Cuban audit finds state bookkeeping lacking

HAVANA (Reuters) – A 15-year effort to improve Communist Cuba’s shoddy bookkeeping and root out corruption has made progress but there is still much to be done, a national audit published on Sunday showed.

Corrupt state managers and administrators are widely believed to cook the books to hide embezzlement and the diversion of goods from state companies to the black market.

But results of the annual audit are rarely if ever made public. The audit follows a series of corruption scandals that received unusual publicity and involved at least one minister, a number of deputy ministers and other high profile figures.

President Raul Castro has made fighting corruption a cornerstone of his efforts to reform Cuba’s economy since taking over for his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008.

“Of more than 750 entities audited in the country, 63 per cent were satisfactory or acceptable, while 37 per cent were evaluated as deficient or bad,” state-run television reported, citing a report from the Comptroller General’s office.

That’s an improvement from 2001 when the government’s National Accounting Office reported that only 46 per cent of 300 entities audited were found to have satisfactory bookkeeping.

“The Comptroller General called on those who have the complicated job of directing and administering to eradicate once and for all the conditions that foster opportunism, crime and corruption,” another newscast on state-run radio reported.

Government and Communist party insiders report hundreds of functionaries have been swept away in a behind-the-scenes drive against corruption that intensified in 2008 after the creation of the Comptroller General’s Office.

Soon after the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s young leftist leaders toyed with eliminating money and did all but eliminate financial management, taxes and accounting, viewing and vilifying practitioners of the latter profession as responsible for helping the wealthy pillage the treasury.

The Soviet-styled socialist state they built controls 85 per cent of the economy in which corruption has spawned a large black market that authorities have tried to eliminate.

The annual national audit began in 1995 in the midst of the deep crisis that followed the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s former benefactor, as financial management, taxes and accounting made a comeback.

Today, accounting is hailed as being of crucial importance in Cuba’s efforts to improve the economy, and an accounting college has been established within the University of Havana.

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