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Clarke, AuGD team up to end report backlog in public sector

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Clarke, AuGD team up to end report backlog in public sector

The timely submission of audits for public-sector entities has been a long-standing issue of concern in Jamaica as many entities go years without submitting annual reports

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has disclosed that his ministry will be working closely with the Auditor General’s Department to increase compliance among public-sector bodies.

The timely submission of audits for public-sector entities has been a long-standing issue of concern in Jamaica as many entities go years without submitting annual reports.

Acknowledging that Jamaica has “been behind for decades” in its accounting arrangements, Clarke cited logistical processes such as the transfer of documents across departments as one of several factors causing delays.

“To produce an annual report, you have to go from the ministry, to Cabinet, and from Cabinet to Parliament. And you would not believe it, just that part of the process … there is substantial delay and reports are buried in ministries that haven’t gotten to Parliament,” Clarke said during a town-hall discussion on justice and public finance management reform on Friday.

Furthermore, capacity constraints also impede the process given the limited pool of accountants and officers at the Auditor General’s Department. Those limitations, Clarke said, add to the unfeasibility of quickly and efficiently auditing 140 public bodies, 17 ministries, and more than 100 departments annually.

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Clarke stressed that it was critical to continue the process of consolidation in order to reduce the number of agencies.

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“I am in dialogue with the auditor general to develop a project where we provide the resources [so] that we can cover that backlog. It is not a project that will take a month. It will take three years to cover the backlog,” the finance minister said.

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Clarke further emphasised that a reformed incentive system for public-sector workers was needed to increase performance and transparency.

The simplified citizen’s budget, which is provided annually, represents one such initiative geared at demystifying government accounting, he said.

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Jeanette Calder, executive director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal, endorsed the campaign to strengthen public-sector institutions and legislation.

Calder cautioned, however, that major challenges persist.

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Citing leakages, waste, inefficiencies, mismanagement, the civil-society advocate said that plugging those gaps would cause an “unimaginable” amount of money to be pumped back into government expenditure for the Jamaican people.

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David Salmon