Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has expressed his surprise at a response by the Finance Minister that the Executive has never discussed the 2012 Finance Committee recommendation that the “relevant financial documents, including Budgets, Estimates and Resource Accounts are simplified and harmonised to increase transparency.”
The East Antrim MLA said:
“The distribution of public funds, particularly through the Executive’s budgetary process, has long been criticised for being convoluted and total devoid of public and political transparency. As a result, political scrutiny is difficult and public participation in the setting and influencing of how public funds are spent here is virtually impossible.
“In 2012, after an extensive investigation, the previous Finance and Personnel Committee published a report which made the sensible recommendation that Executive financial measures, such as Budgets, Estimates and Resource Accounts be ‘simplified and harmonised to increase transparency’.
“Such a change in policy, whilst easily deliverable, would be a step-change in how budgets are scrutinised, and would also help deliver on a key call from the Open Government Network in Northern Ireland to increase transparency, public participation and accountability in the budget process at all levels.
“Frustratingly however, after challenging the local Finance Minister, he simply responded that the report on the Review of Financial Processes in Northern Ireland has not yet even been discussed by the Executive. Given that the recommendation to streamline the local budgetary process needs Executive agreement, the fact that so far it has been ignored means it is very unlikely to ever be adopted.
“The question is, by refusing to take such a practical measure, what exactly have the DUP and Sinn Fein got to hide?”