By Clive Leviev Sawyer – Sofia
Bulgaria’s Finance Ministry said on August 14 that it ordered full audits at all government ministries, to be carried out by their respective internal audit departments, in parallel with checks by the Public Financial Inspection Agency of the Finance Ministry.
The audits were to be completed by August 25, with their results announced in one summary report at the end of the month, the finance ministry said in a statement.
Audits at all primary budget spending units – a list of state institutions that included all ministries and certain government agencies – were part of the economic package of priority measures announced by the caretaker cabinet when it took office last week.
The audits were meant to ascertain how much money the ministries have spent so far this year, as well as future financial commitments made by the ministries. The audits would also check all spending for compliance with the Budget Act and the impact of spending on the Budget deficit, the Finance Ministry said.
The priority tasks of the caretaker cabinet were drafted by the office of Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev – who, under Bulgarian law, appoints the caretaker government when the National Assembly cannot agree on forming a cabinet and is prorogued to make way for early parliamentary elections.
Announcing the line-up of the caretaker cabinet headed by constitutional law professor Georgi Bliznashki, on August 5, Plevneliev said that the government’s tasks would go beyond its primary role of preparing and holding the snap polls.
“Bulgaria is in an environment of a record low public trust in the institutions and you can win trust only if you make your actions public. Although the caretaker government will not adopt a revenge-seeking approach, it will tell the truth and will not hide from the Bulgarian citizens the state the country is currently in,” he said in his address.
Although not naming any names, Plevneliev did not hold back his criticism of the now-department government of Plamen Oresharski, which was in office between May 2013 and August 2014, governing on a mandate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).
“[The caretaker cabinet] will make a thorough analysis of the implementation of the budget as of July 31 and will prepare a budget forecast until the end of the year. It will show the real picture of the finances in this country, the deficit, the fiscal reserve, the debt, the uncollected revenues, the bloated expenditures, the due payments to the construction companies, municipalities, hospitals and others, the public procurements and contracts that have been signed even though no funding is available for them,” he said.
Plevneliev took office in January 2012 after being elected on the ticket of centre-right party GERB, the main political rival of the BSP. He clashed with the socialist-led ruling majority backing the Oresharski administration from the start, most notably after the controversial appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as director of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) in June 2013, which sparked months of anti-government protests.
Plevneliev’s approval ratings remained strong, unlike public approval for Oresharski and senior socialist politicians, throughout months of stand-off with Parliament that saw the National Assembly successfully reject seven of nine presidential vetoes, as well as blocking the president’s proposed referendum on electoral rules.
But Plevneliev has clearly outlasted his opponents and although the caretaker cabinet does not have the power to reverse many of the decisions made by its predecessors in office, it can shed light on some of those decisions – incidentally, only weeks before early parliamentary elections.