The government last night defended itself against US findings that it has failed to meet minimum fiscal transparency standards by hailing the “tremendous progress” it has made in this area.
KP Turnquest, deputy prime minister, said the Minnis administration was “satisfied” with the reforms it has enacted since taking office in May 2017 “notwithstanding the assessment in the US State Department’s 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report”.
Reaffirming the government’s commitment to achieving full fiscal transparency, Mr Turnquest said: “The Ministry of Finance has every confidence that the legislation we plan to introduce this fiscal year,and the other initiatives currently in the works, will address the issues raised by this particular report, and that these efforts are in line with other international best practices.
“The State Department’s framework for assessing fiscal transparency places emphasis on transparency around the awarding of government contracts and natural resource licenses, as well as more robust government audit mechanisms. It also speaks to better and more frequent reporting on budgetary matters.”
Mr Turnquest said these criteria fitted well with the government’s plans “to foster greater accountability and better governance”. He added: “Already, the government has introduced quarterly fiscal reports, a yearly fiscal strategy report, and a new online portal dedicated to budgetary and fiscal matters.
“The government is pleased to have increased the budget of the Auditor General’s department by $433,000 – a 16 percent increase to expand their reach and efficacy. We have approved the recruitment of 11 new internal auditors and 14 new VAT auditors. These will boost the audit function all across government in a substantial way.”
Mr Turnquest continued: “During this fiscal year, the government will introduce a new Public Procurement Bill, which will require all prospective government bids to be posted online and call for the publication of all contracts awarded by the government.
“The government will also introduce the Public Financial Management Bill to replace the long outdated Financial Administration and Audit Act. Not only will this new Bill require substantially greater reporting and accountability by state-owned enterprises and public sector agencies, it will also stipulate criminal penalties for malfeasance in public financial affairs.”