Financial Council' Will Oversee Gov't Finances

Financial Council' Will Oversee Gov't Finances

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Government's Fiscal Responsibility Bill will create a non-political "Council" to oversee its financial stewardship, with the law yesterday hailed as a safeguard against national "bankruptcy".

Matt Aubry, executive director of the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), told Tribune Business that the Bill - set for full public release today - could be "very big" for fiscal transparency and accountability.

ORG, and other key private sector and civil society groups, were sent an advance copy of the draft Bill on Friday ahead of a narrow two-week consultation period for interested parties to provide feedback on its provisions.

Acknowledging the tight timeline, with the Government aiming to table the Bill in Parliament to coincide with the 2018-2019 Budget presentation at end-May, Mr Aubry said ORG and its affiliates would seek to provide as much advice as possible given the need to move the legislative agenda forward.

He added that a letter attached to the Bill, signed by Marlon Johnson, the Ministry of Finance's acting financial secretary, conceded that the consultation had been launched with little warning.

"There's a lot to be done in a short period of time," Mr Aubry said, adding of the letter: "It did say that they [the Government] appreciated there was not enough notice, but they want to work through this in an expedited way.

"We want to make sure we get this right. I understand the balance of wanting to move forward. With the way the legislative agenda has got stacked up, the intention of moving this and trying to get it in place needs to happen now."

Mr Aubry said ORG had already distributed the draft Bill to its council members, along with affiliate and partner groups, and was pushing for all to submit comments/concerns as rapidly as possible to ensure the broadest possible consultation on critical legislation.

The ORG executive director added that he had already begun to "work through" the Bill, benchmarking it with similar laws in other jurisdictions, and praised several proposals in it - including the creation of a 'Financial Council'.

The Bill, as presently drafted, calls for the Council's members to be appointed by the Governor-General following advice from the Speaker of the House of Assembly and MPs - not the Government, as is normal practice.

"There's going to be a 'Financial Council' appointed by the Governor-General through the suggestion of the Speaker and Parliament," Mr Aubry told Tribune Business. "The composition of the Council is really coming from an outside perspective.

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