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Stimulus welcome, but heed auditor

shadiasimpson, [email protected]

Stimulus welcome, but heed auditor

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The Estimates debate has taken pride of place during this week as the Lower House has debated the economy against the backdrop of the Minister of Finance’s presentation to the House. Perhaps the most important development has been the announcement by the Finance Minister that a stimulus of $600 million will be adopted as part of the Government’s plan to get the economy jump started.
Given the slow growth of the economy; a stimulus package seems desirable, though there will be contrary opinions as to the efficacy of the kind of stimulus proposed by the Government as opposed to the stimulus aimed more directly at putting money into the pockets of consumers, which more accords with the Opposition’s proposals.
It is true that the Minister of Finance had spoken forcibly about the danger to the foreign reserves inherent in any stimulus, and had rejected it as a policy but the Prime Minister had also said that not dismissing any civil servants was the Democratic Labour Party’s stimulus; and even more recently, on his swearing in to the office of Prime Minister, suggested that something would have to be done to assist the vulnerable in the society.
But however desirable might be the Government’s adoption of the stimulus initiative, the Auditor General’s latest report must make for dismal reading to Cabinet Ministers as they struggle to wrestle the problems of the fiscal deficit and related aspects of the economy into shape.
It is difficult enough to plan small developing open economies in a volatile environment, but it is doubly so if planners cannot be sure that the numbers they are working with fairly represent the financial and accounting state of the departments of Government.
Criticism of the state of the accounts of government departments is a frequent occurrence, and we hardly hear of any sanction being applied to those who are responsible for this unhealthy state of affairs. It would send alarm bells ringing in the private sector if a publicly owned company’s accounts were qualified, meaning that the auditors could not verify that the accounts fairly represented the state of the company.
That company’s lenders would be calling in the managers and directors of the company and no doubt heads would roll from those responsible for this major aspect of mal-governance of the company.
If public sector reform is to mean anything then all those employed in the public service must regard it as their first priority to adhere to the policy initiatives of the policy makers, and assist the Government in getting the job done. This duty must include following scrupulously the rules relating to the business of accounting properly and carefully for the public funds.
Estimates week is a timely reminder to all public officials that it is the public’s money raised through taxation which is allocated to the various Government departments through the debate which takes in the Estimates.
We are sure that the Public Accounts Committee in pursuance of its responsibility to Parliament will deal expeditiously with the complaints raised by the Auditor General, in an effort to try to ensure accountability for the spending of public funds.