Following hours of discussion between the Government and Opposition sides of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Chairman Jermaine Figueira took a decision to have the 2017 and 2018 Audit Reports merged in order to clear a backlog.
Opposition Committee Members were initially arguing for the years 2017 through 2019 to be consolidated but this was challenged by those on the government benches who argued that proper scrutiny is needed.
In fact, Governance Minister Gail Teixeira noted that in a bid to clear the backlog which currently exists, the scrutinising process should not be rushed.
“I understand the issue that the members are raising about haste and getting through the three reports, but it is also a responsibility to do what is correct. We now have work to do with compiling a report that reflects our concerns, whether by sector or by general recommendation, general observations,” Teixeira contended.
On the other hand, Opposition Member David Patterson asserted that the PAC members are competent enough to cover all the reports properly through the merger.
“We are competent enough to do it…It is undesirable but it is not an uncommon challenge that has faced previous PACs in the past. They have, for whatever reason, been times the work of the PAC has been some years behind. We have done, several times, combined reports whereby PAC would combine reports for the audit office in a matter to address the backlog,” Patterson argued.
Nevertheless, a decision was taken after consulting with Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, who suggested that the Committee consider merging two years instead of three.
PAC is currently in a backlog of several years, since the 2016 Auditor General report is being examined in the 2021 fiscal year. Last 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, 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.