House rejects PAC report
Members of Parliament yesterday voted to reject the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) majority report and adopt the minority report written by Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes.
The majority report, which detailed the PAC’s work during the current session of Parliament, was tabled by Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis.
The report detailed “the conflict existing between the monetary authorities and the fiscal authority in respect to the calculation of the deficit,” and the 2016 and 2017 summer school repair programs.
The committee also made a request to the treasurer and financial secretary for a breakdown of the recurrent expenditure for the half year period commencing July 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017, as well as a list of all borrowings obtained by the Minnis administration during the same period and the currency of the credit facilities.
However, this request was met with contention from Foulkes, who questioned the power of the committee to examine public accounts that had not been audited by the auditor general and tabled in Parliament, in light of a ruling handed down by former House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major in 2015.
Major ruled that the PAC may only examine and report on documents which are before the House.
However, Davis noted that the PAC secretary advised that “it had been the established convention that the Public Accounts Committee could investigate all government accounts regardless of whether they had been audited by the auditor general or anyone else for that matter”.
He added that the position taken by Foulkes “made it difficult for the committee to carry out its function”.
“The work of the committee has stalled as a result of the interpretation of this ruling”, Davis said.
“Consequently, the committee feels thwarted and handicapped in its ability and capacity to carrying out its constitutional mandate and functions.
“We have not received the level of cooperation on material request from the various government agencies as anticipated to fulfill the intent of this session committee.
“The committee feels that it is entitled to explore public accounts and related financial statements and reports beyond a general report and audit.
“This is necessary for the various organs of the Parliament to effectively function.”
In his minority report, Foulkes said Davis’ conclusion that the committee’s work is handicapped is “most unfortunate and indeed distressing.”
“It is the minority’s view that nothing could be further from the truth and we know so undeniably and without any reasonable fear of contradiction,” he said.
“The inconvenient reality for the majority is that since this new Parliament, in May 2017, there have been no less than 21 audited reports by the auditor general that have all been tabled in this 2017 session of the House.”
Foulkes noted that there has been no inquiry or investigation on any of those reports to date.
“In short, this opposition majority-led Public Accounts Committee has absolutely no evident interest in exploring the apparent breaches of the Financial Administration and Audit Act, which occurred under their tenure in government – all revealed in reports made by the auditor general and properly tabled in the House of Assembly.”