Govt. satisfied with fiscal transparency advancements, notwithstanding US report

Govt. satisfied with fiscal transparency advancements, notwithstanding US report

Report assessed that country failed to meet fiscal transparency requirements

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Responding to a United State report which assessed that The Bahamas failed to meet the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday that notwithstanding the assessment, the government is satisfied with its “tremendous progress” in advancing fiscal transparency in the last year.

The U.S. Department of State report was released last week.

The Bahamas was among 67 other countries not to meet the minimum requirements.

It assessed the fiscal transparency of 140 countries and is based on the progress made between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.

The report also said The Bahamas failed to make significant progress on meeting the minimum requirements.

According to the 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report said it evaluated whether the government publicly disclosed key budget documents, including expenditures broken down by ministry and revenues broken down by source and type, as well as whether the government has an independent supreme audit institution that audits the government annual financial statements.

“The government shares a common commitment with its international counterparts to fiscal transparency,” read the ministry’s statement.

“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 more robust government audit mechanisms. It also speaks to better and more frequent reporting on budgetary matters.

“These elements fit well within the government’s announced plans and initiatives to foster greater accountability and better governance.”

It said the government has already introduced quarterly fiscal report, a fiscal strategy report and an online portal dedicate to budgetary and fiscal matter. It noted that in the 2019/2029 budget, allocations for the auditor general was increased by 16 percent to expand its reach and efficacy and the government has approved the recruitment of 11 new internal auditors as well as 14 new value-added tax auditors.

The acquisition of additional auditors is expected to boost the audit function across government agencies and ministries in a “substantial way”.

Additionally, the ministry noted that the government passed a compendium of fiscal legislation aimed at improving and strengthening the fiscal regime on The Bahamas.

“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,” read the statement.

“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.

“I will simply reiterate the government’s commitment to transparency at all levels of government, but particularly in the fiscal arena. We are proud of the strides we have made so far, but we know that our efforts are far from done.”