Government Initiates Reform Efforts with Public Service Workshops

Government Initiates Reform Efforts with Public Service Workshops

Amid the findings from these audits, the Government has embraced steps towards reform.  The most recent is a collaboration with the Love Foundation and the US Embassy that will see Finance Officers in the public service undergo several workshops on good governance.  The 3-day workshops rolled out today at the Best Western in Belize City.  Reporter Vejea Alvarez has the story.

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: In a significant step towards enhancing good governance and accountability, dozens of public officers are undergoing comprehensive training in financial transparency and management. The initiative, spearheaded by the Office of the Auditor General in collaboration with the Love Foundation and the US Embassy, aims to bolster the integrity and efficiency of public financial administration across various government departments. CEO of the Public Service, Rolando Zetina, underscored its importance and how it ties in with the government’s push for greater transparency.

Rolando Zetina, CEO, Public Service: “It’s basically to have FOs understand how the audit process works, what is expected of them, what to look for, what not to do and basically to have FOs realize that auditors are an ally and not an adversary. Many times people believe that auditors just go around snooping around trying to find what is going wrong but no the purpose of an auditor is to look at the process and ensure that the process is being followed.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The three-day training program focuses on equipping specific civil servants with the skills and knowledge necessary to implement transparent financial practices. Auditor General Dorothy Bradley says it will ensure that public funds are managed responsibly and transparently.

Dorothy Bradley, Auditor General: “I see this as an opportunity to further enhance competency within the Public Service in the there where finance officers who are the direct managers for the government to enhance their competency and to bring awareness as it relates to the different pieces of legislations and how they can better use them. When you’re in these kinds of settings especially the public service it’s huge and so when you get information sometimes it’s not first hand information it is information based on how a person interprets the piece of regulations and sometimes you don’t know that you have actually the power in your hand to make a difference. So these kinds of trainings as we have them set out we are first covering the aspect of the regulations.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Managing Director of the Love Foundation, Deborah Seawel Erskine, explained that the training is aligned with the NGO’s most recent project geared toward improving public sector governance. 

Deborah Seawel Erskine, Managing Director, The Love Foundation: “It’s the first time that this initiative is being held. Any initiative of this sort where we bring all the finance officers together and heads of department to do a training to understand good governance, transparency and what that means in their role as finance officers. Because Finance Officers are stewards of the government’s purse. Basically they watch the money and so we want to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and they understand the roles as people who are able to make decisions and make sure that the decisions they make are the best decision.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Last year, the foundation and GOB launched the Integrity Innovation Lab, which saw a dozen public officers being trained in good governance. One of its graduates, Kareen Gabourel, a financial Officer within the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, expressed optimism about this training and its expected impact. 

Kareen Gaoubrel, Financial Officer, Ministry of Infrastructure Development: “I think this training is very efficient, it is very practical and it provides better guidance and knowledge in terms of doing the day to day accounting and transparency work within your ministry. As finance officers we are at the forefront of ensuring transparency and accountability takes place and a refresher like this is very important to ensure that we are in the right path, we are adhering to all the financial rules and regulations that guides our daily duties and responsibilities.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The event also provides an opportunity for the financial officers to express their concerns and issues they believe can be addressed. 

Dorothy Bradley, Auditor General: “And the truth is within the public service there is, we must admit, a breakdown. So for example people look at us and hope that we can come in and remedy and fix everything when in essence we are the external auditors we do post audits. So it lacks the internal audit tier that would be doing the day to day examining of what is happening within the system. So it’s a matter of bringing these to the forefront and then try to develop and then build on them.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: CEO Zetina concedes that while GOB is taking the necessary steps to end corruption, there is still much to be done.

Rolando Zetina, CEO, Public Service: “The public service has to ensure that due diligence is done. Many times submissions to our ministry for example are not complete and so we have to return it. We have to ensure that when an accusation is made against an officer that all avenues are covered so that when the Public Service Commission makes a decision that decision cannot be challenged in court. It cannot be sent to the Belize Advisory Council for review because many times it happens. So we have to make sure that we cover all angles and sometimes it’s a tedious process but it has to be done.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Zetina underscored that working with partners like the Love Foundation aids in providing the public service with the technical assistance and expertise needed to improve financial transparency across the country. Vejea Alvarez, Love News.

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