By Carl Joseph
In an effort to seek “transparency in governance” around the Caribbean, the European Union met with officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet on Wednesday to discuss a €2.2 million Euro project that is set to enhance the operation of the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament.
The proposal being made is for the creation of a Budget Oversight Office similar to that of the US Congressional Budget Office.
Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst said that in order create this office, legislation called the Financial Administration Act 2020 needs to be passed.
“That Act would allow for the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda to have yet another official who would, in essence, perform the same functions as the Congressional Budget Office in the United States,” Hurst explained.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government that provides budget and economic information to Congress and manages the state budget in a strictly nonpartisan fashion.
Cabinet notes revealed that that official would also review expenditure within fixed periods, against the budgeted amounts, and to share his findings with the Parliament so that shifting of monies could be achieved.
The legislation would also allow for the review of the collection of taxes on a quarterly basis in order to determine where the fall-offs have occurred.
The Cabinet said the legislation would have a four-fold impact on the budgetary process. In its operation, would create the new office and provide the authority for the official to work alongside the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, who is the Constitutional Head of the Public Accounts Committee.
Hurst said the EU’s interest in setting up the committee in Antigua and Barbuda and the greater Caribbean is to increase transparency among all corresponding states.
“They are of the view that many of our countries, newly independent, need help in working on systems that will cause our governments to be very transparent. They believe that corruption and other types of ways that are used to siphon off funds from the government would be detected if we had other systems in place,” he said.
Hurst did indicate, however that the EU’s proposal will remain just that until the details have been vetted by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
“This is their proposal and the Cabinet has to weigh it. We must see the specific language,” he said.
While the intentions of the EU, “might be laudable”, Hurst explained, “the details are always more important than we ascribe to them. “But in this particular case, the draft law must first be presented to the Cabinet.”