Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Seeking to become more efficient and effective in the allocation and use of public funds, the government launched Monday a new public financial management and performance monitoring project (PFM/PMR).
The project is being hailed as a tool to help combat cumbersome processes and inconsistent practices in public financial management.
Approved by the board of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in July 2014, the $33 million, five-year project received the green-light from the Bahamian Parliament in February 2016.
It was officially launched at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel yesterday by the Ministry of Finance.
The project’s overall objective is to increase efficiency in the use of public resources. It comes at a time when there is lacklustre growth globally and nationally. The PFM/PMR project is expected to result in more open, transparent and effective government institutions.
“I am confident that this project will be one of the defining projects in the Bahamian public sector and public finance history,” said Peter Turnquest (pictured), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
“We are going to be making some quantum leaps in the next couple years. We are going to regain our advantage, somehow, some way, with the limited resources that we have.”
He assured that the new administration would seek to ensure value for money in every dollar spent from the public purse. With economic growth constrained, government says it would exercise fiscal prudence in order to arrest the rate of debt.
“This is not an IDB project. This is an IDB-funded project. This is a Bahamian project. This is yours. We are here to try to help,” said IDB country representative Maria Florencia Attademo-Hirt, who emphasized that any IDB intervention has to be led by a country’s request for assistance in an area which addresses real needs.
“This can only succeed if everyone is involved and supportive,” she said.
The broad-based agenda reform project has four components. The first component is designed to improve the management capacity of the public sector by increasing government’s ability to effectively and efficiently monitor the planning and implementation of priority projects. Essentially, special teams within the Office of the Prime Minister will ensure projects meet performance objectives in alignment with the country’s National Development Plan. Ultimately, a new, centrally organized management model and upgraded hardware will support efficiency initiatives across all levels of government.
The second component is national statistics. The goal is to increase access to reliable and timely local data by creating a national statistics system. As a result, the Statistics Act is expected to be revamped. Officials say this is key to the nation’s decision-making process benefiting those in the public and private sector.
“We intend to be a transparent government and part of that transparency is laying-out the national statistics of this country, good and bad, because it is only in acknowledging our weaknesses that we are able to address them and introduce well thought out strategies to fix them,” said Turnquest.
The third (and largest) component, public financial management, will address inefficiencies in budget formulation and execution, with every transaction the government makes undergoing scrutiny and streamlining. This paves the way for an Integrated Financial Management Information System to increase control over the government’s budget saving time and money across the public sector.
The final component is public procurement reform to rectify the lack of transparency and efficiency in the government procurement process, promoting competition in the marketplace. According to Attademo-Hirt, the economic analysis carried out before the loan was approved indicated this component would save the government around $13.1 million per annum.
It is expected that government will centralize the procurement of commonly used items in the government service. The process begins with the establishment of an e-tendering and supplier registry system and the procurement department with the Ministry of Finance.
Consequently, new legislation is expected to be brought to Parliament that will take a strong stance on transparency in the tendering process. The reform is expected to level the playing field helping small, local businesses to evolve into national vendors.
Chief executive officer of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation, Edison Sumner, commended the government for having the insight and wisdom to initiate such a strategic programme. He also praised the IDB for recognizing the need for such reform and for providing the necessary financial and technical support to ensure the programme’s launch and effective management.
Sumner pledged that the chamber will not highlight government inefficiencies without considering and offering solutions to problems.
“The transformation must begin within the public sector itself. We must consider the current state of the public sector and decide if the status quo is currently serving the needs of the country in an efficient and affordable manner,” he said.
“We must ask the tough questions and make some very tough decisions. Is the public sector adequately staffed? Is it under-resourced or over-staffed? Do we have the right people in the right places performing the right duties? Are they well qualified for the job they are performing? Is there adequate training in place to ensure that people in the public sector are staying on the cutting edge of information technology and changes in policy and procedures?”
The chamber, says Sumner, is leading by example in undergoing a review of its own governance structure with a view to improving its operations and efficiencies. “We also intend to improve on our own level of transparency and accountability to our members and other social partners,” he said.
“We might not often always agree on various matters but one thing is for certain. We are all on the same team and we must all work together to improve the country that we call home.”