Jamaica’s Public Accounts Committee – Setting a Chaotic Example

The Jamaican paliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing last Tuesday decended into more farce as some of the government (JLP) and opposition (PNP) members turned the proceedings into a car-crash of a kangaroo court in their quest to humiliate their guest – Pamela Monroe-Ellis, Auditor General.

For the latest 2 PAC sittings Monroe-Ellis has been at parliament to respond to the audit report conducted into her office by the internal auditors from the Ministry of Finance.

The shouting, the self-serving and lack of respect shown by some PAC members  towards Monroe-Ellis even drew criticsm from former prime minister Bruce Golding (JLP) in a letter to the Jamaica Observer

Julian Robinson’s (PNP) chairmanship of the PAC has been underwhelming since he succeeded Mark Golding. Yes, Robinson is chairing a committee filled mostly  of JLP members but he is not displaying the political finesse required for such an important position.

[The main role of the PAC is to scutinize audit reports on public bodies filed in parliament by the Auditor General’s Office and question key individuals relating to such reports such as senior civil servants and heads of public agencies.]

At a previous PAC hearing in February Robinson was taken to task on his overall stewardship by government member Mrs Juliet Holness and it seems he has not recovered from that public mauling.

During last weeks hearing of the PAC Robinson should have ensured that the auditor general delivered her opening statement uninterrupted. But less than 3 minutes into Monroe-Ellis opening statement she was constanlty disrupted by some government PAC members.

The quality of the questions raised by some members of the PAC towards the auditor general was nothing short of substandard and borderline ignorance. Some questions gave the impression that MPs came to the sitting under prepared. Such as when one member asked Monroe-Ellis what was her qualification – information that is freely available on the website of the Auditor’s General Office.

Government members such as Heroy Clarke shouting and raving was just out of order. Plainly this manoeuvre was hatchet job to get at Monroe-Ellis given that her audit reports into government spending has caused much embarassment, resignations, sackings and public outrage over how public money has been misused.

The government members of the PAC seem to spend much of the last 2 sessions obssessed about why Monroe-Ellis was not present at the entrance/exit interview with the auditors from the Ministry of Finance.

If only member Holness (a former auditor) was there at these 2 sittings then she could have told  her colleagues that auditors rarely discuss their audit plans/findings with the head of the organisation under review.

Normally the head of the organisation under review delegates that role to a senior go-to-person for the auditors to consult and update. The head of the organisation may be part of the exit interview if serious failures have been detected in the audit especially if potential criminal behaviour has been flagged.

The melodramatic response by some PAC members towards Monroe-Ellis on who she spoke to in the media all seems to be a red herring in order to just publicly shame the auditor general. Such questioning about media contacts crossed a line that the media needs to take note.

So after 2 sittings little has been discussed about the actual findings of the audit report into the Auditor General’s Office and thus the PAC continues to waste precious time and public money on pointless issues and point scoring.

Maybe at the next PAC sitting with the auditor general, member Holness will be there to keep her underlings in line and raise the standard of questioning and behaviour.

On the other hand, chairman Robinson has to take charge of the proceedings in a more controlled and shrewd manner.

Further reading

Gov’t members hound auditor general in media leak inquiry – Daily Gleaner

Mystery solved PAC meeting caused Monroe Ellis to miss exit audit – Daily Gleaner

About africanherbsman1967

Ideas Man
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