Last week, we discussed Guyana’s Budget Transparency Action Plan (BTAP) that the Government had developed in 2015 with the objective of improving the budget process and more generally of enhancing transparency and accountability. The BTAP contains 14 items, of which the advancing of the accountability cycle is perhaps the single most important item. The cycle involves budget preparation and approval by the Legislature; budget execution; independent ex post evaluation; Public Accounts Committee (PAC) review of the results and reporting to the Legislature; and the Government’s response via the Treasury Memorandum. The Government is required to take measures to progressively advance the accountability timeframe so that the cycle can be completed within 12 months of the close of the fiscal year.
The purpose of this action is two-fold. First, the Government needs to discharge its accountability and stewardship responsibilities in a timely manner. While acknowledging the efforts of the PAC to bring its work up-to-date, the situation is far from satisfactory, considering that it takes on average four years for the cycle to be completed. Second, legislators need to use the results of the previous year’s audit and PAC examination and reporting as important reference points for the consideration of the national budget for the next fiscal year. As it stands, they approve of the budget without any knowledge of how moneys allocated to meet the expenditure on public services in the previous year, were expended, especially as regards economy and efficiency, and the extent to which the desired outputs, outcomes and impacts have been achieved.
The other items of the BTAP include: consultations with key stakeholders during the preparation of the budget; an enhanced programme budgeting framework; procurement planning and oversight; improved and timelier mid-year reporting; effective follow-up of external oversight of the budget execution; and strengthening of internal controls…..