Act to tighten accounting
THE proposed Prevention of Corruption legislation will put greater pressure on businesses to practise sound accounting.
According to attorney-at-law Lesley Walcott, like common law and statute, it acknowledges the vital role auditors perform.
“The act in the same vein addresses businesses’ accounting practices so that a private entity is required to comply with general accounting and auditing principles,” she said.
Businesses are strictly prohibited from entering liabilities without correct identification, from establishing off-the-book accounts and from recording non-existent expenditure.
Any breach renders the “business liable to a fine of $500 000 or to imprisonment for a term of five years or both”.
The lecturer in the law faculty of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, said auditors will play a pivotal role in detecting fraud and corruption and must vigilantly peruse financial statements.
While the proposed act does not attempt to identify certain businesses, it focuses on the practices which amount to corruption, fraud and bribery, she explained.
“Apart from the general prohibition imposed on companies, it expressly prohibits companies from bribing public officials.
“Businesses are cautioned against promising, offering or giving any advantage to a public official as an inducement or reward which would assist, hinder or delay that person in any transaction. . . ,” she said during a public lecture last Tuesday at The Savannah Hotel.
Any public official who accepts or solicits an advantage to himself or another person is also subject to a fine, imprisonment or both.
Walcott noted that the act provided a myriad of supporting mechanisms.
“It establishes a commission, which seized with all of this information is understandably subject to an oath of secrecy and confidentiality.
“Provision is made for the protection of witnesses and cooperation with orders or extradition, freezing and detention of assets,” she said. (NB)