Thu | May 25, 2017

191 (at least) government accounting entities

Published:Wednesday | December 24, 2014 | 12:00 AMA.C. Countz
File Chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriation Committee, Edmund Bartlett.
File Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Audley Shaw.
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There were at least 191 entities that are partially or fully funded by Government, according to a 2010 list. In all likelihood, this number has mushroomed since but in spite of requests, an updated list is not in hand. And, of course, there have been many changes as to which ministry each entity reports.

Of these 191, about 80 were limited liability companies operating under the Companies Act.

The content of our past columns has shown that there is really no one in charge of ensuring that these entities are accountable, on a timely basis, for the public funds that they are given. This includes the two watchdog parliamentary committees that have buried their heads in the sand in relation to this issue. This is something that can be corrected by chairmen Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett.

Many of the ministries above are responsible for resources valued at greater amounts than the largest Jamaican companies and yet they are not required to publish say quarterly accounts nor do they publish current financial information when requested. They should all be obliged to follow the guidelines of a publically listed company on the Stock Exchange.

Does no one care?

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

The PAC of Parliament is not doing its work properly.

Chairman: Audley Shaw Membership: Hon Julian Robinson, Hon Collin Fagan, Hon Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, Hon Damion Crawford, Dr Donald K. Duncan, Mr Fitz Jackson, Mr Raymond Pryce, Mr Hugh Buchanan, Mr Karl Samuda, Mr Edmund Bartlett, Mr Pearnel Charles, Mr Clifford Everald Warmington

The Public Accounts Committee has a responsibility to review all accounts and financial statements laid in Parliament in respect of statutory bodies, public corporations and public companies in which the Government holds majority shares. These accounts are, under its terms of reference, automatically referred to this committee.

It is surprising that the PAC takes so little interest in getting the annual and current accounts of the government entities up to date.

Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC)

The PAAC is not doing its work properly

Chairman: Mr Edmund Bartlett.

Membership: Mr Lloyd B. Smith, Mr Fitz Jackson, Mr Richard Parchment, Ms Denise Daley, Mr Mikael Phillips, Mr Raymond Pryce, Dr Dayton Campbell, Mr Audley Shaw, Dr Horace Chang, Mr Lester Michael Henry, Mrs Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, Dr Andrew Wheatley, Dr Winston Green, Hon Damion Crawford, Mr Jolyan Silvera, Mr Andrew Hylton.

The PAAC has the duty to enquire "into the administration of the Government to determine hindrances to efficiency and make recommendations to Government for improvement of public administration".

Why does the PAAC not make recommendations to Government concerning the tragic state of the accountability for entities funded from the public purse?

The country would benefit if the chairmen of these two committees - Mr Ed Bartlett and Mr Audley Shaw - use their committees to rectify the terrible state of public accountability.

The Exim Bank

Chairman: William 'Bill' Clarke.

Membership: Lisa Bell (managing director), Enith Williams, Courtney Williams, Megan Deane, Ambassador Derrick Heaven, Doreen Frankson, Effie Crooks, Andrea Cowan, Annalise Harewood

The Exim Bank honours protocol at the expense of public accountability.

The bank is showing no independence of thought.

Maria Burke, Access to Information Officer/Legal Counsel of the Exim Bank has kindly written to this column indicating her views on two matters:

That the release of in-house accounts "... would be contrary to the public interest in light of the fact that these accounts are unaudited and therefore not verified." It is difficult to understand how internal accounts produced by a well- funded and professionally run organisation like the Exim Bank require an audit to be accurate. This column will consider filing an appeal against this unfortunate decision of the Exim Bank.

The bank claims that although its audited accounts are complete and sent to its ministry, it cannot release these accounts until it is advised that the accounts have been tabled in Parliament.

Come on Exim Bank! Require your ministry to be efficient - almost certainly you have more accounting skills than your ministry.

Ministries and public servants do not appear to know what entities report to them, or care about the Access to Information Act.

n Ministry of Science Technology Energy & Mining - this Ministry has still not responded to our request for information (sent back in October) for them to let us have a list of all the entities that report to them.

n Ministry of Local Government & Community Development - we wrote to them way back in August asking for a similar list.

n Ministry of National Security - same position.

n The Financial Secretary - fails to answer Requests under the Access to Information Act. We have repeatedly written to Devon Rowe, the Financial Secretary, from April of this year requesting clarification on a number of issues dealing with the publication of accounts. We are yet to receive even one reply. Is the FS above the law?

n The Attorney General - fails to provide us with the information requested as to what sanctions he has applied to public entities which do not file their accounts in time. This is in spite of an extension of an additional 30 days to obtain a reply.

Who is it that brings the senior bureaucrats into the modern world?

n This column is based on the audited and in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government. CEOs of such entities are invited to send copies of their latest accounts and annual reports to The Gleaner Library. Information about shareholdings and directors will be drawn from the website of the Registrar of Companies. Every effort will be made to publish short and pertinent responses to issues raised sent to Editor@Gleanerjm.com.