Another meeting of the Public Accounts Committee was called off this morning after the Government Members of the Committee were all absent.
A few months ago, the Government used its majority in the National Assembly to pass an amendment to the standing order that governs a quorum for the Public Accounts Committee.
For the Committee to meet, there must now be two members from the Government, two members from the Opposition, and the Chairman of the Committee present. Previously, the meeting of the Committee could have progressed with any three members being in place.
Last week’s PAC meeting was also canceled when the Government side failed to show up.
Today, the Chairman of the PAC, Opposition MP Jermaine Figueira said it is becoming clear that as the Committee inches closer to examining the spending of the current government, efforts are afoot to delay and slowdown that work.
“This is where we are, for two consecutive meetings, two statutory meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, have been canceled because of the Government’s failure to attend the Public Accounts Committee and so we are now basically handicapped from doing the work that is expected of us at the level of the Public Accounts Committee. We are taken aback by the Government’s posture”, MP Figueira said.
Last week, Minister of Governance and Member of the Public Accounts Committee Gail Teixeira wrote to the Chairman objecting to a move by the Committee to combine the Auditor General’s reports for 2019 and 2020 and begin examining them together.
The Government wants the years to be examined separately, pointing to the period being after the passage of the no-confidence motion against the APNU+AFC government. However, Mr. Figueira said that with the Committee already behind on its work, there is a need to do an examination of the reports in a timely manner. He said the PAC has merged the reports from different years and examined them together previously.
He said “this is coming off of just combining the 2017 and 2018 years, so to say that the combining is a first, is farcical. She has raised some concerns where she has claimed that due to the fact there was a no-confidence motion, and constitutionally, the government should have called elections in three months, things that are immaterial to the business of the Public Accounts Committee. The PAC is not concerned about those issues. We are concerned about what is in the Auditor General’s report and that’s what we deal with at the Public Accounts level.”
The Public Accounts Committee Chairman said it is his firm belief that the Government is seeking to delay the examination of its spending since taking office in August 2020.
“There is a bunch of backlogs and we need to bring the Public Accounts Committee up to the present day reality. And we have been working despite all the challenges and all the maneuvers by Government to limit our work, we are progressing. And that is why we have said that we will merge these two years. And we have found a lot of discrepancies in the Auditor General’s 2020 report findings and we want this to be made known and examined”, Figueira said.
The next meeting of the Public Accounts Committee is scheduled for next Monday.