Senior Officials in the Public Service are meeting over this three-week period to start intensive interactive consultative discussions over the Draft Public Financial Management Bill (PFM). The initiative is being supported by the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), one of the 10 International Monetary Fund Regional Technical Assistance Centers (RTACs) located around the world. Their purpose is to help countries strengthen human and institutional capacity to design and implement sound macroeconomic policies that promote growth and reduce poverty. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said during the first day of consultations at Melia resort, Monday, September 10, 2018, that as the government continues to push forward with the modernization of the Public Service, a priority of the Ministry of Finance is to shape a new culture of transparency and accountability in public finances.
He said the PFM Bill will do just that, along with the soon-to-be-enacted Fiscal Responsibility Bill, proposed a Public Debt Management Bill, and Public Procurement Bill. “These signature pieces of legislation represent key pillars in the broader public financial management reform agenda. They will reinforce the government’s commitment to the promotion of efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and comprehensive financial reporting.” The DPM said they will also bring the country in line with international best practices governing public financial management. “In reality, our current legal framework for public financial management is outdated and inadequate to meet the demands of good governance. Pushing forward with this major legislative overhaul is, therefore, a must. “Some of you may recall that during the preparation of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, numerous shortcomings were identified in the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FAAA).”
He said because of the need for extensive revisions, the government made a decision to replace the FAAA with a more modern and appropriate legislation, which will be the ultimate result of this process: A PFM Bill that aligns with standards such as the IMF’s Code of Fiscal Transparency; and is supportive of the other body of legislation aimed at securing the proper management of the country’s public finances and promoting fiscal discipline. DPM Turnquest said broadly, the PFM Bill will help to develop a new institutional and regulatory framework for managing public finances. He said it will provide the coherent legal framework necessary to support the broader introduction of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), inclusive of process improvements that will strengthen accountability, oversight, management, and control of public funds.
The DPM explained that in a material respect, the PFM Bill will seek to:
▪ enhance, clarify and adequately specify the roles and responsibility of persons/positions entrusted with management and control of public funds, assets, liabilities and other resources.
▪ build out provisions related to financial management, including the requirements for the preparation of cash flow forecasts.
▪ enhance adequacy of reporting provisions, especially in-year reporting of fiscal information;
▪ specify accountability expectations for government agencies;
▪ include provisions related to sanctions for financial misconduct, financial crimes, institutional sanctions, recovery of losses other than by surcharge and publication of offenses;
▪ consider improved oversight provisions for government agencies;
▪ and expand provisions related to annual budget information disclosure requirements.
Deputy Prime Minister Turnquest said he wanted to emphasize that the senior public servants’ participation in the process is greatly appreciated, not only because of the intrinsic value of the work involved but also because the outcome of these legislative changes will impact their work in a material way. He said the PFM law will set new standards and hold public servants to a higher standard of accountability, including those elected by the people. “The Bahamian public deserves a government that understands its responsibility to be accountable. To fulfill this obligation, we need the tools to support our work, and the legislative reform is all about that. These changes will create tools for you to use, for us all to use, to serve the Bahamian people better,” DPM Turnquest said.