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WILD COOT: Our statutory corporations


HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: Our statutory corporations

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YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, Mr Minister. The statutory corporations are draining the resources of the country and mostly doing a bad job. What is more, we do not see any responsibility for good management. There is one basic failure that the Wild Coot cannot understand “through being as according to how” he is accustomed to balancing accounting activities on a daily basis. 

In most of the statutory corporations no annual report is made of their financial affairs. There is no balance sheet to show to the contributing public how the money allocated to them has been spent. Furthermore, one suspects that contributions of their workers to National Insurance and PAYE are in serious default. (Somebody said that the latter applies to some ministries as well.)

Mr Minister, you have to take a stand on behalf of the people who pay VAT (now 19.5 per cent or more) and taxes. You should have done something ere now, but better late than never. You have to state that further support to the statutory corporations is conditional on seeing how the money has been spent up to this point. This means that their accounting must be brought up to date. 

Pending a receipt of balanced accounting up-to-date figures, they would be given a token amount of money with the stipulation that a further allotment may only be forthcoming when up-to-date reports are presented in line with the satisfaction of the Accountant General. Some fellows told me that if I write about a certain place, I would be wasting time since the wastage and corruption is so bad.

Now, this is going to cause a problem, for some of the corporations are so far in arrears that it is almost impossible to update their accounts. In dealing with their budget, they may have to shed staff and that will bring the unions into play. They may even have an issue with their own staff as to the negligence of not submitting National Insurance or PAYE returns. 

You will not be a popular minister, but you will have the support of people who realise the quandary in which the taxes have to operate and the unpopular reliance on printed money from the Central Bank, not to mention your inability to access the foreign international markets.

Perhaps the statutory corporation can make an appeal to a host of retired people, competent in accounting affairs, to assist them in speedily bringing their books up to date. You see, there is a wealth of such people in our society whose talents have lain dormant since they have been put out to pasture and in whom Alzheimer’s has so far not yet taken hold.

Then there is the burning question of privatisation. Any private organisation that is going to buy one of these corporations will want to know what is being bought. A case in point is the Transport Board. ZR vans and minibuses ply their route 365 days a year while most of the Transport Blue buses lie uselessly idle at the Roebuck Street depot. Is it because the yellow minibuses are made in Barbados? The Transport Board offers a social service in its operations but no one would want to operate with such a service. Then there is its debt obligation, both private and public. 

Why are Sanitation trucks always on the blink while other haulage truckers operate year-long? It takes a bold bank to embark on a lending programme to this service, as past performances do not engender much confidence. Here again one has to ask the question: How are the affairs managed?

You see, with an up-to-date annual report, you as minister, will be able (one hopes) to help the organisation make decisions where cost-cutting measures can be initiated. You may ask for example, “Why are the costs for repairs so high? Are you sure that you are getting value for money?” Or, “Why are people complaining about garbage collection in such and such a village when there is supposed to be sufficient trucks?” You may even call the minister responsible for that neck of the woods and quietly whisper in his ear: “Look, people are making unwarranted remarks about the department and I need to give answers.”

Minister, I am sure that you are aware there are people in our society willing to purchase any of our statutory corporations at a song. But you and I know that that would not assist in reducing the present national debt. Neither will it help as it would deprive the Government of a tool for the promotion of any benefits in a future race to the polls, since you would not be able to help others boast that we have a functioning society. 

There is more that I can say but we need to get together on a business basis. 

Harry Russell is a banker. Email: [email protected]

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