PAC sends strong message of intolerance to Permanent Secretaries ‘rubber stamping’ the system
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was unified and strong in its message of intolerance against Permanent Secretaries and other accounting officers who fail to comply with the country’s laws.
As they see it, there has been repeated “rubber stamping” of the system, something that Parliamentarians from across the political divide believe must cease immediately.
The issue came up on Monday during a re-examination of an $850, 000 contract awarded in June 2019 for electrical works at the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The contract, award by the Ministerial Tender Board, was done weeks after former Permanent Secretary, Joylyn Nestor-Burrowes, gave the contractor the go ahead to execute the project.
She admitted on Monday that it amounted to a breach of the procurement laws and apologised. But an apology was not enough to ward off the wrath of the Members of Parliament.
“We will not tolerate PS making the system a rubber stamp,” Chairman of the PAC Jermaine Figueria said.
“It will not happen again,” Nestor-Burrowes said although she has officially gone off on retirement commencing April 01, 2023.
Despite this, Minister of Public Works, Juan Eghill secured the support of Opposition MP, Ganesh Mahipaul, in a reprimand of the former PS who they claimed misled the PAC on the last occasion when she reportedly claimed that she was not present when the contract was awarded.
“I always followed the rules and this is really an unfortunate situation,” the former PS pleaded as MPs pressed the need for accounting officers to follow the letter and spirit of the law.
Nestor-Burrowes also had one last message for the PAC.
She claimed that after serving the country for 35 years in the public service, she now felt attacked; she impressed upon the Parliamentarians to treat accounting officers like herself with more respect.
“It is human to err and it is divine to forgive… sometimes I think we need to be more professional and not treat us like criminals…treat us with some respect man,” she pleaded.
MPs rejected the claim and said while the questions were forceful, they were not intended to be disrespectful.
The Chairman thanked Nestor-Burrowes for her service to the country but reminded that the laws were breached and the systems were put in place to ensure transparency and accountability and must at all times be followed without excuse.