Interview: Yves Fernand Manfoumbi

What sort of budgetary reforms have been put in place to improve fiscal indicators?

YVES FERNAND MANFOUMBI: To improve our management of public finances, the government has put in place several tools for budgetary reform. We have also adopted the Law on Finances and Budget Execution (LOLFEB), the elaboration of the medium-term spending framework at both the sectoral and institutional levels, and repositioned the financial affairs division as an autonomous service within the budget department.

LOLFEB is the basis for budgeting by programme objectives (BOP), a new method of managing public finances. BOP allies objectives (as classified by a line item’s mission-programme-action) with the resulting performance of public action (in terms of the quality of service delivery, socio-economic efficiency improvements and management effectiveness). The idea is to increase accountability for programme managers and improve the overall fungibility of credits. What this means for the government is that the reform of the financial regime will mostly affect, beyond the budgetary architecture, the organisation of services, the accounting system, the spending execution process and information systems. For the private sector, LOLFEB will ensure greater transparency for public finances, as well as allow companies to better trace the financial circuits of government from the operational unit to the budget organiser. It will also guarantee payment for companies in shorter timeframes, insofar that the principle “payment after finished service” will be restored.

In what way will the creation of the Superior Council for Accounting (Conseil supérieur de la comptabilité, CSC) affect accounting rules?

MANFOUMBI: The creation of the CSC is a reaction to two major issues. First, the government wants to implement all the aspects described in the LOLFEB. The implementation of this kind of accounting system for government operations, which is inspired by international norms for public sector accounting rules, necessitates the creation of a body tasked with establishing a normative framework to define accounting rules applicable to the government, all while taking into account the unique specificities of public fiscal issues. Contrary to accounting rules of Gabon’s public sector today, which are limited to recording operations in the cashier base, the CSC must also propose a new accounting framework to allow the public sector to move from cashier-base accounting to exercise accounting.

The second issue relates to engagement with the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires, OHADA). Membership entails implementing recommendations of national normalisation at the fiscal level, with members also ensuring that links between the different actors in accounting at the national level and OHADA are easily followed. The CSC, which is formed of actors from the public and private sectors, has a mandate to propose and emit opinions on accounting norms applicable to the public and private sectors, and has the authority to either internalise accounting rules defined at the OHADA level, or to propose accounting measures that will affect the account management rules at the national level.

How can the timeline for payment be reduced for works undertaken in the construction sector?

MANFOUMBI: Payment times (accounting phase) in the construction sector have been reduced to 60 days from 90 days previously. Treatment times (administrative phase) in this sector, meanwhile, currently stand at 17 days. In effect, budgetary and accounting reforms aim to accelerate the payment processes within the budget ministry. This has taken shape through the creation of specialised entities to facilitate payment processes, including the CSC, the treasury committee and the public liability and resource control department, as well as the introduction tools such as the new procurement code, the project assembly guide, plans on contract allocation, and the plans on commitment and disbursement.