PAC finalising examination of 2016 Auditor General Report

– Chair seeking to consolidate future reports

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is close to finalising its examination of the 2016 Auditor General report and according to Chairman Jermaine Figueira, they will seek to condense the remaining years of reports in order to clear the Committee’s backlog.

PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira

In an interview with this publication on Monday, the PAC Chairman explained that the Committee has effectively completed its examination of the 2016 audit report, after weeks of statutory meetings.
All that remains is to receive outstanding information from accounting officers who had previously appeared before the PAC. This is likely to be concluded at the next meeting. Meanwhile, Figueira explained what is his intention going forward to deal with the remaining reports.
“The intention of the Public Accounts Committee going forward, is to follow the precedent that was set under Carl Greenidge, merging of 2010 and 2011 reports, as well as the precedents set by Mr Irfaan Ali, where the Committee merged 2012, 2013 and 2014 reports.”
“And given the fact that the Committee has unanimously agreed that there is a lot of backlogs of work and following the precedent, it is our intention to also propose for the merging of 2017, 2018 and 2019 reports going forward,” Figueira said.
Figueira admitted that this approach has not received a consensus at the level of the PAC, as the Government Committee members have dissenting views.
“It was proposed and at the close of the meeting we had some dissenting views from the Government side saying they did not agree. I don’t understand why there’s a hesitancy to agree to merging the reports, as was previously done by two different Chairmen. Factoring in that we have a lot of backlog work to do.”

A sitting of the PAC

“I was taken back… but I indicated to those members that the meeting would adjourn and if they have any other considerations on what was proposed they can bring that up at Monday’s meeting,” Figueira explained.
PAC is currently in a backlog of several years, since the 2016 Auditor General report is being examined in the 2021 fiscal year. Earlier this month, a motion that the parliamentary Opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) had been seeking to increase sittings of the PAC to twice per week, was defeated by the Government side of the Committee.
At the time, Government Chief Whip and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira, had noted that making two meetings per week statutory not only goes against tradition, but would be inconvenience for the PAC’s workload. However, the Government side has been willing to have extra meetings whenever the need arises.
“The issue at stake is, do we need to (make extra meetings statutory)? The answer is no… this Public Accounts Committee has additional work. The appointment of the PPC (Public Procurement Commission) nominees to go to the house, we have to review the Auditor General’s performance records. We have to deal with the Auditor General’s reports itself.”
“Throughout all the Public Accounts Committees and those I’ve been on, we have from time to time met specially, with consensus, because of a particular task to do. What the Opposition has been trying to do is statutorise other meetings. We’re saying there’s no need for that. What has worked from 1966 to now, can continue to work,” Teixeira had explained.
She had recalled that from former PAC Chairman Carl Greenidge’s time to now President Irfaan Ali when he served as the Committee’s Chairman, there was always a consensus on extending meetings between the two sides.
During those negotiations, she recalled that she herself served as the point person for the Government side during Greenidge’s tenure, while former Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence took on that mantle during Ali’s tenure. Efforts to contact Teixeira on Monday on the question of condensing the reports were futile.