MOTION SUCCEEDS: Public Accounts Committee to meet once per week
--disappointed Opposition MPs cling to promise of flexibility
By Kurt Campbell
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will now meet once per week with an undertaking given by the government Parliamentarians on the Committee to work on finding consensus to hold special meetings when necessary.
Shortly after the vote was put to the motion which was piloted by PAC member and Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira, a disappointed PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira told the News Room that he will continue to find ways to address the existing backlog.
“We are disappointed that the motion succeeded and it didn’t allow us the opportunity to meet two times per week given the backlog of work that needs to be done at the PAC,” Figueira said told the News Room on Monday.
He told reporters that although the government members had offered reasons for rescinding an earlier motion piloted by Opposition Parliamentarians Ganesh Mahipaul, he still believes that meeting twice weekly would have facilitated addressing the huge backlog.
“I hope in [the] future we will reach an agreement to meet more than once per week,” Figueira said.
“We will meet now once per week and whenever we need to meet to do additional work we will do that with consensus,” Teixeira, however, assured.
The PAC did not meet in two weeks as the two sides entertained public debates on the issue before it was finally put to a vote on Monday.
Both Figueira and Teixeira agree that there is considerable work to be done at the level of PAC but as the Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs argues, there is no need to make it statutory for the PAC to meet twice weekly.
“The issue at stake is, do we need to statuaries additional meetings of the committee…? Our position is no,” she said.
She said the government members are willing to find consensus with the opposition MPs to hold special meetings when necessary to get additional work done.
Recognising that Guyana’s PAC was the oldest in this part of the region, Teixeira said it is still one of the few regional committees that have statutory meetings once per week.
She said there were several constitutional officers such as the Auditor General, Finance Secretary and Accountant General who cannot accommodate two statutory meetings of the PAC each week.
The minister also argued that apart from the Auditor General Report, the PAC has other work like finding nominees for the Public Procurement Commission, reviewing the Auditor General’s performance records and preparing its own reports as is mandated.
“I understand that we will like things to move faster but at the same time it’s not the only factor to consider.”
The minister said the problem is that the AG report from 2016 to 2020 is stacked, paragraph after paragraph with breaches of the financial and procurement rules and that is proving to be time-consuming.
“Whether it takes us a long time or not is not an issue… the Opposition wants to jump that and get to 2020 where they believe terrible things happened.