THE GOVERNMENT is preparing a bill that would force ministries and semi-government organisations (SGOs) to prove compliance with reports of the auditor-general before getting their budgets approved.
The bill provides that when tabling their annual budgets before parliament, ministries and SGOs must simultaneously submit a compliance report based on the most recent observations recorded by the auditor-general regarding their operations.
Speaking before the House finance committee, Auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji said this practice would be an improvement on the current situation, though how much of an improvement will depend on how much the committee makes use of the measure.
Over the years, Georghadji has built a reputation for her no-nonsense reports highlighting the wasteful practices of public or semi-public bodies.
She has had less success, so far, in seeing her recommendations to curb wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money implemented.
Georghadji noted that the draft bill will only apply to those organisations or bodies that have to submit their budgets to parliament. Local authorities, for example, will not be covered by the bill.
The AG explained that in reality, because her office exercises control over public spending after the budget has been spent, while the budget itself is approved before it is spent, there will be a gap of two years in checking implementation of her observations.
Budget chief at the Finance Ministry, Stavros Michael, said he could not guarantee that the new measure would be implemented straight away, since the tabling of the 2014 budget in parliament is already late.
He added that under the draft legal amendment, each ministry will have to explain what actions have been taken vis-a-vis the auditor-general’s recommendations.
Committee chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos said the new evaluation framework was another helpful tool for parliament to judge to what degree ministries are doing their job right.