National Integrity Action Makes Urgent Call for Greater Transparency and Accountability

Here is a press release dated November 3, 2014 from National Integrity Action. It is very relevant in light of Jamaica’s current economic situation and recent developments. Highlights are my own.

National Integrity Action (NIA) Executive Director, Professor Trevor Munroe, makes urgent call for greater transparency and accountability as shortfalls continue in government tax revenue and significant cuts are made in budgeted allocations to public services.

In the light of data published three days ago by the Ministry of Finance, (Central Government Summary Accounts Fiscal Monitoring Table, Ministry of Finance Planning -10/31/2014) the Executive Director of National Integrity Action, Professor Trevor Munroe, is calling for increased transparency and more information concerning serious short falls in expected tax payment by companies and continued, significant government cuts in budgeted expenditure.

The data published by the Ministry indicates that between April and September, 2014 the shortfall in budgeted company taxes paid was 4.7 billion dollars which contributed to an over 7 billion dollar shortfall and which represented an increased additional short-fall of 2.2 billion dollars in the month of September alone. At the same time, the P.A.Y.E tax payers more than met their obligations. Their payments exceeded budgeted targets by over 676 million dollars. The country needs to know which big taxpayers are not meeting their tax obligations at a time when working people, despite the most severe pressure, are carrying more than their fair share of the burden. This information is especially important against the background of the Minister of Finance indicating to Parliament earlier this year that at the end of 2013/2914, 21% of entities with over one billion dollars of sales per annum did not pay any corporate income tax. Former students are being named and shamed for not meeting their student loan obligations. At a minimum these entities should not enjoy anonymity, receive the same public exposure, and where appropriate, undergo investigation and prosecution where the evidence so justifies – as the Private Sector Working Group proposed over 2 years ago.

On the other hand, the October 31 information from the Ministry indicates that total budgeted expenditure for April to September was cut by almost 13 and a half billion; the re-current by 5.6 billion dollars, including over 2 billion dollars from Programmes. In addition, almost 8 billion dollars was cut from budgeted capital expenditure. Some cuts are no doubt necessary to meet the targets in the IMF Programme. However, it is a matter of the greatest public importance for the people to know and to have a say in what programmes and services and being cut in the light of

• Daily demonstrations regarding poor road conditions
• Inadequate water supplies in many areas
• The need to ensure that clinics, hospitals and medical facilities are better equipped to deal with the current Chik-V epidemic and heightened preparedness for the Ebola threat
• The need for police and security forces to have more mobility, enhanced technology and greater equipment in coping with the continued unacceptable high murder rate
• Schools and educational institutions as well as tertiary students to be better funded
• Critical state agencies, such as the Auditor General s Department to receive the funding necessary to recruit the appropriate level of qualified staff to fulfil enhanced responsibility

In these circumstances it is necessary but not enough to know that Jamaica passes IMF tests. In addition, it is essential that the burden of meeting these targets be more evenly shared in a country that now has the second highest income inequality in the Western Hemisphere. It is also critical that we, the citizens, know and help to determine what services are being cut and how much is being cut from government programmes in order to achieve the necessary targets. Greater transparency and accountability is urgently needed from both the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC )and the Ministry of Finance in this critical area of central government fiscal operations.

NIA is a non-profit organization aimed at combating corruption in Jamaica through education, encouraging anti-corruption vigilance and activism, and through lobbying the government to enforce anti-corruption laws.


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