BICA chief welcomes fiscal 'seat at table'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) president yesterday welcomed the "seat at the table" to assess the Government's fiscal responsibility compliance.

Gowon Bowe, pictured, speaking at a press conference to announce the long-awaited release of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, said: "This is certainly something that is welcomed. Those elements that relate to the financial reporting; the internal controls and disciplines that will actually be put in place, are going to be music to the ears of my colleagues - certainly in the accounting profession but, more important, to the wider community.

"From a professional standpoint this is about being able to firstly get a seat at the table and get the information, but secondly have the ability to perform an objective and unbiased assessment."

The Fiscal Responsibility Bill calls for the creation of an independent Fiscal Responsibility Council. The Council will consist of five members to be appointed by the Governor-General on advice from the Speaker of the House, one of whom "shall have qualifications and experience in accounting" and be nominated by BICA.

The Council will "assess compliance with the general principles, fiscal responsibility principles and fiscal objectives, and advise on fiscal and budgetary matters of the Government including reviewing the fiscal strategy report; annual budget; mid-year review; pre-election economic and fiscal update; Government annual accounts; reports on deviations from the fiscal responsibility requirements; and fiscal adjustment plan of the Government in response to deviations."

Mr Bowe added: "We as a profession certainly look forward to participating in the actual Council that is going to be formed, and participating in the public debate as it relates to the legislation itself to ensure that we are being balanced.

"This is not a stick to wield over the head of government but, more importantly, to make sure that barometers are understood and are communicated in a manner that is understood by the common person. We look forward to working arm in arm with the Government as it relates to its implementation, then thereafter looking forward to being a participant in holding our government accountable."

Mr Bowe said the accounting profession is playing a key role in the Government's move from cash-based to accrual accounting. "We expect the local profession to be a major part of moving the Government reporting to that basis because it's the only real basis of understanding your assets and liabilities," he explained.

"The focus locally is always around the liabilities but, in reality, do we have a comprehensive understating of the assets of the Government?"