ICAB president Lydia McCollin. (GP)
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) said in a statement today that it supported recommendations in the Auditor General’s Report and was especially concerned that “many of the serious deficiencies identified are not new”.
“The Auditor General’s Report 2019 reflects recurring issues on Government’s financial reporting that we have seen in the past years. However, through two special audits, it reveals the grave problems of legal fees paid by certain State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and procurement practices of the Barbados Water Authority for the period 2007-2018.
“As an organisation which seeks to promote, foster and maintain the highest standards of accounting, and which is committed to global best practices, ICAB is concerned that many of the serious deficiencies identified are not new, but have been ongoing for several years,” the statement said.
These include errors in the recording of certain financial information, a lack of appropriate documentation to verify the accuracy of certain information and the long-outstanding audits of certain SOEs. Of greater concern, is that no apparent remedial actions appear to have been taken.
“It is unacceptable that basic accounting principles such as the recording of transactions, recognition of transactions in the correct period and ledger and bank reconciliations are not being performed which have led to the Auditor’s inability to verify amounts submitted in the Statements of Revenue and Financial Position reported by the Barbados Revenue Authority. This lack of accurate and timely information seriously questions the transparency and accountability in financial management and the trust and reliability over the information for sound decision making.”
ICAB said proper accounting principles are especially important as Barbados is at a critical stage, made more challenging by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic).
The accounting body made reference to the new Public Finance Management Act 2019, which imposes higher standards of financial reporting, transparency and accountability for central government and SOEs.
“We hope that there will be a full implementation of the provisions of the Act and that there will be no repeat of these issues in future audits. Based on the findings in this current report and the higher standards in the new Public Finance Management Act 2019, it is evident that there is a need for additional training for accounting officers throughout Government. ICAB can support these training needs and has already made a proposal to the Ministry of Finance outlining how ICAB can assist,” the statement said.
ICAB is said it was alarmed about the significant departures from best practice in Corporate Governance revealed in the special audits of procurement of legal services by certain SOEs and procurement practices of the Barbados Water Authority. Decisions were made without Board approval and seemingly not in the public interest. Substantial amounts from the public purse, funded by Barbadians, were expended or committed, often with no proof that the relevant services or goods had been provided.
The statement said that greater awareness by all Barbadians on issues of national importance is critical to increasing public accountability. ICAB said its current public financial education programme will soon be expanded from its current radio broadcast to include webinars and social media posts.
ICAB fully supports the recommendations of the Auditor General and said " legal and/or disciplinary action must be taken against anyone guilty of wrongdoing such as, misuse and mismanagement of public funds, and serious breaches of procurement rules".
It aslo urged Government to implement the Integrity in Public Life Bill, 2018. (PR)