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Analysis: Pac Men, Money Talk

We don’t want to be looking at the same problems at the end of this year, said the Public Accounts Committee this week. They were all unanimous in their scrutiny,
31 Jan 2015 12:05
Analysis: Pac Men, Money Talk
Public Accounts Committee . Photo: Mailife.com.fj

We don’t want to be looking at the same problems at the end of this year, said the Public Accounts Committee this week.

They were all unanimous in their scrutiny, both Opposition and Government members.

To their credit, the Government members Semi Koroilavesau, Sanjit Patel and Balmindar Singh were the fiercest critics of laxity within the Government systems from 2007 to 2013.

They didn’t mince their words with civil servants who turned up to answer the committee’s questions. They had to.

The Voreqe Bainimarama Government passed the biggest budget of Fiji’s history in November last year.

That’s $3.3 billion of Fijian taxpayers’ money and foreign assistance that has to be spent by the different Government departments this year.

Everything was budgeted for from assistance for women, children and the elderly to infrastructure, health services, salaries, wages, professional development and the list goes on.

The Government  called their 2015 Budget, “Turning promises into deeds.” If the Government members were a bit harsh on the senior civil servants who turned up there was good reason.

Promises to the people of Fiji are useless if poor execution, monitoring and evaluation continues to plague the Government system.

The Ministry of Finance were candid about their internal problems. We need more resources for monitoring Government expenditure, they told the committee this week.

Their request will be tabled in Parliament in the next sitting.

Parliament is expected to approve the request for a new monitoring unit within the Ministry of Finance.

There were quite a few positive highlights from the Public Accounts Committee meeting this week.

– Bi-partisanship:  The committee stumbled a bit during its first week last year because of internal differences.

However, the Government members have made good on their promise to support chairman Biman Prasad of the National Federation Party. Likewise, both Mr Prasad and Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) parliamentarian Aseri Radrodo helped build a cordial working relationship this week.

– Effective reforms: There were recurring problems, like VAT and FNPF reconciliation, overpaid salaries, fleet management and procurement issues.

Overall, the Government is trying to run a tight ship and some general improvements were noted by the committee in how Government ministries implemented recommendations from the Auditor-General’s Office.

It was good to note that the Prime Minister’s Office provided an impressive response to the committee’s questions.

Committee chairman Biman Prasad suggested the best practices from the PM’s Office could be copied by other ministries.

However, the committee is keen to see the latest audit reports to ensure recurring issues have been dealt with.

The committee meets again on March 23 where they will hear the various updates from ministries and also review other Auditor-Generals reports.

Feedback:  josuat@fijisun.com.fj

 




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