While most in the financial field may be somewhat justified in having feelings of elation for the fact that there has been annual audits and reports on the public accounts when compared with what prevailed during the pre-1992 years, one still needs to reflect on what effect this reporting is having on the prudent management of the public accounts. Making this perspective known recently was Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran.
In his latest commentary, Goolsarran was keen to point out that in the private sector, the slightest qualification of the accounts of a company can result in a shake-up of management. Yet, at the government level, there appears to be business as usual. In this regard, Goolsarran said there is yet to be any evidence showing a dedicated effort to bring about improvements in public accountability.
Expounding further, he said that the Government continues to use the cash basis of accounting to record, process and report on financial transactions. While some may argue that such an accounting and financial reporting framework is simple and easy to operate, the former State Auditor said it is very much incomplete and can result in various forms of abuse. He said these include: the acceleration of expenditure in the last quarter of the year to exhaust budgetary allocations; circumvention and/or manipulation of the public procurement procedures; postponement of activities so as to avoid overrunning budgetary allocations; failure to return to the Treasury all unspent balances at the end of the year; and drawing of cheques at the end of the year for the payment of goods, services and the execution of works for which value is yet to be received.
As far back as 2015 and earlier, he recalled that the former coalition Government had decided to move away from the use of the cash basis of accounting to an accrual-based one consistent with international accounting and financial reporting standards. In this regard, it had agreed to a progressive phase-in of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). However, except for some amount of training that took place, there has been little or no progress.
Goolsarran is of the firm view that Guyanese deserve better than this while stressing the need for urgent action to be taken by the current government.