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Aug 28, 2017

PAC Will Not Meet in Public; Chairman Disappointed

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives met in session this morning in Belmopan to plot a course for investigation into the 2012-2013 Auditor General’s Report tabled in the House on August eighteenth. Chairman Julius Espat of the People’s United Party has campaigned for the hearings to be held in public as part of the Committee’s remit, as had been agreed to a few years ago. But that was then, and this is now, and the current members of the Committee appointed by the Government reversed that agreement. Espat told us this evening that the result is a giant step back for Belizean democracy.

 

Julius Espat, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

“The disappointing part of the meeting is that Government members decided that we should not have the hearing or meetings held publicly when it pertains to the analysis of the Auditor General’s report. I say disappointing and sad because we had gone through a long process in 2012 to nearly force Government – the social partners along with the media along with myself as [the chairman of] the Public Accounts Committee – had forced Government’s hand at the time and they agreed that the meetings of the Public Accounts Committee should have been held in public from there on. The reason given by members from the opposite side is that this is a new Public Accounts Committee since the 2015 election and they have made the decision that they don’t want it to be held in public. They did agree that we can go ahead and do the investigation, meaning to call witnesses, the first being the Auditor General. And we did decide on three dates to start with; those dates commence in October. I think the first one is on the twelfth of October.  It means going back to the Stone Age when it comes to democracy; it means that you won’t have the ability to have proper transparency by means of ventilating the issues. It means that Government is starting to go back to the time when decisions and analysis and investigation was done behind closed doors. Basically, we are going behind when the world is moving forward. All the members of PAC in the world, in the Commonwealth, specifically the ones in the Caribbean, have now agreed that it is extremely important that all PAC meetings be held in public so that people can have an idea of what it is, how it functions and they can form their own opinions based on the people that come in and the investigations that are done. And Belize seems to, instead of wanting to go forward, they want to go backwards and I believe that is extremely sad for our democracy.”

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