Opposition Senators during Monday’s sitting of the Senate gave unanimous approval to the new Public Financing Management and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bills which provides for major changes in the format that public accounting will be conducted.
However, Ray Roberts, Labour representative in the Senate called for a new mindset among public officers, and at the same time called on government to conduct the necessary training with public officers and other persons whose work will be affected by legislation.
“This Bill provides for operating differently, it will create a new mindset and we in Labour expect the necessary training to be conducted to ensure that it’s effectively enforced and work,” said Roberts. His sentiments were endorsed by Business Representative Chris DeAllie and Farmers Representative Keith Clouden.
The Public Finance Management Bill 2014 provides for the proper financial management and control of the money, property and other resources of the public sector including the consolidated Fund and other public funds under the Consolidated Fund. According to the explanatory notes, the 2014 Bill address many of the weaknesses and gaps in the 2007 legislation and aims at strengthening the overall fiscal framework for the economy as well as provides proper procedures for transparency and accountability.
The Public Procurement and Disposal Public Property Bill provides for the legal and regulatory framework for public procurement and the disposal of public property; to promote the public interest by prescribing the principles of good governance namely transparency, accountability and value for money for public procurement and the disposal of public property; and to establish procedures for efficient public procurement and disposal of public property by public entities.
The Public Finance Management Bill will apply to all ministries, departments, agencies, entities, institutions of executive, legislative and judicial branches of the central and all local governments, all autonomous bodies under government control, state owned enterprises and any entity or individual who receives or uses public money and all officers and employees in those entities.
The legislation said that all spending by ministries and budgetary entities shall be in accordance with the spending plans approved by the minister. “Unless other specified by the Minister by regulations, the spending plans shall be reviewed monthly by the ministries and budgetary institutions and any changes shall be notified to the Minister by the 20th of the month preceding for the following month for the approval of the Minister.”
It also points out that no public officer shall have the power to commit the Government to a financial liability, including contingent liability, unless specifically authorised to do so under the Act or regulations or instructions issued pursuant to the Act.
“Any officer or employee of a covered entity who, without a reasonable excuse makes commitments resulting in financial obligations for the Government, in contravention of the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction be liable to imprisonment not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding the value of the accessed impact of the commitment or both,” states Section 87 of the Bill.
With regards to statutory bodies and stated owned enterprises, the legislation says that the board of directors of these bodies shall submit no later than four months before the beginning of a fiscal year a three year strategic plan to the relevant line minister. The three year strategic plan shall include a minimum, forecast financial information, forecast capital expenditure, key performance indicators and performance targets.
By Linda Straker