A need to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly has resulted in the delay in the constituting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The Public Accounts Committee is a body within the House of Assembly tasked with examining public audits, and has the power to invite ministers, permanent secretaries or senior civil servants before the Committee for questioning and updates.
According to Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn who constitutionally will chair the Committee, efforts are being made to have the PAC organized. Hon. Penn explained during a public meeting held on 11 September that the PAC’s constitution required a Standing Orders amendment.
“We had an informal meeting this week (last week). We have a Standing Orders meeting scheduled for September 24, where there is supposed to be an adjustment to the Standing Orders for us to be able to start to get the Public Accounts Committee going,” the Leader of the Opposition explained.
At that time he mentioned that a meeting was scheduled to be held on 24 September at which time the matter might be addressed: “Hopefully after the September 24 and the Standing Order Committee meets. The next House of Assembly sitting we will be able to have a Constituted Public Accounts Committee, so we can start to really dive into the projects and the finances of the Territory and bring reports.”
In explaining why a Standing Order adjustment was required the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that currently only one member of Government can sit on the PAC: “The issue that we had was a numbers issue. Right now, you have an eight to five – eight members in the Government and five members in the Opposition. Right now, only one member from the Government is eligible to sit on the Public Accounts Committee, because the Standing Orders says that no Minister is allowed to be on the Public Accounts Committee — you have five Ministers from Government, and two junior Ministers who have the same responsibilities as a Minister.”
“You would have had a situation where you have a lopsided Public Accounts Committee, because you needed a minimum of five persons. So, you’ll have four persons from the Opposition; and just the one sole member from the Government. We are making the adjustment in the Standing Orders to be able to have less than five members. We will eventually have about four members – so one less member. We give it the adjustment so that in the future if we have 11-2; like we have had in the past… you have the leverage to go up or down in terms of the members. You will have four members, where the Chairman would have a deciding vote in case of a tie,” Hon. Penn further explained.
It is now expected that the Standing Orders Committee is going to meet, make the mentioned adjustment and a resolution taken to the House to have the Public Accounts Committee constituted.