The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has sent a strong message to Government that it must face and fix the troubling findings in the Auditor General’s report as a matter of urgency.
The body which represents the interests of business also wants the Mia Mottley administration to make provisions for a functioning Public Accounts Committee.
BPSA Chairman Trisha Tannis did not mince words as she placed on record the group’s deep concern regarding “the glaring deficiencies in financial accounting management, the lack of proper internal controls at many state entities as reported by the Auditor General, and the need for greater accountability on the part of public sector officers who are charged with the management of public funds”.
“This state of affairs as reported by the Auditor General is, and continues to be, a perennial blot on the good reputation of Barbados as a well-governed state. The need for urgent corrective action cannot be overstated,” she declared.
Tannis pointed out that as a major contributor to government revenue, the private sector is concerned that the Auditor General’s reports have repeatedly pointed to the material misstatement of underlying records supporting public funds in state entities.
She was at pains to point out that state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which fall under the Technical Memorandum of Understanding with the International Monetary Fund, have required financial support in excess of $350 million from Government.
Citing the IMF December 2021 Staff Report which stated that state-owned enterprises have been a persistent strain on public finances, heavily relying on subsidies to sustain their operations, Tannis lamented that they have traditionally lacked adequate accountability mechanisms to ensure value for money and limit broader fiscal exposure.
The BPSA chairman insisted that while Government has laid a framework for the reformation of SOEs, the time is long overdue to fix the recurring issues emphatically and unmistakably by implementing “radical, not incremental, reforms to the public finance and accounting systems of this country”.
She added that the lack of a functioning Public Accounts Committee remained a serious concern and should also be addressed as a matter of urgency, given the independent monitoring functionality and scope of the committee.
“Whilst the absence of a parliamentary opposition has deprived the committee of a chairman, the Government has within its power the ability to move swiftly to correct this legislative shortcoming,” Tannis pointed out.
Looking ahead, the BPSA advised that Barbados should avoid the current revolving door of politically appointed directors and chairpersons as this does little to build commitment and institutional knowledge at the board level.
The BPSA also proposed that directors and chairpersons of boards have established competency in corporate governance and relevant subject matters prior to their appointment, and that mandatory refresher and enforcement training should be a prerequisite for all incoming directors within a specific period of their appointment.