Ministry of Finance response to statements of the Leader of the Opposition with respect to fiscal transparency

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The Ministry of Finance and the Bahamas Government are fully committed to fiscal transparency and have prepared the reports as required by the Fiscal Transparency Act and the Debt Management Act. Both reports will be published on the Ministry’s website this week.

Since the passage of the Fiscal Transparency Act and the Public Financial Management Act, it is acknowledged that the Ministry of Finance has fallen short of requirements under these Acts. In addition, the Ministry of Finance previously made a public statement
about the delays in publishing these reports to avoid clashing with debating the Supplementary Budget. Since the passage of the Public Financial Management Act, there have been no monthly fiscal reports. Since the passage of the Fiscal Transparency Act, there have been no half-yearly reports on the stock of liabilities.

The reason for these deficiencies covering both the former and present administration relates to outdated management information systems and overly complex legislation. The Government is working to address both issues. For example, it would soon select an information system provider and commence the first significant upgrade of the Government’s fiscal management systems in approximately thirty years. The Government has also contracted a leading Bahamian law firm to draft amendments to the entire
compendium of fiscal legislation to foster proper fiscal accountability and transparency.

The Opposition leader was also part of a government that inherited an Inter-American Bank-financed project to modernize the public sector fiscal management system. The administration he was part of did nothing except pay high salariesto consultants and travel the world. On coming to office, this administration found no public fiscal management reform strategy, no new integrated fiscal management system, and no training programme for public officers in fiscal management. In other words, the Ministry of Finance
accomplished not one of the primary objectives of the IDB financed fiscal management project when the Leader of the Opposition was a member of the Cabinet of The Bahamas.

This is the situation this administration inherited. It is not an overnight fix to correct these deficiencies. However, the Government is committed to resolving these issues. It cannot go unnoticed that the Leader of the Opposition’s statement was an attempt to deflect the latest information about the growing scandal, the COVID 19 Food Programme. Last week, the Office of the Prime Minister’s Communication Director confirmed that no public official was aware of what transpired during the COVID-19 Food Programme, despite what was previously stated by the former administration, who had oversight on the expenditure of $53 million in public funds for the COVID 19 food programme.

More concerning is that the files of the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Social
Services, and the Department of Social Services are devoid of any information about the expenditure of
$53 million in public funds. So devoid was the files that the former Actg. Director of Social Services had
to write a private citizen for information to satisfy a request from the Auditor General.

Source: Bahamas Information Services
23 January 2022