Salam Fayyad
Ministry Of Finance
March 27, 2008 - 6:48pm

It is my honor today to announce the re-launching of the Ministry of Finance website. I would also like to announce our commitment to post on this site monthly reports on our financial operations on the 15th of each month.

This event is important first because it represents a fundamental step towards instituting transparency in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and establishing the foundations of good governance. Every citizen and each observer will be able to examine all of the PNA's financial transactions in a manner that eliminates any doubts about lingering corruption and financial mismanagement.
What distinguishes this event from many before it, though, is the level of capacity and professionalism that had to be attained in order to realize this achievement. Reform is not just a slogan, nor is political will – important as it is –enough to turn it into a reality. It requires a series of practical measures which require, in turn, a high level of effectiveness and institutionalization. Specifically, to be able to publish financial data regularly on pre-set dates requires the establishment of systems and the development of a capacity that make it possible to fulfill this commitment. Today's event is a significant step in consolidating financial trust in the PNA locally and internationally, especially as it comes in the wake of direct international budgetary support, including from Norway, France, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Perhaps the most significant event in this area was the transfer of US $150 million by the United States to the Single Treasury Account (STA). This represents the largest sum of assistance to be transferred to the PNA in one tranche since the Authority’s inception. Indeed, I can confirm that we received this payment yesterday, less than a week after the signing of the agreement that pertains to it. Also worthy of a special note in this regard is the agreement we signed yesterday with our largest donor (the European Union) for the transfer of 176 million Euros through the newly established financing mechanism (PEGASE). As you may know, PEGASE includes a window through which assistance will be channeled directly to the STA. I would say all of this carries with it a strong message of confidence in our system – a message which, no doubt, our people deeply appreciate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, between 2003 and the end of 2005, the Ministry of Finance had a website that reported on budget execution every month. However, this website became dysfunctional. I don’t want to go into the various reasons for this outcome, except to note that it was due to a large extent to the boycott of the government by donor countries. This resulted in the fragmentation of PNA institutions, including the Ministry of Finance, the establishment of parallel payment systems, the flight towards cash and away from Ministry of Finance bank accounts, and the proliferation of expenditure centers. In addition, not all sources of funding, including external assistance, were documented.

Since June 2007, we have re-established the Single Treasury Account, and we have tightened our financial controls. We now have only one expenditure center with direct links to the annual budget, and we have channeled all revenue and a substantial share of budget support and development financing to the STA.

Today, we are ready to re-launch the Ministry of Finance website on much more solid grounds. We have established a new financial management system which links expenditures by all line ministries directly to budgetary appropriations. Therefore, no expenditures can be made beyond the available credit available under the budgetary appropriation. This electronic financial management system will cover all the financial transactions and entries of the Ministry of Finance. We will be expanding this system to cover the ministries of Education, Health and Public Works.  The Accountant General Department which is being established in the Ministry of Finance will manage budget execution and exercise financial controls.

Under the previous web site, the monthly reporting on budgetary revenues and budget execution was done manually and aggregated from separate Ministry of Finance accounts: budget, treasury, payroll, bank statements. Under the new financial system, the web site will report monthly on budget execution within the first week after the end of the month. These reports will reflect actual revenues and expenditures by each ministry, wage payments for civilians and security, PNA employment, external budget support and any other financing which has been obtained during the month. Electronic linkages to the Single Treasury Account at commercial banks will provide financial reconciliation of the accounting and banking information. As individual ministries are gradually integrated into the system, detailed data on their operations can be downloaded and analyzed.

The new reporting system will reflect best accounting practices. Because it will emanate directly from actual budgetary operations, it will be more accurate and more transparent than the previous system. It will also allow for timely compilation of quarterly and annual reports on the fiscal position and lead to a much less cumbersome process of closing annual budgetary accounts. Finally, it will allow for timely auditing of financial statements, which could not be readily produced under the old system.

Establishing the new financial system and setting up this web site took a lot of focus and effort by Ministry of Finance staff over a very short period of time. I would like to extend to them my thanks and appreciation. 

We hope the re-launching of the Ministry of Finance website will consolidate the international community’s faith in the transparency and accountability of our government. We urge our donors once again to help us consolidate the integrity of our financial system by channeling all your budget support and development financing to the STA.

Allow me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude where I started, and to address the Palestinian people directly.

The launching of the Ministry of Finance website is in itself a significant achievement. It is also proof of the extent to which we have gone in building capacity and developing the institutions and systems of good governance. 

It is a national achievement that puts us on par with the most advanced countries in terms of transparency, accountability and sound financial management. It is an achievement that every Palestinian can be proud of.

In addition, what we are doing today lays the foundation and contours of the kind of Palestinian state that we seek. If we want to achieve a state worthy of the decades-long sacrifices of the Palestinian people, we should all –whether private citizens or future governments – preserve this and all similar reforms. This will reinforce our absolute, moral and legal right to independence, with institutions and systems of governance that turn the attainment of statehood from a political slogan into a tangible reality. This way, we will place before the whole world new facts on the ground, facts that it cannot ignore, in the form of viable, sustainable democratic institutions of governance, free from corruption and mismanagement.


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