Monday, June 27, 2011

Cuban reforms reveal poor accounting

Cuban reforms reveal poor accounting
by Staff Writers
Havana (UPI) Jun 23, 2011

The Cuban government's initiatives to loosen communist controls and
encourage quasi-capitalist liberalization in the burgeoning state sector
have revealed major accounting flaws that may point to large-scale
misappropriation of funds.

Reports of "problematic" accounting practices at state-controlled
companies, many earmarked for restructuring and privatization, followed
opposition criticism that lack of accountability had bred corruption and
other malpractices in the operations of Cuba's biggest employer, the state.

Cuba is sensitive to any criticism of its communist ways of working but
in recent months has relented, if only to save runaway costs, and
allowed Cubans to become self-starting traders, own property and even
employ other Cubans in new business ventures.

The developing scenario is likened by critics to the early days of
capitalist experimentation in former Soviet republics in Europe and the
Caucasus where communist oligarchs became capital overlords overnight.

Results of President Raul Castro's experimentation with "socialist
capitalism" remain shrouded in mystery except where thousands of people
are threatened with job losses and tough options to go it alone as
entrepreneurs in a fledgling market economy.

Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano revealed the extent of questionable
accounting practices in her latest report which said the accounts were
either deficient or problematic -- both seen by critics as euphemisms
for financial irregularities.

Bejerano's report said 37 percent of state enterprises scrutinized by
auditors had problems with the way they handled state funds. She gave
scant details but called for an end to corruption and opportunism.

"Of the 750 state companies audited in April and May we found deficient
or problematic accounting practices in 37 percent of them," Bejerano
said in an interview with the state-run Trabajadores weekly newspaper,
also reported by the Granma newspaper.

Bejerano was tasked by Castro with a sweeping mission of eliminating
corruption and so far has enjoyed his support. She's vice president of
the ruling Council of State and therefore mindful of comments that could
be exploited by the opposition.

She tempered her report with comments that despite the high ratio of
accounting flaws the audit result showed an improvement over 2010, when
40 percent of the audited public entities were found to be wanting in
their accounts procedures.

Bejerano said those found to have unsatisfactory performance results
could expect to be asked to go through a "rectification process" which
in the past has included dismissals and demotions or transfers of
personnel from positions seen to be financially lucrative.

This month Cuba received material and political support from China for
its reforms. Ten new agreements will give China access to the
underfunded Cuban energy industry and other economic sectors targeted
for reforms.

The Chinese are teaching Cubans how to switch from communism to
capitalism and stay communist -- in a manner of speaking --
Chinese-style, published comments showed.

Castro met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and together they
declared the new accords "reflect the political will of both parties and
governments to continue deepening their ties."

China gave Cuba a new line of credit and agreed to restructure two
previous loans and also gave a donation. Neither side revealed the
figures for the loans or the economic agreements.

China will help Cuba modernize an oil refinery in the southeastern city
of Cienfuegos, build a new liquid gas plant and refurbish the city port
-- all part of its overall global strategy to secure sources of energy
and new trade opportunities.

Xi was the first Chinese leader to visit the island after the Cuban
Communist Party met in April and approved a package of more than 300
economic reforms.

The Cuban state media didn't say if China also offered advice on
fighting corruption and state inefficiencies, problems that Beijing is
confronting at the moment.

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