Canada continues help with improving public accounting
Stabroek News
September 26, 2002

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Canada is to help the government with the implementation of the third phase of the Guyana Economic Management Programme (GEMP) aimed at improving the public accounting system.

Guyana's Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar and Canadian High Commissioner Serge Marcoux made the announcement yesterday, during a press briefing in the Main Street, Georgetown office of the Finance Ministry.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will be funding the Cdn$5.6 million project, but the government is expected to contribute Cdn$800,000 "in kind". However, to access these funds, there are some conditions, including that of structural reform, which includes suitable financial management legislation.

Marcoux noted that in the last two years the previous phase of the GEMP went a long way in preparing the way for these reforms:

"It has provided improvements in the budgeting reforms by the creation of expenditures and planning management units within key agencies; it has initiated work to implement a modern comptrollership function within the government; and it has proposed 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 taxpayers with improved estimates. This should open the door to greater transparency in the management of public finances.

In today's world... we see a wide recognition that good management of public business is of crucial importance for the macro economic and political stability of a country. Public finances transparency means clear information to the public and a strong accountability framework."

Kowlessar explained that the principal role of GEMP is to enable the government to produce plans, programmes and budgets 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. The current phase of GEMP, he said, will focus on operational and structural changes such as:

Further strengthening of programme budgeting - where the estimates and plans of the Guyana Government 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 modern comptrollership function. GEMP will continue with the best practices exercises in the areas of accounting, treasury, work planning, budgeting and tax management. Also included are: review and modernisation of the financial management legislative framework; extensive training and practise-based capacity development for 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 the Finance Minister, GEMP-3 and his agency have already initiated work in the areas of comptrollership and training. He said in the former, a "best practices" exercise for the treasury department was conducted last year November and those recommendations are currently being implemented to bring the treasury up to regional standards.

Further, a similar exercise has been launched in the area of work planning and budgeting, both in the Ministry of Finance and in other agencies. "GEMP, working with the Accountant General's Department and the Office of the Budget, has implemented the Automative Vote Book (AVB) in the agencies of the Guyana Government. The AVB, though not a complete accounting system, will provide significant improvement in terms of timeliness, accuracy and control over budgetary spending and treasury expenditure management. The next step will be to implement a fully computerised financial and accounting system. Work related to the procurement, selection and implementation of an IFAS has also been initiated," the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Kowlessar said the GEMP, with the assistance of the training division of the Public Service Management, has completed significant renovations to the training centre located on Vlissengen Road. This centre is expected to help in the training of around 500 public servants from all related agencies over the next two years. The training programme, which is scheduled to commence next month, is expected to be in areas such as budgeting, accounting, work planning and financial analysis techniques.