The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is confident that the fiscal transparency initiatives it plans to introduce this fiscal year will align the government with global fiscal transparency best practices, a MOF press statement from Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest stated, adding that the government is committed to transparency at all of its levels.
The MOF released the press statement after it was reported that The Bahamas failed to meet the minimum fiscal transparency requirements in a 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report released by the U.S. Department of State last week.
The Bahamas was one of 140 countries assessed.
“The state department’s framework for assessing fiscal transparency places emphasis on transparency around the awarding of government contracts and natural resource licenses, as well as more robust government audit mechanisms,” Turnquest said in his statement.
“It also speaks to better and more frequent reporting on budgetary matters.”
According to Turnquest, those elements mentioned are all part of the government’s soon-to-be-introduced Public Procurement Bill, “which will require all prospective government bids to be posted online and call for the publication of all contracts awarded by the government”.
Turnquest said the government will also introduce the Public Financial Management Bill, which will replace the Financial Administration and Audit Act.
“Not only will this new bill require greater reporting and accountability by state-owned enterprises and public sector agencies, it will also stipulate criminal penalties for malfeasance in public financial affairs,” the statement revealed.
“Already, the government has introduced quarterly fiscal reports, a yearly fiscal strategy report and a new online portal dedicated to budgetary and fiscal matters (www.bahamasbudget.gov.bs). The government is pleased to have increased the budget of the auditor general’s department by $433,000 – a 16 percent increase to expand their reach and efficacy. We have approved the recruitment of 11 new internal auditors and 14 new VAT auditors. These will boost the audit function all across government in a substantial way.”