Where is your love Jamaica?
On Monday November 14, 2016, the Observer published an article entitled ‘Law scorned – No record of annual reports from 23 State agencies”.
In a nutshell, what the Jamaican public was told was that only 21% of public bodies have been compliant in tabling their annual financial reports.
56 were one to two years behind; 36 were three to five years behind; 14 were six to eight years behind; 5 were over nine years late; and there were no records of 23 of the entities EVER submitting an audited report. The period in question has both of our political parties forming the Government of Jamaica.
Those in breach of THE PUBLIC BODIES MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT represent 79% of the total.
Note that according to Part 2 of the Act [Corporate Governance and Accountability], it is the Minister who is responsible and accountable for, among other things, the following:
2. (1) Before the end of each financial year, the Minister shall cause to be prepared in such form as may be approved by him, estimates of revenue and expenditure for public bodies, with respect to the ensuing financial year, containing-
(a) summary of the corporate plan submitted by each public body, pursuant to section 7;
(b) information necessary for the compilation of the Fiscal Policy Paper, as it relates to that public body; and
(c) other data and information pertaining to those public bodies, as the Minister considers appropriate
2. (2) The Minister shall cause the estimates referred to in subsection (1) to be laid before the House of Representatives and the Senate for approval.
3. (1) The accounts of public bodies shall be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles promulgated from time to time by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica, or such other body as the Minister may specify by order.
3. (2) As soon as possible after the end of each financial year, but not more than four months thereafter, the board of a public body shall submit the annual report including audited financial statements of the public body to the responsible Minister, who shall cause the report and statements to be laid on the Table of the House of Representatives and of the Senate.
The article further states “where breaches are found, reports could be sent to the Attorney General’s Department for appropriate action to be taken”.
Are these public bodies [the 79% in breach of the Laws of Jamaica] funded by the taxpayers of Jamaica? If so, then each and every taxpayer, whether business or individual, needs to hold the responsible Ministers to account. Note that the Board of each public body is also responsible and accountable for submitting the annual report [inclusive AUDITED financial statements] to the Minister. The Boards have failed the Jamaican people.
Imagine this happening in a private entity – people would lose their jobs. No questions asked.
From the Observer article, I notice the PAAC includes both Government and Opposition members. What are our lawmakers going to do about this? When has appropriate action ever been taken? This has been going on for years, and some of those on the PAAC have been around for years.
Please remember we are number 69 in the Corruption Perception Index 2015, and with a score of 41% actually sit on the CORRUPT side of the graph. If action is not taken, then we will never move forward, prosperity will remain talk, as those who espouse transparency, ethics, honesty etc. are not willing to walk the talk. This leaves a perception that the law is only for certain people.
What would happen if private companies and self-employed individuals decided to follow the example set by our leaders? Suppose every major corporation in Jamaica decided NOT to file their annual financial reports? Would not swift action be taken by the Government?
I say that public bodies have already set a precedent, one that any private entity/individual should be able to use in a court of law.
Because if the lawmakers of Jamaica are not to be held accountable for breaking the law, then why should anyone else be?