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Fri 11th Dec 2020

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MPs failing the people as there is no Public Accounts Committee

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is mandated under Section 76 of the SVG 1979 Constitution and is meant to make sure the money that has been appropriated by Parliament and disbursed, has been applied to the purposes to which they were so appropriated and that the expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it.

The PAC is responsible for considering all the accounts that the Director of Audit is mandated to audit, and in particular, report to the House of Assembly:

1) in the case of any excess or unauthorized expenditure of public funds, the reason for such expenditure; and
2) any measures it considers necessary in order to ensure that public funds are properly spent; and
3) such other duties relating to public accounts as the House may from time to time direct.

The Leader of the Opposition is meant to run the PAC and scrutinise government spending. He is meant to be holding the government to account and making sure that the public accounts are managed properly and produce a PAC report every year.

However, since the ULP regime took office, the opposition has failed to run the PAC and failed to properly scrutinise government spending. This failure has meant that the ULP regime has been free to poorly manage the public accounts and be wasteful with taxpayers’ money.

In 2007, Gonsalves overspent the 2007 Budget Estimates by 10% - $63 million. No reason was given by Gonsalves and Gonsalves used (139) Special Warrants totalling $63,082,458.06. The Finance and Audit Act (No 1 of 1964) says special warrants are to defray unforeseen expenditure (Source 2007 Budget Estimates-Research Warrant Officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc (hons), MSc, MBA.). This was not investigated by the opposition under the PAC and no PAC report was produced.

In 2008, Gonsalves killed the SVG National Commercial Bank with an outrageous and foolish bank overdraft of $185 million without the SVG House of Assembly prior approval. The SVG Director of Audit failed Gonsalves in the audit report (Source Audit Report 2008 – Research Warrant Officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc(hons), MSc, MBA). This was not investigated by the opposition under the PAC and no PAC report was produced.

Of particular concern for the year 2008 was the missing $112 million, as the Accountant General current account was not reconciled with the National Commercial Bank.

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In 2009 and 2010, the Director of Audit failed Gonsalves on the Audit Reports as no statement of reconciliation was produced (source Audit Reports 2009 and 2010 – Research Warrant officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc(hons), MSc, MBA). This was not investigated by the opposition under the PAC and no PAC report was produced.

In terms of managing the public accounts, we have a uniquely terrible situation in SVG with the blind leading the blind in Parliament. There is gross financial incompetence on both sides of the House of Assembly and the consequence is that our economy being killed.

The Leader of SVG Green Party, Warrant Officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc (hons), MSc, MBA, who spent three years full time at Oxford Brookes University, England, reading for his BSc (hons) degree in Accounting and Finance and Economics, very strongly contends that the appointment of the PAC in the SVG House of Assembly should be made immediately.

Public funds in SVG have clearly been wasted, because our politicians cannot deal with the finances. Our politicians are incapable of doing their job properly and are failing our people. The Director of Audit reports from 2001 to 2008 concluded that the accounting systems in a number of the ministries were unsatisfactory. They were given a rating of 'unsatisfactory'.

We very urgently need a Public Accounts Committee in SVG to keep a check on government spending of taxpayers’ money and to strengthen our democracy.

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