Public access to budget info leaves much to be desiredPOSTED: 04/24/13 10:19 AM
St. Maarten – Public access to budget-information still leaves a lot to be desired, even though the parliament for the first time this year published the draft 2013 budget on line – but without the enclosures that would give a more detailed insight in the country’s financial household.
The standard set by Pefa, the Cft’s workgroup for Public Expenditures and Financial Accountability, is that the public must be able to obtain a complete set of documents when it is presented to the parliament. While publishing the budget-booklet is a step in the right direction, it only meets the standard halfway.
Pefa also requires that execution-reports are made available to the public within a month after completion. That does not happen: “The Minister of Finance prepares an execution-report after each quarter but it is not made public,” the report notes.
The same goes for the annual account that should be made available to the public within six months after completion of the audit. However, the most recently approved annual account is not available for the public, the Pefa-report states.
External audit reports fare no better. Pefa requires that all reports about consolidated activities of the central government become available for the public within six months after completion of the audits. But instead, in St. Maarten they are presented to the parliament’s secretary general. Eventually they are submitted to the parliament. “But the public has not automatically and easy access to these reports. The exception is the report from the Audit Chamber about the country’s annual account.
Pefa furthermore requires that contracts worth more than $100,000 (or 180,000 guilders) are published at least every quarter. But the workgroup found that in St. Maarten such contracts are not publicly accessible.
Lastly information about the resources of primary service units (like primary schools or hospitals) is not made public. The Pefa would like to see this information published at least once a year.
Because St. Maarten did not make any of the above mentioned information public at the time the report was released, it gives the lowest possible score for public access to financial budget information. “Transparency about public resources depends on the extent to which budget and accountability information is made public and to what extent it is accessible for the community,” the report states.