The Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Chief Administrator Raye Sandy has assured that the THA’s accounts will be current in the “not too distant future”.
In a report responding to the Auditor General’s report, which outlined several issues with Tobago’s accounting procedures, Sandy admitted that there is room for improvement. He stated that the Assembly is committed to improving its financial reporting systems.
Sandy said: “The THA is cognisant of its responsibilities to properly and accurately account for the public funds entrusted to it in the execution of its mandate. Some of the deficiencies identified in the report of the Auditor General are valid and steps have been taken in the past and a renewed effort will be made to ensure compliance with the laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Other perceived deficiencies such as those related to the financial rules of the THA are outside of the control of the THA.”
One major issue, the Chief Administrator noted, is moving from a cash-based accounting system—where transactions are only counted when cash is received or paid respectively—to accrual accounting, where income and expenses are updated as they occur.
Sandy said the framework for managing accounts payable was not in place in the cash-based system, adding that the complex nature of government accounts presented a challenge in transitioning to the accrual system. All government accounting is done on the “cash basis”, Sandy pointed out. He said the THA agreed to switch to the accrual format as a “pilot project for the country”.
The THA is also planning to implement the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) as part of its corrective active plan to improve on its current financial reporting system. This means that by 2017, the THA should be fully compliant with international standards for financial reporting.
The THA plan contains a number of measures, including a transitional plan to shift from cash-based to accrual accounting, establishing an information technology platform to process accounting data and implementing a web-based fixed asset management system, with a plan for an Assembly-wide implementation by 2017.
The Division of Finance and Enterprise Development has also been mandated to review the processes and procedures for its financial reporting and the existing financial rules.
Finally, staff will be trained in relevant areas to ensure smooth implementation of the plan.