Apr 15, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyanese have been talking about it and living under its dark shadow for the last three decades. We at this paper have been presenting it in one report after another almost daily for more than 20 years. It is what the newest IDB report documents as to the state of this country’s public finance management. To reuse the word that the IDB used, it is still “inadequate” (KN Mach 30).
The IDB report laid out a number of areas that are in urgent need of actions to mend the breaches, close the loopholes, through which resourcefully crooked Guyanese have repeatedly driven a big bus over. There have been some improvements, in observance of the requirements of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act of 2003. That is one piece of good news, with internal auditing regulation, and “ICT upgrades and capacity building” being others that “fostered sustainability and improved transparency in Guyana’s public institutions” (KN March 30). Yet there is so much more that is still lacking, and which demands high-level attention and action. The shortfalls and negatives are many and material, and of which we restate only a few.
According to the IDB report, Guyana is “well below the regional average” (2.0 versus 2.9) on the professional development index (PRODEV) “on public financial management.” The report “identified weaknesses across the following key areas: transparency in inter-governmental fiscal relations, including lack of information on resources received by delivery units; management of assets and liabilities” and “insufficient legislative scrutiny of external audit reports, uncompetitive procurement…and procurement inefficiencies, with a lack of feasibility studies and rigorous project appraisals” among other damning revelations.
We at this paper are compelled to table this question: what are we really doing at the highest levels in the vital area of public finance management? We ask another: which leaders can be so shameless, so ignorant, so unconcerned, as to stand in supervision (or the lack of it) of such deficiencies that literally invite the roguish in our midst to exploit them to the fullest? When we absorb the extent of the grimness of the IDB report, we can appreciate that our public finance management standards and way of life open the taxpayers and public treasury to be plundered at will. And as we know so well, this is what has occurred under one government after another, with government officials themselves leading the way in ripping off the people. Those gaps, no matter how charitably looked at, encourages everyone to celebrate Christmas daily.
To be fair, some small steps have been taken, for which some recognition is due. But, when the magnitude of our public finance management deficiencies is reviewed, it is clear that we have only touched the first letter in the alphabet. But even as we have done so, we turn right around and undermine that when our improved audit regulations are not visited comprehensively and consistently with parliamentary oversight, on how the business of the people, and the monies of the people, is being conducted. Currently, there is this impasse over the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on the fitness and appropriateness of its chair to be in that position. While things such as these are happening, the work of public finance oversight languishes.
Further, when there are ongoing uncertainties about “resources received by delivery units” then the start that is needed to hold those units accountable falls apart at the seams. It is why the usual skullduggeries are so rampant where the taxpayers’ money is involved. Even further, when there is a “lack of feasibility studies and rigorous project appraisals” then all we are doing is allocating and spending money blindfolded. Our leaders and professionals are no different from drunken sailors on shore leave, who splurge without any thought of costs to the paying public or long-term consequences to the nation.
We urge our readers to think of this: no responsible government that says that it is about prudent stewardship of the assets and resources put in its care, the trust placed in its hands, can operate like this. But this is what we have had for the longest while now. With all those billions being borrowed, and with public finance management in the state that it is, this is a programme for continuity of the trickery that has laid this nation so low. If we don’t have the clearest idea on the front end of what is going in (“resources received by delivery units”) and compound that with poor procurement practices (“uncompetitive” and with “inefficiencies”) and close out with less than probing, ethical, and vigilant overview and sign-offs (“lack of…rigorous project appraisals”), then there is no way that our watchdogs and those put in positions of responsibility can give an honest and accurate accounting to the nation on how their monies are spent, and how the related debt obligations that they have to honour have been utilised for the fullness of purposes intended.
Guyanese have been arguing about who stole before, and who stole more. The IDB report on public finance management spares none, condemns all. We are lost, but pretending that we are not and we know where we are going and what we are doing. However kindly considered, that confirms how dunce we are.
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