Features — 11 October 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Unions, churches, private sector say UDP-led PAC is a charade!

“We cannot, and will not, in any way shape or form, legitimize ‘the government investigating itself!’”

In a joint statement issued today, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and the church community – the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches along with the Belize Council of Churches — issued a statement calling the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meetings being led by the ruling United Democratic Party a “charade.”

“This joint body opines that without an objective oversight element (as is indicative in the NTUCB’s Senate representation proposal) in effect for these hearings, the process is significantly flawed and has no credibility as an investigative process. We emphatically declare that we refuse to lend credibility to such a charade,” their joint statement said.

Amandala asked whether the social partners—whose senators attended the first two PAC hearings held in September—would continue sending their reps to the meetings as observers, and we were advised by the church senator, Rev. Noel Leslie, that they would refrain from attending until the issues are sorted out.

BCCI president Kay Menzies told us that although the parties recommended that the senators no longer attend the PAC meetings, the final decision is up to the respective parties to make. First Vice President of the NTUCB, Marvin Mora, indicated to us that their Senator may attend.

The Opposition, which should be chairing the PAC meetings, has boycotted them, on the claim that they are illegal. PAC chair, Opposition member Julius Espat, contends that the executive arm of Government has been dictating the agenda, contrary to the principles of separation of powers.

The social partners—who together hold 3 of 12 seats in the Senate and who don’t have a seat on the PAC, which is a House Standing Committee—have been meeting to discuss the proposed reform of the PAC, and we understand that they are due to meet again next week to further their talks.

The parties, in a joint statement, said, “…we wish to make it categorically clear that we absolutely cannot support the present Public Accounts Committee’s unilateral public hearings. Albeit our respective Senators/representatives have been in attendance at these hearings, they are there merely as observers, and not as an endorsement of these hearings.”

The social partners said that recent statements advanced in the media suggesting that the churches and social partners are fully on-board with the PAC public hearings initiative are grossly inaccurate.

“We cannot, and will not, in any way shape or form, legitimize ‘the government investigating itself!’” they said.

However, the social partners maintain the view that a reform of the PAC—and particularly how it is made up—needs to be carried out.

“The social partners are, therefore, collaborating to develop mechanisms that can be effectively adopted to address the shortcomings in the current system,” they said.

They add that, “Like many Belizeans, we are deeply concerned that the Public Accounts Committee is not, in its current composition, responsive to or representative of the need for proper accounting of the use of the country’s financial resources by the state.”

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