Transparency and Accountability: not Just Buzzwords

We always hear plenty about transparency particularly as a mandate of the Barrow administration. But the truth is that since this government went to Belmopan, the ministry of finance has stopped releasing quarterly statistics, and cabinet briefs, and the government website is in a shambles.

But a new initiative will compel government by law to release timely accounting of the people's money as it is used in real time.

It is called Fiscal Transparency and Responsibility Regulations - legislation designed to increase government accountability.

The IDB is providing technical assistance and they held a workshop today to get everyone on the same page:…

Joe Waight, Financial Secretary
"The act requires that we publish a fiscal strategy statement, very detailed. Also, it requires that we report as you say in real time or next to real time as possible outcomes with the budget. We also explain deviations from targets and so…so it imposes a set of discipline on the government that may not have been there by law before. It makes our work in a sense a little more difficult but its puts a constraint on you and now you are required by law to provide these things to the minister, the minister in turn is required by law to submit to cabinet and then to post the information on our government website. So really what the law imposes is discipline, that is not an option; you must do it."

Jorge Von Horoch, IDB Principal Specialist
"For us the most important achievement with this new legislation is that under this new legislation the government will be required to inform to public society their fiscal objectives to report, to monitor what they are doing in the fiscal area. So now with the public society, the civil society will have the opportunity to see in the Ministry Of Finance website the development of the fiscal situation and what the government is expecting for the coming years."

Joe Waight, Financial Secretary
"Where the check and balance is going to come in is that the House can call on the minister to provide the information if he is late, the sanctions are on the technical people…."

Jules Vasquez
"Who from the house can all though because we know that the head of the executive regrettably is also the head of the legislator."

Joe Waight, Financial Secretary
"Well if there is a groundswell within the rank and file of the house they can do so."

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Senator - Business Sector
"We all know that is not going to happen. Who in National Assembly is going to pass a resolution to force the minister of finance who is normally the Prime Minister to report. We would wish that that would be put on the financial secretary the way it's put on the Auditor General that he has to then report and the national assembly can say well why Mr. Financial Secretary you haven't report? We supported it of course from the business sector because particularly myself as you rightly said have always supported this. There were a few flaws we saw with the S.I. however that we think amendments should be made to and I highlighted them earlier in the seminar here. The first was that the minister has a discretion to determine what should be and should not be in the reports. That's an absolute no-no. He should have no discretion whatsoever, you either understand the principle that the public business must be conducted in the public domain. So you cannot have, we all remember UHS please."

The new statistics are slated to start to be produced in April of 2010….

Channel 7