Canada praises Guyana's transparency efforts
-- more support for `good governance' project by Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
September 26, 2002

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CANADIAN High Commissioner, Mr. Serge Marcoux, yesterday said the Guyana Government deserves credit for the efforts deployed in recent months toward transparency in decision-making and accountability in financial management.

"These qualities are essential to establish sound public service values and are critical in enabling the Government to demonstrate its attention to citizens' concerns in all Government programmes and activities", he said.
His comments came at the signing of an agreement for a three-year CAN$5.6M project between the Guyana Government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which officially launched the third phase of the Guyana Economic Management Programme (GEMP).

The agreement, signed by Finance Minister, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar and Mr. Marcoux in the ministry's boardroom, will also see the Government contributing about CAN$800,000, mostly in 'kind', to the programme.

The first phase was for CAN$7M and the second, CAN$1.4M.

Noting that elements of "good governance" are at the core of this project's objectives, Marcoux added, "We are particularly glad that the project will include a large sector of the public service; the Public Service Management Agency; the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Revenue Authority as well as authorities of Region Three and Ten."

The principal role of GEMP is to enable the Government to produce plans, programmes and budget that are increasingly reflective of its priorities and to provide the decision makers with improved information to support them in managing the resources of the country.

According to the Finance Ministry, the current phase of GEMP will focus on operational and structural changes such as:

** further strengthening of Programmes Budgeting - where estimates and plans of the Government of Guyana would be more reflective of the strategic direction of the Government, and supported with relevant programme performance measures.

** Acquisition and implementation of a modern computerised financial and accounting system, the Integrated Financial and Accounting System (IFAS).

** Further the development of a modern Comptrollership function. GEMP will continue with the "Best Practices" exercises in the areas of accounting, treasury, work planning, budgeting and tax management.

** Review and modernisation of a financial management legislative framework.

** Extensive training and practice-based capacity development to the Government financial officers/accountants and programme managers.

** Development of a Programme Budgeting Accountability Framework and related management responsibility and contract matrix to support the budget creation, execution, and monitoring processes.

According to Minister Kowlessar, the Government wants to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability.

He noted that what has been done so far entails Programme Budgeting in two Ministries - Health and Education - and in two regions.

"I am sure that so far we have been able to have some improvement in the quality of service in terms of the accountability aspect", he stated. He added that the programme has also led to improvement in terms of prioritising and in the use of the limited resources available.

He said that so far there has been the creation of the Expenditure and Planning Management Unit (EPMU) within various agencies which will work towards strengthening the Programme Budgeting Exercises that have been started and to initiate work to implement a modern comptrollership function within the Government.

He said the programme will also introduce some measure of legislative changes later on.

"I hope that by the end of this phase, which will take us into a three-year period, that the public accounting system would have been improved tremendously and the whole idea of good governance will be enhanced in the process," he stated.

Marcoux noted that last week's agreement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to a new three-year Growth Facility Programme for Guyana and their acceptance of a temporary relief allowing the country not to service its debt until a final decision is taken on the E-HIPC (enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative), demonstrates the confidence of the international community in Guyana's future and in its ability to take the necessary measures to deal with the harsh realities confronted by all governments.

He pointed out that this phase of the programme has gone a long way in preparing the way for these reforms, providing improvements in the budgeting reforms by the creation of expenditures and planning management units within key agencies, initiating work to implement a modern comptrollership function within the Government of Guyana, and proposing legislative changes required to better support Programme Budgeting.

"This has resulted in a greater capacity for the Civil Service and the Government to present Members of Parliament and tax payers with improved estimates; this should open the door to greater transparency in the management of public finances," he stated.

He further noted that, "In today's world, on every continent and in every country we see a wide recognition that good management of public business is of crucial importance for the macroeconomic and political stability of a country. Public finances transparency means clear information to the public and a strong accountability framework."