By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
(July 6,2018) NASSAU,BAHAMAS -A governance reformer yesterday renewed calls for the Fiscal Responsibility Bill to be given "more teeth until we get a culture of accountability" in the public service.
Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance's (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business that the "only question I have" on the draft legislation was whether its provisions were sufficiently strong enough to properly hold ministers and civil servants to account for fiscal irresponsibility.
Branding the current situation as akin to "the fox guarding the hen house", Mr Myers said the Bahamas' history showed more than just "a slap on the wrist" was required for public sector workers who stole, misused or wasted taxpayers funds if this nation is to regain its fiscal health.
And, arguing that "what is good for the goose is good for the gander", the ORG principal argued that the draft legislation's penalties and sanctions should match those imposed on the private sector for offences such as late tax payments and incorrect VAT filings.
While satisfied with the Fiscal Responsibility Bill's targets and increased transparency, Mr Myers told Tribune Business: "The accountability is the question I have. At what level will the public sector be held accountable?
"I don't believe the culture exists within the public sector to be accountable. In my opinion, there are some great civil servants, but there are equally as many gaming the system. They're not accountable, and don't want any accountability because they benefit from the status quo.
"That's why I believe there needs to be more teeth, and more penalties, until we get a culture of accountability and people realise the seriousness of it and take it seriously."
Mr Myers' comments echo the warning delivered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which, in a policy brief released earlier this week, warned that the government must "entrench a new culture" within the civil service if the Fiscal Responsibility Bill is to succeed.
While generally backing the Bill as "a bold step" with many of the right ingredients to set the Bahamas back on a sustainable fiscal path, the IDB nevertheless said the Bill's improved fiscal governance objectives could be endangered unless the main principles and philosophy of such a shift were ingrained in "all members of the public service".