Bipartisan committee should seek to improve accounting standards in ministries
Stabroek News
December 17, 2001

Dear Editor,

In the December 2nd edition of Stabroek News' Business Page, Chartered Accountant and business executive, Christopher Ram, penned an article "Public accounting and accountability" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in which some serious financial accounting problems in government were highlighted.

If the root cause of the problem is the lack of resources, such as accounting professionals and or computerized databases in ministries or departments, then how does anyone explain or justify the decision making process concerning contract awards and basic reconciliation of bank accounts?

Computers do not make decisions, people do, and if people can decide to spend, they must be able to account for what they spend.

A work environment void of accounting systems and management accountability is conducive to corrupt and downright dishonest practices by operatives who may see and seize opportunities for personal gain, knowing fully well there is no accounting system in place to allow for checks and balances of public funds. The same goes for any system that runs on glaring deficiencies and political favouritism at the expense of public funds.

And it is here where the government may eventually be found guilty of failing to act responsibly and expeditiously by exploring creative ways through which public funds are properly accounted for, while ensuring contracts are not only awarded based on proven competence but also based on legal principles and administrative procedures by which everyone must abide.

While the appearance of favouritism, despite an alleged shortage of resources, seems to be associated with the Central Tender Board, it may be up to bidders who feel discriminated against to take up their cases with the court and not simply complain. Constant remedial works on recently completed projects could be used as a basis to argue that the process seems to be repeatedly sponsoring failure in the face of other untried alternatives.

The shortage of accounting professionals may be an excuse for the disarray of government's ministries/departments accounting system, and critics may point out that during the PNC era accounting systems were also in bad shape, but there can be no excuse for not asking for outside help while the problem is being perpetuated or possibly taken advantage of.

Might this writer suggest that the government seriously considers setting up a bipartisan parliamentary committee with oversight for resolving this problem?

This committee will be authorized to contract out the job of straightening out this mess by retaining an independent accounting firm which, in turn, will recruit and remunerate accounting professionals already working in Guyana to do this job, up to four hours week nights and up to six hours Saturdays.

The project should have a deadline and established guidelines. Upon completion of each ministry/department accounting review, the firm will submit a report to the bipartisan committee which, in turn, will submit same to the Auditor General.

Should the firm encounter difficulty obtaining pertinent documents, this should be reported to the bipartisan committee for action. If there is a situation of corruption or any breaches of the law, the committee should involve the police and the DPP for legal action.

Upon completion of the project, the Auditor General's reports would reflect the true state of the public's monies, the bipartisan committee would have done a great job in the interest of the nation, and the accounting firm will not only show government and the private sector can work together, but it may be retained for future projects should the shortage of accounting professionals continue.

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin