QUESTIONING why the Opposition Member of Parliaments (MP) have been pushing to hastily conclude audit reports covering their tenure in office, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira has sought to set the record straight as it relates to the holding of meetings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
In a statement issued on Saturday, Minister Teixeira pointed out that with the 12th Parliament having already held 51 meetings in 28 months, there has been a marked increase of meetings held across the 32 and 40 months duration of the preceding 10th and 11th Parliament, where a total of 57 and 44 meetings were held, respectively.
Addressing recent comments by Opposition members of the PAC, and editorial commentary on the postponement of a few PAC meetings, Minister Teixeira noted that the current rate of PAC meetings is by no means unusual.
Minister Teixeira labelled as “bizarre” contentions that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) is attempting to avoid scrutiny of audited reports covering the current government’s tenure, particularly given that the PAC is still at the 2019 audit report, and has not reached the audits for the PPP/C Government’s term of office from late 2020 to present.
“Why wouldn’t the PPP/C MPs want to examine, inspect and dissect any audited report, but, more especially, the Auditor General Reports for the years 2017-2020, a time when the APNU+AFC Coalition was in government?
“These reports, so far, have been replete with revelations of violations of the Procurement Act and financial procedures,” Minister Teixeira argued.
Moreover, she noted that the 2020 and 2021 Audit Reports were already released to the public.
Minister Teixeira noted that the constitution and laws of Guyana establish the anti-corruption framework and the checks and balances for transparency and accountability with oversight mechanisms of the Auditor General’s Office, the Public Accounts Committee, and other bodies.
She also highlighted that since the PPP/C took office in August 2020, a National Coordinating Committee (NCC) on Anti-Corruption was established and involves a cross-section of government agencies. This committee works on not only ensuring that Guyana is compliant with its reporting obligations, but also on capacity building and maximising the synergies that exist among agencies.
“The NCC meets on a bi-monthly basis, and 16 agencies are currently represented on the Committee. Also, an ‘Anti-Corruption Framework – Fact Sheet and Detailed Framework 2022’ was published in 2022 to support the work being done to strengthen and improve transparency and accountability,” Minister Teixeira noted.
However, with the PAC still in the process of dealing with the audit reports that cover the critical periods when the now opposition A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was still in government, Minister Teixeira noted that current arguments over the hosting of PAC meetings is a smokescreen to distract from the Opposition’s own lack of accountability being unveiled.
“Is it to push their “dirty linen” under the mat, so the public would not know what they did with the taxpayers’ monies during their tenure?
“Is the author of the editorial saying that the period of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government should not be subject to scrutiny by the PAC, the public and the media?
One wonders if the author of the editorial wishes the public to ignore the fact that several former ministers are before the court for acts of corruption and violation of the laws of the country? Isn’t that also an aspect of accountability and transparency?” Minister Teixeira questioned.
Further, Minister Teixeira reminded that the 12th Parliament is dealing with a backlog not of its making but due to circumstances beyond its control. As such, the PAC in the 12th Parliament has a heavier agenda than both the 10th and 11th Parliaments.
“It had to finalise the work done in the 11th Parliament with regards to the PAC report on the combined 2015/2016 Annual Audited Reports, which was tabled and adopted in the National Assembly in 2022, as well as, address the Annual Audited Reports of the years 2017, 2018, 2019 which were tabled at the end of 2020 due to the No Confidence Motion, the 14 months during which Guyana had no lawful government, the 2020 elections and the five month delay before the election results were declared,” Minister Teixeira noted.
The Annual Audited Reports for 2020 and 2021 are also before the PAC.
The PAC has also been dealing with the unavailability of documentation and non-attendance by a number of former Permanent Secretaries and former Regional Executive Officers, who are the accounting officers of the agencies.
“The examination of any audited reports requires not only the presence of accounting officers who held office in 2015-2020, but also their timely provision of documents and answers, so that examination can be thorough in the national interest. Yet these facts have been ignored by the author of the editorial and other commentators,” Teixeira noted.