Fin. Sec. concedes lack of human resources causes backlogs in financial reporting
A lack of human resources causes backlogs in financial reporting… that’s according to Financial Secretary Joseph Waight. He appeared on Monday before the Joint Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly. Waight was asked about the challenges, which have caused delays in financial reporting by the Government. There are a number of reports by the Auditor General still pending and the committee has just begun to examine the minority report of the auditor general’s figures back in 2018. Waight says that several issues continue to affect the ability to report timely, including a lack of staff.
Most of the information presented in the statements was not accurate.
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary: “That’s quite broad.”
Agree, I know it’s very broad but it’s coming from somewhere more specific.
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary: “I really would need to find out in what manner. That’s sweeping statement.”
Tracy Panton: If I can help FinSec in the Auditor General’s Report of 2013/2014 in chapter three of that report it speaks specifically to things such as the arrears of revenues are not submitted. So for example Customs has arrears and — that figure is an unknown when audit reports are being done. Clearly there’s a problem with records management, there is a problem with computerized accounts that are [inaudible] because they lack the pertinent information [UNCLEAR] — send us something manual after —-pay online because we don’t have that information. There’s a huge problem which is the fact that [UNCLEAR]. So who technically at the ministry level is held accountable for these glaring and repeated issues over a long period of time and then who checks that person to ensure that these things are being addressed ?
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary: “Okay the first line of defense or offense is the finance officers herself but that person reports to the CEO, the CEO in the old days and even now the CEO should walk down and say show me right I need access to see – and the CEO should also know SMART STREAM to be able to get into it and see for themselves.”
Are the CEOs trained ?
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary: “The training is available if they so wish but sometimes because you know CEOs change but if nothing they see for yourself and you can key into the SMART STREAM and see payments and it’s a powerful tool. I can type my name and see what all payments had been made to me for whatever reason. You can type in your name Senator to see when last you go paid and how much so the information is there. It’s quite a bit database but the short answer to your question, Chairman, is that the FO is responsible for the operational he/she reports to the CEO. The CEO has a duty also to look back into the system to ensure that things are going smoothly don’t take it for chance because you know. You’re right there’s been a backlog in doing the bank reconciliations to make sure that the numbers are accurate and that everything is posted properly. Some things are misposted it’s not that money missing as such but – and the arrears at revenue is inherent in some of the big departments especially land taxes and so on.”
Senator Kevin Herrera and Committee Chair, Tracy Panton also quizzed the Fin. Sec. on inaccuracies in the systems of reporting. The suggestion is that because internal controls are not tight enough, there is room for slippage. Here’s that back-and-forth between Fin Sec Waight and the committee members explaining how the issue can be resolved.
Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary: “We have obtained technical support, technical assistance from the CARTAC. CARTAC being an acronym for the Caribbean Technical Assistance Committee. It’s an arm of the IMF headquartered in Barbados, it’s been established for about twenty years and has helped us in many other things including tax reform and customs support but in this particular case with the treasury just last week we had a consultant again with us, I can’t remember the gentleman’s name but the idea being trained staff and also to assist with hands on to try to bring the accounts up to date and I think the Accountant General can provide more details she’s up next but the idea was to try to complete three years of financial statements which can then be presented to the audit and to try to move the auditing more into the up to date international standards, the reporting. We’re doing a lot of work on something called a chart of accounts that is basically how to classify different levels of expenditure, different levels of revenues so that they meet international comparisons but not only that so that they can be properly classified and not only that but also to compare between years. In other words what we call economic classifications so like range related make sure that all the expenditure that is under that heading that is captured in that one category and you can then compare say over years good sand services may be another category, materials and supplies, utilities that type of thing. But the short answer Madam Chairman is that we’ve got the technical assistance, we’re moving along. I’m sure that the Accountant General will be able to give you more details as to where exactly we are but indeed there’s always a resource constraint, human resource as well as financial resources. I’m happy to report that now finally the treasury after many years of being almost in an orphaned stage has found a permanent home in the new building and that has itself will lend to some stability and you don’t have to worry about having to relocate or whether you’ll be served notice and that type of thing and we’re trying to develop the next generation of treasury staff at the middle level train them so that they can take over in the years to come.”