Mid-year financial report delayed again

There has been a delay in the tabling of the mid-year financial report to the National Assembly by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, for yet another year.

Ashni Singh
Ashni Singh

According to the country’s Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, the report should be submitted by August 30.

Section 67 (1) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 states that: “the Minister shall present to the National Assembly within sixty days after the end of the first half-year of each fiscal year a report on the year-to-date execution of the annual budget and the prospects for the remainder of that fiscal year.”

The National Assembly is currently on a two-month recess which comes to an end on October 10.

Repeated efforts to contact Singh for comment over the past week on this matter have proven to be futile.

Last year, Singh presented his mid-year report to the National Assembly on October 23. In 2007, the report was submitted to the National Assembly in late November.

Sunday Stabroek’s Business Page columnist Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram has written repeatedly in the past about the Finance Minister’s failure to meet the deadline for the submission of his mid-year report.

When contacted by this newspaper, Ram again expressed his concern at another failure by the minister’s to meet his statutory deadline. He said that this practice was “wholly and completely unacceptable” and opined that “it was a cause of great concern especially since the minister had failed to meet the deadline ever since he assumed the office of finance minister.” Ram opined that the “Parliament should censure him for his failure to submit this report.”

When asked about the possibility of the work being too much for the minister’s staff, Ram said that the government has in the past hired various consultants and persons to assist in areas where they saw fit , and he opined that Singh had been in office long enough to request additional staff  if  he needed.  “Shortage of staff is no excuse,” Ram emphasized.

Responding to a question posed by this newspaper as to the importance of this report to the business community, Ram said that it was extremely important “because of the wide nature of its contents”.  According to him, the contents of this report help businesses to plan and can assist them with their inventory preparations. He said that the report also included critical information from the Bank of Guyana (BoG) and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) that would benefit businessmen and persons involved in the financial sector.

The chartered accountant said that the issue was one that should engage the attention of the Private Sector Commission and those persons involved in the National Competitiveness Strategy.

Section 67 (2) of the Act states that the mid-year report should  include “an update on the current macroeconomic and fiscal situation, a revised economic outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year, and a statement of the projected impact that these trends are likely to have on the annual budget for the current fiscal year”. The Act further states that this report should include “a comparison report on the out-turned current and capital expenditures and revenues with the estimates originally approved by the National Assembly with explanations of any significant variances”. The report is also supposed to outline “a list of major fiscal risks for the remainder of the fiscal year, together with likely policy responses that the government proposes to take to meet the expected circumstances,” according to the act.

During a press conference in July, President Bharrat Jagdeo had expressed his satisfaction with the country’s economic progress so far in the year as he noted that the country’s performance on the revenue side was encouraging. Jagdeo was unable to produce actual figures at that press conference but promised to make the figures available.

At this press conference the President noted that the economy had deteriorated when compared to the similar period last year but said that this was expected because of the global financial crisis. He said that nevertheless, the country was still able to maintain its revenue, and “in fact there is higher revenue for this year than last year.” He also stated that the macro finances of the country were stable.

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