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New Joint Public Accounts Committee has not had an effective meeting since formation, retiring NGO Senator reveals

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2022. 6:17 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC) was intended as a revelation, a brave step forward in ensuring accountability, transparency and good governance of public accounts.

But in seven months since its formation, Senator for the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) community Osmany Salas revealed during Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate, the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC) has yet to constructively meet.

Senator Salas made the note in the midst of his final address to the Senate on the General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation (2021/2022) (No. 3) Bill, 2022, when calling for resources to be added in the forthcoming national budget to strengthen the work of the JPAC, Clerk’s Office in the National Assembly to support parliamentary work, and the Office of the Supreme Audit Institution and Auditor General (currently vacant since the retirement of Dorothy Bradley in December).

“I hope I speak for my fellow social partner Senators when I say how frustrated we have been that the JPAC was set up seven months ago and we are nowhere, nowhere close to starting our job that the JPAC was intended to do which is to examine, consider and report on the accounts,” Salas said, after noting that the GRSA No. 3 would pass no matter what as it is a Money Bill and cannot be defeated in the Senate.

All the goodwill of inviting social partner Senators onto the Committee and taking away the majority of the Government’s representatives, Salas added, had leaked away because of the politics and “excuses” for not convening.

In wrapping up the debate, Leader of Government Business Senator Eamon Courtenay touched on the Joint Public Accounts Committee, reminding opposite number Michael Peyrefitte sternly that it is the sole committee of the House chaired by an Opposition member – in this case, Albert area representative Tracey Taegar-Panton.

“You all have the majority; you have not met and you come here and hurl words of “hustle.” You, Senator Peyrefitte, as the chairman of the United Democratic Party, you should get Tracey Taegar –[Panton] to do her work and call the Committee to scrutinize what has been done,” Courtenay thundered, to Peyrefitte’s apparent amusement.

The first meeting of the Joint Public Accounts Committee was held in July 2021, and there was virtual training of the members conducted in October 2021 by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association based in the United Kingdom.


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