Dec 08, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Following hours of debate between the Government and Opposition representatives of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, a decision was taken to merge the review of 2017 and 2018 audit reports as part of efforts to clear up the backlog.
The committee was initially arguing over the proposal made by the Chairman of the PAC Jermaine Figueira to merge the 2016, 2017 and 2018 audit reports. However, a decision was taken just to merge the two years after the committee consulted with Auditor General, (AG) Deodat Sharma.
Sharma proposed merging the two reports instead of three given the contention raised by members of the government side of the PAC about the 2016 audit report. Government Chief Whip and PAC member, Gail Teixeira noted that there was still a lot of work to do on that (2016) which is before the committee.
Teixeira said that while she understands the issue that the members are raising about haste and getting through the three reports, it is also a responsibility to do what is correct. “We now have work to do with compiling a report that reflects our concerns, whether by sector or by general recommendation, general observations.” We have a lot of work to do in putting forward a proper report that reflects the concerns of 2016…We have several weeks’ work to do with 2016. I don’t want this to be a matter which we seem to be ignoring our responsibilities under the constitution and the procurement act. To try to rush through is not the issue. It’s to do good work and reflect our responsibilities.” Teixeira added.
Former PAC Chairman and Opposition member, David Patterson had however pointed to the fact that the committee has a long history of consolidating reports.
Patterson noted that since the PAC of the 12th Parliament is currently faced with a backlog of Auditor General (AG) reports to be examined, combining the information may be the best in ensuring that the committee fulfills its mandate.
Patterson explained that backlogs on its workload, while undesirable, are not uncommon to the PAC
According to Patterson, historically the PAC has always sought to resolve this challenge by combining several outstanding years into a single report. This method, as evidenced by previous PACs actions, in no way reduces the Committee’s scrutiny of our public accounts.
The Opposition member noted that the consolidation of reports dates as far back as 1990s. He noted from 1990s to 2014 all the PAC’s examination was of merged audit reports.
“We are competent enough to do it…It is undesirable but it is not an uncommon challenge that has faced previous PACs in the past. They have, for whatever reason, been times the work of the PAC has been some years behind. We have done, several times, combined reports whereby PAC would combine reports for the audit office in a matter to address the backlog,”
The PAC has been dealing with a five-year backlog of still to be scrutinised public spending. The body had started to meet twice weekly instead of once per week to deal with the issue. However, a motion presented by Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira succeeded in seeing the meetings being reverted to once weekly.
That decision was taken even as opposition members of the PAC argued for the speeding up of scrutiny of public spending by the bipartisan parliamentary committee.
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