Hon. John Saldivar teaches Julius Espat his Job! Print E-mail
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Thursday, 15 November 2012 00:00

Hon. John Saldivar and Julius EspatThe Area Representative for Belmopan, Hon. John Saldivar, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, wishes to clarify certain misrepresentations made by the Chairman of that Committee regarding the manner in which meetings of the committee are to be conducted.

The first misconception of the Chairman is the assumption that meetings of the Public Accounts Committee are to be at all times held in public. The attention of the Chairman and the public is called to Standing Order 79 (9) which states quite clearly, “Subject to any order of the House or resolution of the Committee, the meeting of a Select Committee shall be held in private.” This means that only by order of the House of Representatives or by resolution of, in this instance, the members of the Public Accounts Committee, can the Committee conduct its proceedings in public. It is, therefore, very clear, that conducting the business of any House Committee in public is a decision to be taken by members of that committee or by the entire House.  Furthermore, the Standing Orders are very clear that no Chairman or member of any committee can usurp the powers of the committee, in this instance, to declare a public meeting of the committee without the prior approval of its members.  Standing Order 79 (4) states, “A Select Committee shall not have the power to delegate any of its functions to its Chairman or any other member.”    

It is my firm belief that the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee erred in inviting members of the public and the media to a purported public meeting of the Public Accounts Committee without a resolution of the committee. It is also my firm belief that the Chairman erred in purporting to direct the Clerk of the National Assembly to invite the Auditor General and the Financial Secretary to appear before the Committee without the prior consent of the members of the Public Accounts Committee. The Chairman purported to use as his authority Standing Order 74 (2) (a) which states that the Standing Committee may, “send for persons, papers and records and specialist advisors, where necessary, to elucidate matters of complexity within the Committee’s terms of reference.” But again, the Chairman, in my opinion, misapplied this Standing Order in presuming to give to himself an authority that explicitly resides with the entire membership of the committee and not the Chairman alone.     

Our insistence, as members of the Government side, that the Chairman familiarizes him-self properly with the Standing Orders and that he presides over the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee in strict adherence to those Orders is, in no way, shape or form, any attempt by the Government side to prevent the Committee from carrying out its very important functions. On the contrary, members from the Government side are eager to agree on new rules for the better conduct of these meetings, including for them to be held in public, but also for the committee to examine, in public, all the reports of the Auditor General which, because of the various delaying tactics of previous administrations, have never been examined by the Public Accounts Committee.

In closing, I lament the fact that the Chairman, for his own political purpose, has called into question the integrity and competence of the staff of the National Assembly by suggesting that there were some deliberate omissions from the minutes of the previous meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. I urge the Chairman and the other member from the Opposition to come to the table very quickly so we can agree on the manner in which we can move forward with the important work of the Committee.