PAC to decide on witnesses for AG’s reports

| 30/08/2011

(CNS): The new chair of the public accounts committee says it will be up to the members to decide when and who to call as witnesses when the committee begins to examine the auditor general’s latest reports. Having officially been voted into the chair at the last sitting of the Legislative Assembly, Moses Kirkconnel as held one meeting with his committee members so far to recap and prioritise what work the committee has to do, he said. The PAC has been without a chair since the former holder of the seat, Ezzard Miller, said he could not do his work because of the failure of the government members in particular to turn up for meetings. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The member for the Sister Islands, who was the only opposition member of the previous committee, was appointed chairman by the other members of the LA earlier this month and Kurt Tibbetts, the former leader of the opposition, was appointed as a new member.

Since Miller resigned, the Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has submitted three new reports. There is one further outstanding report which has never been made public as it was undertaken by the previous auditor general (in connection with the affordable housing project) prior to the law being changed which allows publication of the auditor’s reports in the immediate wake of the documents being handed to the Legislative Assembly.

Given the gravity of Swarbrick’s findings, the public is likely to be watching closely for the witnesses that the committee chooses to call on the reports delivered to the country’s parliament about the mismanagement of the government’s procurement process. However, Kirkconnell said he expected that the committee would still be prioritising the progress on government’s overall accounts and ensuring that the country finally gets a set of up to date accounts for the most recent financial year on time.

The new chair said he was unable to supply a date for when the PAC would be holding a public session to scrutinize the findings of Swarbrick’s office but said it would be discussed at the next closed door session of PAC, which he said was due to take place on 6 September.

“When we meet on 6 September we will prioritise how we will deal with all of the outstanding reports,” Kirkconnell told CNS. “I believe that there are reports that will require more witnesses to be called but part of the process is that the committee must decide. I agree that the report on procurement is an important one.”

Kirkconnell said that now that the committee has a chair, following the long period of the committee not meeting, the important thing is to take stock and try to get things back on track.

The chair will also be looking at the issue surrounding the process under which the auditor general’s reports are made public documents. In the past the public had to wait until the Public Accounts Committee had examined witnesses and assess those reports before they became public. This resulted in important reports remaining under wraps for many years and some never seeing the light of day. The standing order was changed, however, to allow reports to become public documents as soon as they were handed to Speaker at the Legislative Assembly.

In order to give the MLAs some time to digest the reports and ensure all members received a copy, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) had agreed to give the LA a few working days grace before presenting its reports to the media and the wider public. The OAG’s most recent report on the procurement case studies was leaked, however, before the AG had schedule a media conference, illustrating the increasing difficulty in a modern democracy of trying to keep things secret and fuelling the AG’s position that once the report is handed into the LA, it should also be presented to the public as well.

Category: Politics

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure why both Chairpersons of the PAC have not been UDP? I say this because, if I were in the majority party of MLAs I would want to run/chair all committees – not for underhandedness reasons, but because seemingly (and theoretically) the people voted my majority party into office based on our manifesto and promises.

     

    I feel that the two chairpersons are not members of the majority UDP party so that, in a round-about way, they can be discredited for not getting anything accomplished because the PAC failed to meet at regular times. This is a tactic of the UDP, who have (i believe) 3 out of five PAC members, whose PAC-members choose not to attend PAC meetings so the business of the PAC does not get accomplished. Then when the media reports on the PAC and its accomplishments, only the Chairperson is named (and, as UDP hope, get the blame).

     

    UDP have learned that only the Chairperson of the PAC gets the shame/blame, they are too cowardly to either a) "take the bull by the horns" or b) objectively deal with their own party's failings. However, if the job involved ONLY roasting the PPM, the UDP would be fighting each other or rotating chairpersons so they all got a chance!

     

    It is time we start publically publishing Agendas and Minutes of PAC meetings in the Caymanian compass and on CNS and on other public service announcement sites/locations so that the Cayman public can 1) know what is suppose to be going on and 2) see for themselves which PAC members do not want to attend to the people's business THAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO! The PAC is only effective if a quorum can be achieved for each meeting, i believe this involves at least two UDP-ites to show up to work, plus Kurt and Moses (who by the way, don't have to wait until their drivers get dressed before they can come to work).

     

    I would even go as far to suggest that ALL of the LA's scheduled business and meetings, which should already be public information/documentation, be publicised in dominant media outlets as part of the media companies' public/community services and no additonal cost to the public.

  2. CaymanQT says:

    Highly support Mr. Kirkconnell and this committee.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why not let him be the Premier?

  4. Andrew Reid says:

    If MLAs who are appointed to committees cannot be bothered to turn up to meetings then they should automatically forfeit their positions in the LA and go home.

    These are highly paid employees of the people who receive salaries, pensions, health insurance and other perks that are beyond generous.

    If you are going to take full time pay and benefits then you should have to work full time and your personal/business interests must take a back seat to the jobs you were elected to do (and btw these principles should apply to both the elected and administrative wings of government).

    It is a question of value for money. Successive governments have wasted millions of dollars over the years on the "trappings" of state rather than on things that matter.

    50,000 people and a $500,000,000 a year purse should result in fully trained Caymanians, zero unemployment, negligible crime and a substantial reserve fund. It is beyond comprehension that we are failing to pull this off.

    The Caymanian people deserve better and collectively we must demand better.

    Andrew Reid

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you once again Mr. Reid. Please keep commenting. It gives the rest of us hope in the future.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow!  It seems like something is working!  Can it be?  WOW!  Keep it up and maybe, just maybe Cayman can save itself from itself.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It's good to see the approach the new chair is taking.  It seems Mr. Kirkconnell is establishing transparency and an objective review of both the procedures and the content of the reports as his priorities.

    This committee is an important element to ensure good governance and I for one am glad we have an honest and successful businessman leading it.