Burrowes devises new budget model

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-for planning by results and ongoing monitoring
-hopes it will be adopted by other municipalities

HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS continued deliberations on the Georgetown municipality’s budgetary estimates on Friday last, with Chairman of the Implementation Committee and former Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiries in the Georgetown City Council’s Affairs, Mr. Keith Burrowes, presiding over the discussions.

Referring to the way the budget was formerly prepared, where estimated expenditure was projected around anticipated resources, Mr. Burrowes stated that the current formulation for information-processing and budget-estimation is based on the identification of benchmarks in accordance with statutory requirements. These activities will be costed and measurable targets are being developed.

Also present at the meeting were several members of the City Council, as were newly-appointed members of the Implementation Committee, Messrs. Bish Panday and Percy Boyce, former members of the Interim Management Committee, which did such a magnificent job in cleaning up the city’s affairs in 1994.

One area that was discussed at length during this exercise was the poor management of the Council’s human resources. This has resulted in a situation where the human resources of the Council (wages and salaries represents over 60% of the budget) is not managed in a manner to achieve maximum returns. In fact, based on the current situation with poor supervision, the Council is unable to effectively carry out its mandate because of its inability to manage the human resources adequately, mainly because of resistance from the unions. Mr. Burrowes posited, based on the information from the Commission of Inquiry herein, that the level of inefficiency is extremely significant, and that in numerous cases where there is a need to deploy human resources, the desired results are not achieved.

However, Mr. Burrowes is adamant that there has to be greater accountability in resource-management, including human resources, even if it means multi-tasking and re-deployment.

Mr. Burrowes, at minimal cost to the municipality, had initiated restructuring to the City Treasury Department, creating some degree of IT-compatibility, enough to create a database and more efficient enough to create electronic accounts, which has already borne significant benefits in the overall financial management of the Council’s resources.

Mr. Bish Panday outlined some interim measures that could create a workable network that would not incur much cost to the municipality, but would be effective on a short-term basis, basically until the City’s finances have been stabilized.  These suggestions were taken onboard and generally accepted as being feasible.

Deputizing for Mayor Hamilton Green, Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams welcomed Mr. Burrowes’ input throughout the various processes leading to current time and activities.

The weeks-long deliberations on the budget will culminate with its presentation to Full-Council.  If it is approved, only then will the public be made privy to the Municipality’s budget.

However, while Mr. Burrowes is amenable to most of the suggestions by the various Heads, he insists on accountability in the operations of the municipality.  He is determined that future operational methodologies within the municipal framework must produce quantifiable results, to the benefit of the taxpaying public.

He said that once the public is aware of the targets identified in the budget, they would demand tangible results for their taxpaying dollars.

He said that the budget would identify tangible qualitative and quantitative indicators, which could be reflected on and measured.

According to Mr. Burrowes, the resource-anticipatory nature of budgeting, as was done in previous years, would be changed to an approach whereby the benchmarks are set, based on the statutory requirements.

Indicators for all the service delivery areas have been finalized through a transparent process over the past two months. These indicators are currently reflected in the budget.

The Chairman of the Implementing Committee explained that with the agreement of the Finance Committee, the budget model which will be adopted from 2010 will reflect all the statutory as well as non-core activities and the cost (based on targets set) whether cash or in kind. As a result of this approach, a shortfall of resources will force the council to prioritize and to be strategic not only in new revenue streams (this is not the solution) but also reduce expenditure by adapting best practices, ensuring proper monitoring and holding persons accountable for delivery of services.

Deputy Mayor Robert Williams said that the budget has been crafted with primary guidance taken from recommendations in the Report of the Burrowes Commission.

Chronicle has been following the painful and exhaustive journey of the Burrowes Commission of Inquiry, from the inception when it was vested with the tasks involved in its mandate by the Minister of Local Government, Hon. Kellawan Lall, to the culmination when the Report was formally presented to the Minister.

The forum held on Friday last was the final of several other engagements chaired by Mr. Burrowes for the past two months to develop the budget. It allowed department heads to defend their budget and to indicate strategies that they will adopt in ensuring the desired results are achieved.

The Guyana Chronicle will continue to provide, in an on-going manner, information on the budget, in the interest of ensuring that the taxpayers can hold the Council accountable in cases if the targets as defined in the budget are not met.