…GDF, Foreign Affairs and Public Works Ministries high on agenda for next meeting
By Rehana Ahamad
AFTER several delays, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) finally convened its very first meeting, on Monday, on a very pleasing note, according to the Committee’s new Chairman, Opposition Member of Parliament, David Patterson.
In an invited comment, the former Minister of Public Infrastructure under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government, indicated that the initial meeting dealt with a series of “housekeeping matters,” and that the real work will commence at the second meeting, slated for next Monday – January 11.
Guyana’s 12th Parliament, which convened on September 1, 2020, has 14 fully constituted subcommittees with oversight for varying sectors. Among them is the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for examining the audited accounts of state agencies presented in the Auditor General’s Report, among other matters.
Patterson told this newspaper that the new committee, during its meeting in the Parliament Chambers on Brickdam, has agreed to commence work by tackling a series of outstanding financial matters, dating back to 2016.
“We would first look at 2016 and finish that off, because half of the work was completed, so we will finish off 2016 as a single unit,” Patterson noted.
After the completion of the 2016 affairs, the committee plans to “double up” on the financial reviews of 2017, 2018 and beyond. The Opposition Parliamentarian said that the PAC’s second meeting next Monday will examine the financial reports of three agencies – the Guyana Defence Force, along with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Infrastructure.
“We will meet at 10 am and we go until 6pm; after that meeting, we will then decide on how often we are going to meet and so forth,” Patterson noted. The PAC Chairman said that as part of his new role, he will be pushing aggressively to ensure that the country’s public accounts is brought and kept up-to-date.
“The 2019 report has been in with Parliament, but we’re up to 2021, but we haven’t finished 2016,” Patterson lamented.
He noted, too, that there are several audits and special reports that are pending, and requires examination.
“This is important, so that every year, we can be current, and address any matter of public interest in the financial sector,” Patterson noted.
“We have some forensic audits that needs to be done, and I want to ensure that we are not burdened with past work,” the PAC Chairman said.
In addition to examining the audited accounts, as presented in the Auditor General’s Report, the PAC also has the responsibility to provide general supervision over the functioning of the Auditor General in accordance with the Rules, Policies and Procedures Manual. The PAC is also responsible for nominating the members of the Public Procurement Commission for approval by the National Assembly and, thereafter, the appointment by the President.
Patterson will also be leading the charge as it relates to determining the emoluments and allowances of the Public Procurement Commission, following consultation with the Commission itself. The meetings of all the Committees will be hosted in keeping with the established COVID-19 regulations and guidelines.
Patterson expressed how particularly pleased he was that the meeting was one that was done in a professional and productive manner.
“We were able to reach consensus on every point,” the parliamentarian said. He expressed optimism that future meetings of the PAC would be executed in the same vein.