Governance Minister responds to complaints about frequent cancellation of PAC Meetings

Governance Minister responds to complaints about frequent cancellation of PAC Meetings

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira has defended the work of the Public Accounts Committee, despite concerns that it has not been meeting enough to get work done.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Teixeira said the current Public Accounts Committee has met more than the PACs of the last three Parliaments.

She brushed aside the complaints from the Opposition about the many postponements of meetings owing to the Government’s absence. However, she admitted that there is a backlog of the Auditor General’s Reports on the Public Accounts of Guyana dating back to 2016. 

It was explained that while the PAC, under the Chairmanship of Opposition Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira, has concluded its examinations for 2016 and 2017, the final reports have not been finalized.

The PAC is currently examining the 2018 and 2019 reports. However, the Committee in conducting those examinations, has faced numerous setbacks due to repeated cancellations. 

But Minister Teixeira is adamant that the statistics tell a different story.

“In terms of the functioning of the PAC, there has been no big difference between the way it is functioning now verses previous parliaments – the 10th, 11th, and the 12th. And you must know that the 10th and 11th Parliaments were shortened parliament. The 10th was from 2012 to 2015, and that was Mr Greenidge chairing, and then you have Mr Irfaan Ali chairing in the 11th Parliament, the numbers are not radically different in terms of, one was 54, one was 41 I believe, and in this parliament, the 12th Parliament, it is 59,” Minister Teixeira explained. 

The Opposition has complained that the cancellations have been growing.

Another meeting of the PAC was cancelled this past Monday over the unavailability of some Government Members.

The Opposition has been pushing for Resolution No 35, which amended the Standing Orders and ultimately changed the quorum required for the sitting of the PAC, to be rescinded.

Under the new rules, which came into effect in April 2022, there must be two Government Members of Parliament (MPs), two Opposition Parliamentarians and the Chairman present for there to be a quorum.

Minister Teixeira said PACs across the world usually meet once a month, and while Guyana aspires to meet weekly, it may not always be practical. She said the Opposition is simply trying to rush the process.

“There is a reason why the Opposition [MPs] are hurry, they don’t want the examination of their period in government, their tenure in Government. And we would point to every single Auditor General Report for 2015, ‘16, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’20 of very very bad practices, very shady practices, very questionable practices under their tenure. They are in a hurry to get to 2021 because they want to say, they want to come to us. Well, we have to finish them, we have to go through theirs,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said. 

She said it is not within the interest of the Government to stall the process to avoid examination of its time in Office. 

“First of all, why are they in a hurry to get through their period of government. We know the answer, because we know what the skeletons are buried in those reports. We are not going to stop 2021 and 2022, and it is not in our interest to do that,” she said. 

Minister Teixeira said what is affecting the work of the PAC, in part, is the failure of former Permanent Secretaries and Regional Executive Officers (REO) to produce critical documents when appearing before the Pac. 

“The former PS and REOs don’t come, they come sometimes, they don’t come, they don’t come back and so, you are left there with hanging questions. That is part of the slow up of what’s going on with the PAC, which for some reason, the opposition doesn’t want to talk about but the amount of times that agencies are told to come back with information, and then they come back, and the PS and REOs are saying look, we can’t find the documents, we tried, and so, there are those issues that are confronting us,” she said. 

It was noted that in some cases, the PAC went above and beyond to locate former Permanent Secretaries and REOs and have them appear before the Committee. However, it has no power to force them to appear.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login