The Auditor General, Edmund Zuniga, in his recent reports has indicated a persistent problem with getting answers to queries about government assets – among them a $66,000 sawmill bought for the prison and over 160 vehicles bought for the Police Department.
What do you do when people refuse to reply, what is your recourse, we asked Auditor General Zuniga. That’s a matter for the Public Accounts Committee, he noted, pointing out that the committee has long been inactive. (It has been inactive for years.)
Why would such an important committee of the House go into hibernation? Amandala checked with both the chair of the Committee, Albert area representative for the Opposition People’s United Party, Hon. Mark Espat, and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dean Barrow for answers.
“Parliament and the government should take any report of the Auditor General (AG) seriously, and act upon his recommendations where appropriate. I am not aware that this administration, now in the third quarter of its term, has acted upon any of the major flaws identified by the AG in the most recent reports or in any previous report. To employ an analogy: Sharing your doctor’s diagnosis with your family (in the spirit of transparency), without treating the illness the doctor has identified, does nothing to improve your illness,” said Espat.
The chairman told Amandala that there were multiple attempts to convene a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year, and last year.
“Meetings were scheduled for January 18, January 25 and March 22, 2010. Many meetings were scheduled in 2009 and 2008,” he detailed.
He added that, “The Clerk of the National Assembly handles notices for meetings. If I am informed that we do not have a confirmed quorum, then the meeting is postponed.”
According to Espat, the current members of the Public Accounts Committee are the representatives of Orange Walk Central (Johnny Briceño), Stann Creek West (Melvin Hulse), Belmopan (John Saldivar), Cayo Northeast (Elvin Penner) and Dangriga (Arturo Roches).
“It is apparent from their repeated absences that the UDP administration’s members on the Committee are not committed to the work of the PAC. With only two members of a total of six on the Committee, the Opposition members alone do not form a quorum,” he commented.
Amandala raised the issue Thursday morning with Prime Minister Barrow and his response was: “I don’t know about that. I would have to check into that. I don’t know why the members of my party wouldn’t be available.
“The Public Accounts Committee will have to start its work at the appropriate point, and there are reports going back to the years of the PUP that would have to be considered; and I don’t know why on earth there would be anything for members of my party to be afraid of in terms of the examination of those accounts. That doesn’t strike me as being true,” Barrow contended.