The government intends to table public financial management reform bills before the end of this fiscal year, in an effort to further strengthen the way it handles and approaches public finance.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the Public Financial Management Bill, 2020, and the Public Debt Management Bill, 2020, are currently under review.
“As elements of both of these bills are interconnected, the team at the Ministry of Finance, in concert with the law reform department, is undertaking an extensive review to ensure that the bills are aligned. Once this is complete, both bills will go out for public consultation, which is expected to occur before the end of the year,” he said while delivering the 2019/20 mid-year budget statement in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“The Public Procurement Bill, 2020, has completed public consultation and is now being reviewed to incorporate the comments and feedback received during this process. Once the draft is finalized, the bill will be submitted to Parliament. It is the government’s intention to table this legislation before the time of the national budget for 2020/21.”
The government published the draft Public Procurement Bill last October, which would require the government to regularly publish contracts awarded to vendors, including public disclosures of basic contract details, such as the winning bidder and the amount of the contract.
“Collectively, these bills lay the foundation to strengthening the way the government both handles and approaches public finance. They promote transparency and accountability and will modernize and strengthen the current framework for public financial management in line with the government’s overarching commitment to fiscal prudence, fairness and responsibility,” Turnquest said.
“Taken together, these initiatives demonstrate that the government is well underway in meeting its commitment to reform the governance and accountability frameworks that are necessary to ensure the proper and efficient use of Bahamian taxpayer funds.
“We are forever mindful that it is the people’s monies that we are entrusted with and not our own personal funds. The steps we are taking are deliberate and they are transformative. We are ushering in a new, modern era of public accounting, scrutiny, reporting and transparency. The pace of these reforms will not slow down.”
Turnquest also announced the re-establishment of an audit review committee to further develop the quality, accuracy and credibility of government reporting.
He said the committee, which would be comprised of five members – a chairman, deputy chairman, two members from the public service and a secretary – would oversee and facilitate the successful implementation of the recommendations posed by current and future audit reports compiled by the auditor general, the Internal Audit Office and any reports produced by other external audit exercises.
“At least two members of the committee should be appointed from outside of the public service, with one of these members holding the position of chair. The Cabinet will in short order finalize the composition of the committee,” Turnquest said.
“Undoubtedly, this progress in our reporting efforts will support a strengthening in the effectiveness in our policymaking, given the findings of more accurate and timely reports. It will also promote a higher level of accountability and transparency internally, which will help to enhance the efficiency of internal processes and procedures and ultimately benefit the Bahamian public at large.”