Teixeira warns accounting officers about refusal to appear before PAC
…says Committee has powers to suspend, have them arrested
Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has warned accounting officers who refuse to come before the committee that the PAC has powers to have them arrested if they continue refusing to comply.
Teixeira issued that warning during the opening of an anti-corruption workshop sponsored by her Ministry on Saturday. She reminded that when these officers are called to appear before the PAC, it is because they must answer to discrepancies with public funds, as highlighted by the Auditor General.
“We have been having problems now, for example, where former REOs or former Chief Accounting Officers are refusing to come before the PAC. We have powers in the PAC, for example, they can actually charge someone and also keep them suspended and arrested for one week.”
“For example, if they refuse to come before the commission as accounting officers. We have not invoked that. But it is becoming sorely more tempting to do that when former accounting officers and former REOs are refusing to come before the PAC,” Teixeira also said.
She noted that the PAC and the office of Auditor General are very much intertwined and expected to collaborate, without infringing upon each other. For instance, while the PAC has supervisory functions over the Audit Office, it is still expected to not interfere in the Auditor General’s work.
“Both are oversight bodies. One is constitutional, one is not but is provided for in the Constitution, that is the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee approves, for example, the Auditor General’s staff organisational structure. And the Auditor General can hire who he wants up to a certain level.”
“Up to a senior level. And the PAC approves the methodology for hiring the persons. Now, that was something we need to look at, in terms of does that in any way violate the independence of the Auditor General. And these are the areas that are sometimes pinpointed in the convention reviews of Guyana.”
During the workshop, attendees were guided by a 26-page document containing facts on Guyana’s anti-corruption framework. It is understood that a similar session will be held later this year for the wider participation of civil society stakeholders.
The workshop also featured Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, who in his address had said that the Government is thoroughly committed to fighting corruption at the institutional level and will go the route of introducing new regulations, among others, if it has to.
In his address, Singh admitted that some of the institutions of State are still relatively young and require strengthening. According to the Finance Minister, technology offers almost limitless potential in increasing the effectiveness of Government operations.
“We as a Government are under no illusions that our work is done in this regard. We are constantly examining these legal frameworks that have now been put in place. With a view to identifying areas of potential strengthening.”
“And improvements. Areas that require elaboration, in some cases by way of subsidiary legislation, regulations. Areas that perhaps require guidelines to be issued to operationalise them more effectively. Other approaches and techniques that can be utilised,” Dr Singh had said.
But also, the Minister had noted that the political will to govern in a transparent and accountable way is a necessary component in the fight against corruption. This also goes hand in hand with democracy and respecting the will of the people.
Last year, Guyana scored 39 and was ranked at 87 out of 180 countries that were studied in the Transparency International (TI) index. It is a significant improvement compared to previous years. Guyana had a score of 29 and a ranking at 119, back in 2015. (G3)