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Public bodies must submit financials in six months

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 9:00 AM
File Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis.

McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business

To enhance trans-parency in Jamaica's public bodies, annual reports, including audited statements, will be completed within six months of the end of the financial year as part of public-sector reform under the economic support programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This is to be achieved by end-2014 for self-financing public bodies and by September 2015 for all other public bodies, according to the June 2014 memorandum of economic and financial policies accompanying the last letter of intent the Jamaican Government submitted to the IMF.

Under the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act, a public body means a statutory body or authority or any government company, but does not include an executive agency designated under the Executive Agencies Act.

The central government includes public bodies that are financed through the Consolidated Fund.

Primary expenditure, a component of the primary balance, a critical aspect of the quantitative performance criteria in the IMF programme, includes transfers to other public bodies which are not self-financed.

All primary expenditures directly settled with bonds or any other form of non-cash liability will be recorded as spending above-the-line, financed with debt issuance and will therefore affect the primary balance, according to the technical memorandum of understanding which forms part of the memorandum of economic and financial policies.

Under the technical memo-randum, which sets out the understandings between the Jamaican authorities and the IMF, data on the primary balance will be provided to the Fund with a lag of no more than four weeks after the test date.

not uncommon

The Public Bodies (Act) provides that as soon as possible after the end of each financial year, but not more than four months thereafter, the board of a public body shall submit the annual report, including audited financial statements to the responsible minister, who shall cause the report and statements to tabled in Parliament.

However, it is not uncommon for public-sector entities to submit reports, sometimes in multiples, years after they become due.

As part of the reform, the memorandum said, monitoring of public bodies will be strengthened by enforcing a time limit for submission of public bodies' financial statements to the auditor general, and bolstering capacity within the auditor general's office for more in-depth and frequent reviews of those statements.

Wednesday Business asked the Ministry of Finance and Planning to say what specific measures will be put in place to ensure that public bodies get approval from the accountant general to hire auditors to examine their financial statements so that going forward they can submit their annual reports and audited statements within the six months specified under the IMF programme.

However, the ministry said public bodies which are funded from the Consolidated Fund do not require the approval of the accountant general to engage auditors to audit their accounts.

It said public bodies are funded from the Consolidated Fund through the same process used to fund ministries, departments and agencies - a budgetary allocation approved by Parliament which is then disbursed on a monthly basis by way of warrants issued to the accountant general.

It added that self-financing public bodies also do not require the approval of the accountant general to engage external auditors. Funding for audit services would be provided in the self-financing public bodies' budget.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com