry and government agency. Audit departments would be able to examine every financial transaction to determine whether these were above board.
The state of the government’s management of its finances is an indictment against the audit departments of government ministries and agencies. If these audit departments were doing their work as it ought to be done, most of the problems pointed out by the Auditor General would cease to exist.
Instead they are getting worse. The government therefore needs to seriously address its over-bloated bureaucracy and to strengthen audit departments. This is the only way that change is going to be achieved when it comes to reducing corruption and improving accountability and transparency.
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