Public Accounts Committee powerless to enforce recommendations
July 14, 2004
0The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament can make recommendations but is powerless to enforce their adoption by government agencies, its chairman says.
PNCR frontbencher Winston Murray, who chairs the committee, told Stabroek News recently that it was impotent when it came to enforcing recommendations it makes for improving the financial administration of government agencies.
Murray's comments were in reaction to a Stabroek News editorial on July 5 that said the PAC should have had a greater impact in ensuring that "accounting officers immediately remedy faults and ensure no recurrence."
He said this is why it has proposed that the Treasury Memorandum (TM) should be an important procedure for dealing with the PAC recommendations. The TM would require the Minister of Finance to submit his comments about PAC recommendations to the National Assembly, indicating where necessary his reason(s) for disagreeing with any of them. He said for the PAC to make an impact, the committee and the government must be two sides of the same coin.
Commenting on the frustrations the committee faces, he cited a case involving overpayments of commuted travel allowances to the Regional Chairman of the Supenaam/Pomeroon (Region 2) Regional Democratic Council. Murray explained that in examining the accounts of the region the PAC observed that the chairman was being paid a commuted allowance in breach of the financial regulations since he was being provided with a vehicle and a driver for his use.
Murray said the committee advised the Regional Executive Officer (REO) of the breach and that the overpayment should be recovered. The REO instructed his accounts department to recover the overpayment. However, about a month later, the REO withdrew his instructions based on the advice of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon who instructed him not to take any directions from the committee. "The HPS' action puts the committee in an invidious position of being totally irrelevant if the recommendations it makes are undermined by directions such as he gave to the REO."
Commenting on the performance of the committee since he assumed the chair in 2001, Murray said some of the agencies whose accounts the committee has examined have made an effort to improve their financial administration.
However, he said there are still some which persist with the irregularities about which the committee continues to complain. Murray said this is due in part, to the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury and the Accountant General do not provide the necessary orientation for newly-appointed Accounting Officers to financial regulations and related accounting procedures and systems.
The PAC examines the accounts of the various government agencies and comments on whether the agencies are complying with financial regulations and observing systems and procedures.