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Aug 6, 2013

Chamber supports PACMAN’s motion for new public account committee

Kay Menzies

Earlier this year, the Auditor General came under siege by the Guardian Newspaper, the political arm of the United Democratic Party Government. Dorothy Bradley’s reports for 2010-2011 spoke of many inadequacies, irregularities and inconsistent bookkeeping practices. The duty of righting the wrongs in government departments and ministries is tasked to the Public Accounts Committee, or PAC. The chairman of the PAC is Julius Espat, Deputy Leader of the Peoples United Party.  Espat wants to reorganize the committee and shift from four U.D.P. and two P.U.P. representatives to two per party and three more seats coming from the church, union and the business community. The motion, which is expected to be tabled at Wednesday’s House Meeting, has received overwhelming support from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 

Kay Menzies, President, Chamber of Commerce

“Our issue with the PAC is that it has been dormant for a decade. The duty of the PAC is to follow through on the finances of the country, to find out if the money is being spent correctly and have it properly accounted for. You have an Auditor General who publishes a report every year. That report is in the language of the house ordered to lie on the table and it is never picked up again. If you read the most recent couple of auditor general’s report, it has been very, very informative of what’s happening with finances of the country. However, no action is ever taken on the recommendations. So if you don’t have a functioning PAC committee you have no action taken on management of country’s finances. And the problem of the PAC committee as we pointed out in our press release is that it’s being dominated by the political majority. And it doesn’t matter who is in power, it is structured that way. And the political majority of course is the one who defines the budget and spends the money so basically the police are policing the police. We are not suggesting the opposition dominates the process because we have seen the process remain stagnant even when you have a chairman who is from the opposition. What we like about the suggestion is that it incorporates 3 neutral senators who will listen to their constituency as a concern for the country. And you can’t argue that the workers, the employers and the churches in this country should have very deep concerns and do have very deep concerns about how money is spent and how it’s accounted for.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“You also mentioned that it doesn’t go far enough. What else would you like to see changed?”

 

Kay Menzies

“The structure of the motion I think that the physical, the layout of the motion is perhaps not procedurally what we would want it to be.  The structure of the 7 members PAC committee we like. And I think whatever the deficiencies are in the motion that the opposition and ruling party would work to make something happen with the PAC committee. If it’s not that exact suggestion, something has to happen because a dormant oversight committee doesn’t no good for the country.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“I believe the Prime Minster said that the PAC committee would have to start from the earliest one from the better part of the decade, wouldn’t it be possible to examine an earlier Auditor General’s report and the most current just so we have good governance today?”

 

Kay Menzies

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking at the most recent Auditor General’s report. In fact it makes for very interesting reading and perhaps you have done a series on it or might want to revive that series that you have done before. If you are dealing with an auditors general report from a business perspective, if I had my business audited this year it does me a whole lot less to look at a ten year old auditor’s report than it does to look at the problems my auditor tell me that are happening right now.”

 

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