Whereas the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) is meeting this evening to formulate its position on a declaration from the Office of the Prime Minister that no reform of the Public Accounts Committee is necessary; and that the committee can move ahead with reviewing the Auditor General Reports in two series: pre-2008 and post-2008—the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry made its unequivocal position known via a press release issued today: that is, PAC’s work needs to proceed.
“The method by which it is done is still open to question, and we are reserving the right to see how the PM’s proposal proceeds,” president of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kay Menzies, indicated to our newspaper today.
The Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement on Wednesday, August 21, announcing that, “the Government side of the Committee will insist now that the Chairman calls an urgent meeting of the PAC to agree to a schedule for consideration of all the outstanding Auditor General reports. Such a schedule should see the work divided into two: examination of pre-2008 reports; and examination of post-2008 reports.”
It goes on to say that, “In any given week when the Committee meets, it should do so on two days of that particular week. The first day should be given over to the first set of reports, and the second day to the second set of reports.”
“If that doesn’t work, however, we cannot give up,” Menzies said.
Menzies maintains that PAC’s work needs to move forward.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “we want to see the Auditor General’s reports reviewed and acted upon. That is the critical part of all of this.”
PAC chairman, Julius Espat, had recently proposed a motion for reform of the PAC – to give three seats to the unions, private sector and churches; leaving the Opposition People’s United Party and the ruling United Democratic Party with two seats each. This new formula would put the social partners—and not the politicians—in the driving seat.
Espat said that the press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, outlining the recommendations from Cabinet, really do not pave the way for the needed reform of the PAC.
“You’re still asking the police to police themselves and we’re playing games. The system hasn’t worked from 1981, so why are we playing political charades here? Today, the Prime Minister decides that he will do it; tomorrow he will shut it down again,” Espat said.
“The Chamber vigorously renews its call on both the Government of Belize and the Opposition to ensure a fully functioning Public Accounts Committee,” the Chamber said in its statement today.
It added that, “The fundamental concern of the Chamber is to ensure that said reports are thoroughly reviewed and reported upon, so that appropriate corrective measures regarding resource expenditures are taken where necessary by the Government and all its departments.”
It reiterates the functions of the PAC – that is, to examine, consider and report on: (1) the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the National Assembly to meet the public expenditure of the country; (2) such other accounts as may be referred to the committee by the House or under any law; and (c) the report of the Auditor General on any such accounts.