Officers to go ‘under oath’ to account for public spending

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The frequency in which accounting officers provide the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with dishonest and misleading information has promoted Chairman Irfaan Ali to take steps to ensure those who come before the Committee are under oath.

During Monday morning’s scrutiny of the Region Ten Administration, for the fiscal year 2016, the PAC Chairman was visibly frustrated with having to ask the Regional Executive Officer (REO) and other accounting officers multiple questions in order to gain one answer.

At his tipping point, Ali declared that the situation has been unacceptable and announced his intention to ensure that officers are under oath when they appear before the PAC.

Ali subsequently explained to reporters that the Standing Orders of the National Assembly provide for accounting officers to be under oath when giving answers to the PAC – but this practice was never enforced.

“We expected that accounting officer to be wholesome and full and not to try to misguide the PAC but…you have officers who might not be taking this commitment seriously so we need to have some avenue that reinforces the seriousness,” Ali stated.

Once under oath, the accounting officers can be held criminally liable if they provide dishonest answers to the PAC.

“We have seen tremendous inconsistencies in answers from accounting officers, instances where accounting officers attempt to mislead us, instances where officers are not wholesome with PAC.

“Having them give evidence under oath would enforce the legal obligation to be wholesome, full thorough and honest in their response to PAC as there can be implications for them personally if their answers are not in keeping with those characteristics,” Ali explained.

Former PAC Chairman and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence was also visibly frustrated with the ill-preparedness of Region Ten officials to answer the questions at the meeting.

“That is not acceptable; please listen to the questions and give answers accurately based on evidence,” Minister Lawrence reprimanded the REO and his team.

At one point, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emile McGarrel, could be seen shaking his head as the regional officials fumbled to answer questions.

The PAC has the responsibility to examine the audited accounts as presented in the Auditor General’s Report.

The PAC Chairman said the implementation of the “answering under oath” practice would be done as soon as the Committee submits its next report within a month.

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