The Secretary to Cabinet, Mr James Remobatu has urged Permanent Secretaries (PS) that they must lead the financial reforms within their ministries.
Addressing Permanent Secretaries in a Financial Management Workshop in Honiara on Monday, Mr Remobatu said there is a balance that Permanent Secretaries must strike in the delivery of their outputs and their accountability on how they spend public money.
The Workshop was organized by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury under the banner of “Building a Stronger Public Financial Management System is Everyone’s Business.”
The aim of the workshop was to identify the responsibilities of the Permanent Secretaries under the new Public Financial Management Act which became effective at the beginning of this year.
“We must not forget that we have the same destination and a common purpose. Unless it is our own money that we are spending, we cannot expect to promote production and ignore accountability.
“The key in my view is that we, Permanent Secretaries, must adopt a shared vision of the importance of this balance. Once we collectively do so we have a “win-win” combination and the whole country progresses towards our national vision,” Mr Remobatu said.
Mr. Harry Kuma, the Under Secretary (Fiscal) in the Ministry for Finance and the Chairman of the Financial Management Reform Committee explained that the workshop was a continuation of the work that the Ministry was undertaking to raise the ownership of these reforms across the whole of government.
He said that to be successful, these reforms must involve the whole government and not only the Ministry of Finance.
“The meeting of Permanent Secretaries was a culmination of the workshops that we have held in the Ministry itself and also with the media which were very successful in spreading awareness and clarifying roles,” Mr Kuma said.
Mr. Remobatu also reminded Permanent Secretaries that MOFT needs their leadership to spread this message across government.
“One of our important roles as the Head of the Ministries was how we relate to our own Ministers. I have observed that the most effective combination is when the Minister works in partnership with his or her PS. For this to happen, both must understand their roles and responsibilities under the law. We, as PS, provide that important interface between officials and politicians. There are skills and techniques required that will allow us to play this role better,” Mr Remobatu said.
The Secretary to Cabinet further stressed that one important issue in managing public finances is to improve compliance to the Act and to financial instructions.
“These instructions are there for a purpose. They are essential to raising the quality of our expenses and improving the delivery of our services,” he said.
In his experience, Mr. Remobatu said that one of the biggest challenges to better financial compliance was our culture or more specifically the “One Tok” system in this country.
“I have seen it happen time after time. While I know that finding lasting solutions to this is not going to be easy, we must openly confront it by our exemplary leadership and a concerted awareness program,” he stressed.
In his conclusion, the Secretary to Cabinet said, “I believe we are at an important juncture. We, as PS, must work together in partnership with MOFT to implement these reforms in our own Ministries. Our government revenue is insufficient to meet all our demands. We must prioritize and stretch that scarce dollar further”.
“We must account to the public on how we have used their funds. Donors are demanding better financial management from SIG as a means of sustaining donor support. So much depends on us as leaders of our ministries and agencies to drive these changes,” he added.
“I believe that what we are doing now to strengthen public financial management will chart a new course in the way we manage our public funds to propel us to our common destination of taking our country forward to a better future for everyone”.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the new Permanent Secretary for Finance, Mr. Fred Fakarii emphasized to his colleagues the significance of leadership of PFM implementation at the Permanent Secretaries’ level.
He clarified the role of Permanent Secretaries as managers of Government policies, programs and operations under their respective ministry’s mandates. “Ministers make policy decisions and set the outputs and deliverables required to achieve the desired outcomes of policies. PSs seek to achieve those outputs and outcomes from within the budgets and resources at their disposal,” Mr Fakarii said.
He added that MOFT has been collaborating with the Ministries to improve the efficiency of financial services whilst at the same time ensuring transparency and accountability.
“In this regard, the training of financial controllers, accounting officers and senior management of ministries will continue to be on-going in the future, This will only equip PSs with the support they need to carry out their financial management responsibilities under the Act more effectively,” he stressed.
The workshop resulted in an agreed set of actions that all PSs and their ministries will need to work on in the next few months to strengthen their commitment to further improve Government’s financial management.