Despite the progress made with the help of continued significant technical assistance since the mid-1990s, worrying weaknesses remain in most phases of the public financial management process. This point was hammered home today by Economist and Senior University of Guyana Lecturer, Dr. Thomas Singh during an interview with the Guyana Standard.
Dr. Singh noted that these weaknesses include a lack of fiscal transparency from semi-autonomous agencies. He said that the fact that budget preparation is done on a cash deficit which ignores large contingent liabilities of the State, e.g. on account of borrowing by state entities is another weakness. Dr. Singh also pointed out that there is mediocre parliamentary oversight over the budget.
Further to this, the University Professor bemoaned the fact that for more than 20 years, the budget estimates do not receive detailed scrutiny and tend to be approved without amendments by a simple majority vote. He commented that the establishment of special committees within the Parliament also “have little to no effect in the financial management process.”
The economist said, “Every year, the National Assembly members bicker about corruption…So why not call for an inquiry into the financial management process to identify where the loopholes are? Sometimes, it is not always the processes that are broken but the values of the people who have to administer over them…”
He added, “If we don’t get serious about this then effective implementation, monitoring and control of budgetary spending will always be hindered and subject to corruption no matter what modern management systems you have in place…”
Dr. Singh stated that going forward, the government needs to ensure wider consultations in budget preparation, particularly with the indigenous peoples; and increased fiscal transparency, through better information on the use of foreign aid for projects and assessment reports.
“There is overwhelming evidence that public sector performance can be improved if government takes a serious approach to addressing the weaknesses of its public financial management process. I have no doubt that if this is done, it would contribute to the achievement of the country’s development goals,” the economist expressed.