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Sep 19, 2016

Will Revamped Public Accounts Committee Work?

Julius Espat

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives has been the subject of much debate – but not among its members, who can barely agree on anything. The Committee last met before the last General Elections; it comprises of four government ministers and two members of the Opposition including the chair.  Recently, the Government acquiesced to including the social partners from the Senate in a sort of joint bi-cameral committee not unlike the one proposed by Government recently to investigate the Immigration Audit Reports. After meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, the P.M. agreed to a reconfiguration of the committee: six from the government, three from social partners and two from the Opposition. Chairman, in his second term, Julius Espat had proposed the idea previously, but he said today that no reform is possible without compromise from Government.

 

Julius Espat, Chairman, PAC

“But the reality is it will never function, irrespective of any government, if you don’t have it in such a way that there is more representation. I do not believe that you are there to rule by power by majority. That is in my opinion, an erroneous statement, when it pertains to check and balances. Check and balances has to be done in such a way that the people that are committing the illegalities can be verified, investigated and checked. And so the PAC will only function if you have a level playing field. We had proposed—remember when I did the motion and the Prime Minister ridiculed it—well the motion was to have the same four members from the government, two from the Opposition and we were inviting three social partners from the Senate. This is not something new, if you look at the legislature in Australia and that is how they did it; every country has a different way depending on how their situation is. But in that formula, if the government was right in what they were doing, they would only have to convince one social partner and they would get the majority vote. In the case of the Opposition, we would have had to convince three social partners to be able to get the majority vote. But if three social partners along with the Opposition disagrees with government with something, then definitely there is something wrong and the people in power has to listen to the voice of the people. And that’s what we are saying. So the Public Accounts Committee, in my humble opinion, will never work if the composition is not changed.”

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