STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
AT THE FIRST SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
STRENGTHENING THE SYSTEMS OF THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT
Madam Speaker, I crave your indulgence as I rise to update this Honourable House on the progress being made to strengthen the systems in the Treasury Department and in particular the financial reporting by the Government of the Virgin Islands.
Madam Speaker, under my leadership, the Ministry of Finance was charged with identifying and critically assessing the challenges and thereafter implementing the required corrective measures.
Madam Speaker, it is important to note that these efforts are being undertaken, while at the same time meeting the regular operational requirement of preparing annual budgets, and managing these budgets through revenue and expenditure control. Efforts to effect this charge have been realised in areas such as:
(i) introducing a budget process aimed at more closely linking and aligning Government’s priorities with the way in which allocations are made;
(ii) conducting at least two Audits of the Treasury Department by reputable external firms;
(iii) introducing a revised Chart of Accounts and to name a few.
All these efforts Madam Speaker have assisted in presenting a clearer picture of the ongoing issues and the need for operational systems to strengthen our financial reporting.
Madam Speaker, it is in that spirit that my Government recently engaged a consultant to assist in identifying the problems underlining many of the challenges which we currently face and to recommend and implement upon approval, the requisite changes in the Treasury Department to enhance its functionability.
In our investigations, which we were able to begin in earnest this year, we cited several legacy issues with respect to the manner in which our financial system software functioned. It was clear for example that the JD Edwards accounting system is under utilised as this system has far more features to meet the needs of the Government of the Virgin Islands. This apparently was the case beginning with its initial introduction into the BVI Government.
Furthermore, in many cases there are several programming idiosyncrasies that resulted in noticeable challenges in the final reports requested through the system. These have been identified, some have been corrected and solutions are being formulated for the issues that continue to exist.
Madam Speaker, with respect to the Treasury Department, we recognised and have implemented several operational and structural changes, including increasing the complement of staff to provide the various functions and task divisions necessary to ensure an effective functioning Treasury department.
Madam Speaker, I am confident about the outcomes to be yielded from the organisational and technical restructuring of the Treasury Department, and would venture to make and reiterate our commitment to the people of this Territory that our goal is to ensure that bills submitted for payment will be processed by the Treasury department within thirty (30) days.
In addition it is important to note that many of the presumptive challenges associated with the Treasury department extend beyond the Treasury Department and the Ministry of Finance themselves. As a matter of fact, we have identified that these procedural norms are systemic across the entire the Government.
One of these practices for example is the manner in which some financial commitments are made and the time it takes for such commitments to be reflected in our financial system such that they can be settled quickly.
In order to speed up the process of having credits by the BVI Government settled quickly, I therefore urge persons and entities providing goods and services to the Government of the Virgin Islands to ensure that they have possession of the paperwork (that is a Purchase Order) signifying that proper authorisations have been given to incur the costs of these goods and services they are about to provide.
Madam Speaker I will very soon be bringing regular quarterly financial reports to this Honourable House for examination and public viewing. We are also currently scheduled to have our annual Treasury Reports up to 2015 submitted, or ready for submission to the Auditor General by the end of this year, with the 2016 report completed by the middle of 2017.
I would like to note in conclusion Madam Speaker, that these reports which I will be bringing to this Honourable House will illustrate that our financial position is indeed quite strong, but also show that for this to remain so, we are required to exercise financial prudence.
I have no doubt that my colleagues and both sides of this house will assist me in ensuring that this is the case.
Thank you Madam Speaker.