BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday January 16, 2019 – Prime Minister Mia Mottley has given the assurance that neither the current Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration nor any future governments will be allowed to “operate under the cover of night”.
In a fiery contribution to close off debate yesterday on the Public Finance Management Bill 2019, which would place a cap on contingencies, prevent the Central Bank of Barbados from overprinting money and would also allow for an independent audit of Government’s finances, Mottley promised that all politicians and ministers would be held accountable for their actions in the future.
She said the legislation was necessary when under the former DLP administration Barbados moved from $6 billion in debt to $15 billion in debt “with nothing to show for it”.
“No Government in this country must ever be allowed to act in the manner in which the last Government acted, with impunity, hiding under the cover of night, with nothing to show for what they did to take money from innocent taxpayers and we have come here conscious of this.
“This is not about getting even with a previous Government, this piece of legislation is about the future. This is about the standards to which we bind ourselves as a Government in good faith,” the Prime Minister said.
Describing the bill as “one of the most important pieces of legislation that will be passed in a post-Independence Barbados”, Mottley said it “will be able to significantly increase the level of accountability of a Government to be governed”.
She said the bill was consistent with the approach that Government had taken even before it was elected to office just under eight months ago.
Mottley added that the bill would demand levels of transparency which had never before been seen in the Caribbean.
Attorney General Dale Marshall explained to Parliament that the passage of the bill by the end of this month was one of the obligations the Mia Mottley-led administration has to meet under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, which has received financial support from the International Monetary Fund.
He spoke to the provisions in the law which will ensure that all Government departments and state-owned corporations submit financial reports at least twice a year.
“This legislation will call on every state-owned agency to have an annual plan outlining its financial and other performance. So, for example, if the Rural Development Commission wants a million dollars, they must be able to state the purpose for it, whether it is for houses, loans or payment of salaries. Their plans of action must be posted on a Government website within a week of the Estimates. And after six months, they must present a half-yearly report to Parliament, stating what they have achieved, and if they have not met all their goals, they must explain why and account for all the money they have spent,” the Attorney General explained.
There is also a provision on the agencies to hold public meetings every two years.
“At these meetings, the public of Barbados will be able to ask the directorate and senior management of these agencies pertinent questions. All public companies in Barbados have to hold meetings like this, so it is in Government’s best interest to expose its departments to this type of scrutiny,” Marshall said.
Another element of the legislation is that if a public official, including a minister, “intends to commit government’s finances in an inappropriate way, a public servant has the right to warn that higher official that it is wrong, and if he disagrees with that counsel, he has to write the public servant back and give reasons as to why he is not following his”.
“The public servant can then write to the Director of Finance and explain everything, and if this decision causes any wastage for government, the minister will be held personally liable for it. We cannot go back and change history now, but if that aspect of the law was in place under the last administration, some people would have been in serious trouble,” Marshall said. (Barbados Today)