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Liburd: “proposed Public Accounts Committee Bill a mockery.” Maynard: “Not all saints in the halls of power”

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Published 10 August 2017

Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News

Liburd: “proposed Public Accounts Committee Bill a mockery.” Maynard: “Not all saints in the halls of power”

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 10TH 2017 – Ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on new legislation to govern the functioning of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the future, the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) has accused the Timothy Harris-led PLP/CCM/PAM coalition of decimating the duties outlined in the existing Standing Orders which govern the watchdog committee.

Chairperson of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), Hon. Marcella Liburd appearing on Wednesday’s edition of Issues said most of the duties in the present Standing Orders have not been included in the proposed new legislation.

The current Section 70 which deals specifically with the Public Accounts Committee outlines that the duties and powers of the Public Accounts Committee shall be as follows:

4 (a) – to ascertain the authorised expenditure during each financial year, including supplementary expenditure, has been applied to the purposes prescribed by the Legislature

(b) – to scrutinise the causes which may have led to any excess over authorized expenditure and to verify applications of savings on other authorized items of expenditure

(c) – to make an effective examination of public accounts kept in any Department of Government and

d – to summon any public officer to give any information, or any explanation or to produce any records or documents which the Committee may consider necessary in the performance of their duties.

Liburd however told listeners that in the proposed Bill before the National Assembly sub-sections (a), (b) and (c) and (d) in the original bill have been removed.

“All of the duties have been removed and replaced by (a) to examine the report of the Director of Audit that is tabled in the National Assembly. So whereas this was saying you can examine all public accounts in any department, this limits you to the Director of Audit’s Report, in other words, what they are saying there, if the Director of Audit didn’t put something in a report you cannot ask about it, that is what this is saying. So this has seriously watered down the scope of what the Public Accounts Committee is really supposed to do.

(b) – ‘to report to the National Assembly with any comment it thinks fit on any items or matters in the Report of the Director of Audit’ and (c) to enquire in writing into any question connected with the Report of the Director of Audit,” said Liburd, a former deputy speaker, Speaker and minister of health, community and social development and gender affairs.

She described the new legislation as a “mockery, a mockery, of what the Public Accounts Committee is supposed” suggesting the Bill should be renamed the Director of Audit Committee.

She said the new legislation authorises the Committee to summon the Financial Secretary, a Permanent Secretary, as the Chief Accounting Officer of a department and the Accountant General.

West Basseterre MP, Hon. Konris Maynard there needs to be checks and balances to avoid persons running rampant because there are not all saints in the halls of power.

“We cannot close our eyes and trust. We must be able to check and verify and this bit of legislation that they are now introducing to remove all the powers of the Public Accounts Committee and give it very limited powers, is an attempt to conceal wrongdoings, corruption and an attempt to fool the people again of St. Kitts and Nevis,” he said.

Liburd, the MP for Central Basseterre: “There is something fishy. There is a smell that is not smelling right. What does Prime Minister Timothy Harris has to hide? The people want to know about the EC$1 million spent on the Prime Ministers’ private residence for security. That is not going to be in the Director of Audit Report. The people want to know how much money was paid to the former Director of Public Prosecution. That is not in the Director of Audit Report. Was it EC$16 million or US$16 million received from the Government of Venezuela to pay ex-sugar workers? That is not going to be in the Director of Audit Report. People need to know how much money is being spent on all of these overseas trips the ministers are making.

The People also want to know about all these contracts which have been awarded without public bidding to relatives and friends. Why cannot the public know how much each contract is worth? All of these will not be in a Director of Audit Report. These are just a few of the examples of public money that we will not get under this new Public Accounts Committee.”

Photo 2 – Hon. Marcella Liburd

Photo 2 – Hon. Konris Maynard

Photo 3 – Hon. Timothy Harris

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