Staffing challenges at gov’t finance departments to be addressed

-Hector Butts

Staffing of finance departments of government agencies continues to be a challenge because of resignations, retirement and resistance to working in the interior of Guyana at current incentives but plans are in place to correct the situation, according to Finance Secretary Dr Hector Butts.

“Recommendations will be made shortly for changes in regard to employment in some regions,” Butts said in a Treasury Memorandum, covering the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and which was laid in the National Assembly on Monday.

The June 7th, 2018 Treasury Memorandum, sent to the Speaker and Members of the National Assembly, noted that approval of applications by the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Commis-sion were also seen as challenging for applicants. The Finance Secretary, the memorandum said, has formed a sub-committee of heads of budget agencies to address the staffing issues, which came up with the recommendations.

The Treasury Memorandum noted that the Ministry of Finance detailed the findings, the actions taken or what actions it intends to take.

“The immediacy” with which the 2012 to 2014 report of the PAC [Public Accounts Commit-tee] followed the 2010/2011 report “leaves little room for further comments on the institutionalisation efforts posited previously,” the memorandum said.       

Meanwhile, the memorandum also noted that the PAC has found several other challenges, including the failure of subvention agencies to submit financial statements and the timeliness of the submissions.

The Ministry of Finance was aware of the problem of the failure to submit financial statements by statutory and constitutional bodies, and has been continuously reminding them, through Circular No 7/2016, of their financial responsibilities at every interactive forum involving the Ministry of Finance, the memorandum said.   

The PAC also found there was need to improve procurement practices to obtain value for money, frequent use of sole sourcing and disregard for Tender Board regulations and non-establishment of a public procurement commission during the years 2012, 2013 and 20i4.

The Public Procurement Commission was established on October 29th, 2016, in keeping with the Constitution.

Since the need to improve procurement practices with a view to ensuring value for money was highlighted, the memorandum said that heads of budget agencies were apprised of the concerns of the Auditor General (AG) and the AG has since met with them. Circulars were issued to instruct them on practices they should follow in keeping with the laws.

Several agencies also took steps “to reduce, if not, end the occurrence of overpayments to contractors.”

While sole sourcing is an accepted method of procurement, the memorandum said that whenever a potential abuse is suspected, the burden of proof is on the procuring agency to justify the source.

Other challenges the PAC noted, included stale dated cheques and monies not being refunded to the Consolidated Fund, outstanding cheque orders, refund of salaries and consequential deductions, and improper maintenance of log books across agencies.

On improper maintenance of log books, the Treasury Memorandum said that the ministry was aware of the inconsistencies and has been using every interactive session arranged to discuss the AG’s findings and to emphasise the importance of adhering to the stores regulations governing the maintenance of log books for motor vehicles, and inventory of all plants and machinery. 

On stale dated cheques and monies not refunded to the Consolidated Fund, the Treasury Memorandum reported that the Accountant General’s Department has been checking this issue constantly and most of the cheques have been paid over to the Consolidated Fund instead of being updated and used to transact their intended purposes.

The case of the missing file jackets for court cases, the Treasury Memorandum also said, “was being addressed” by the Supreme Court.

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