The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is having difficulty in functioning, according to Chairman of the body, Dr. George Vincent, a member of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Dr. Vincent who is an Opposition Senator in the Upper House of Parliament used his contribution to the debate of the 2016 budget to highlight the difficulty faced by the committee in conducting the nation’s business.
He told his colleague Parliamentarians that over the last two years the committee has been having “real difficulties” in making the PAC functional.
He noted that during 2013, the committee could not move forward as the Standing Orders of the Parliament had to be changed to accommodate him as there was no Opposition Member in the Lower House of Parliament.
The ruling New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell controls all 15 seats in the Upper House following its clean sweep at the polls in February 2013.
Dr. Vincent announced that the committee has not had the opportunity to meet with the Office of the Clerk of Parliament for the last six months as both Houses of Parliament have been meeting regularly making it difficult for the staff to find time to make themselves available.
He suggested that if an additional Clerk cannot be made available then one of the Public Servants can be moved out as a substitute to provide the services so that “the government’s accountability can move forward.”
According to Dr. Vincent, the problem facing the PAC is further compounded by having no one to do the research as they have no staff to work along with, and at the same time they are not provided with a stipend.
However, he said having had three training sessions abroad, he is willing “to promote the democracy” in Grenada’s parliamentary system.
Dr. Vincent reported that the committee has so far looked at the 2008 government accounts, and has begun work on the 2009 accounts.
He acknowledged that the work of the committee is way behind and called for some assistance to be given by government “to get it going.”
The PAC Chairman indicated that the work of the committee, which is the people’s business, has to be publicised, but the room that is made available to them cannot accommodate the press.
The PAC provides an oversight of government’s programmes and accounts, and its purpose and duties include the promotion of accountability, to hold the Executive to account, and to provide an oversight of government’s audit.
The two key sectors to the functioning of the Public Accounts Committee are Government’s Audit Department, and Government’s Accountant General.
According to Dr. Vincent, the accounts for 2013 and 2014 from the Accountant General’s Office to the Director of Audit is yet to become available.
He said that at every meeting a different excuse is provided, the latest being “the charter of accounts is being changed,” and that the committee will receive the statements of 2013 and 2014 before the end of year.
The Chairman said they have noticed that the Accountants in the ministries and departments are not sending the information appropriately to the Accountant General’s Office.
The other members of the Public Accounts Committee are Government Backbenchers Clifton Paul and Tobias Clement, along with Senators Franka Bernadine and private sector representative, Sen. Christopher DeAllie.