BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – Nearly two years after the last general election, the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly is without a Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“The Government of Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has refused and failed to put in place the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly so that the Parliament is denied the truth of the claim that the Prime Minister has improved his private residence to the tune of EC$1 million,” said Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas.
“To date, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has not had the opportunity to examine any records to determine the truth or lie in that matter whether it was EC$1 million, EC$1.5 million and whether it was truthfully for the security or not. The Parliament deserves to know and the Public Accounts Committee is the internal body of the Parliament that can question these matters,” said Dr. Douglas on Tuesday during his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader on KYSS 102.5 FM.
He said that the Government has failed in leading the public to the truth.
“We heard at one time that it was the Speaker of the National Assembly who is responsible to put the PAC in place and then a few weeks ago we have heard the Speaker declare in the Parliament it is not his responsibility, although previously the Prime Minister himself and the Attorney General who has the responsibility for Parliament did indicate that it was the Speaker who is responsible for this,” said Douglas, who in December submitted a Motion of No Confidence in the Speaker Hon. Michael Perkins.
At the first sitting for the year in January, Speaker Perkins presiding as “judge, jury and executioner” dismissed the motion prompting the five members of the parliamentary to walk out of the chambers.
Since the start of a new session of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly in May 2015, Dr. Douglas and other opposition parliamentarians have repeatedly called on Dr. Harris to appoint the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher 3 (West Basseterre), Hon. Konris Maynard has also called on the Non-Governmental Organizations to voice their concern to the government to follow the constitution.
He pointed out that Section 70 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly provides for a Standing Committee known as the Public Accounts Committee which shall consist of not less than three nor more than give members of the House drawn from both sides of the National Assembly, whose appointment shall be moved by a resolution of the Ministry of Finance and subject to the approval of the National Assembly.
“The duties and powers of the Public Accounts Committee are to ascertain that the authorized expenditure during each financial year including supplementary expenditure has been applied to the purposes\ prescribed by the legislation; to scrutinize the causes which may have led to any excess over authorized expenditure and to verify applications of savings and other authorized items of expenditure; to make an effective examination of public accounts in any department of government and to summon any public officer to give any information or any explanation or to produce any records or documents which the Committee may consider necessary in the performance of its duties,” said the first-term MP on a Freedom FM’s 106.5 “Issues” programme.
Maynard also pointed out that the legislation of the National Assembly mandates the Minister of Finance Dr. Timothy Harris to provide office and secretarial facilities to the Committee, which shall submit its reports to the National Assembly from time to time.
He noted that following the 2010 General Elections, then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, following practice, announced the appointment of then Leader of the Opposition Hon. Mark A.G. Brantley at the first sitting of the lawmaking body.
Other members then were Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Hon. Nigel Carty, Hon. Patrice Nisbett and Hon. Shawn Richards.
Repeated calls on civil society to address the issue, the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association, the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the St. Kitts Christian Council, the Nevis Christian Council, the St. Kitts Evangelical Association, the Nevis Evangelical Association, the St. Kitts Small Business Forum, the St. Kitts and Nevis Hotel and Commerce Association have fallen on deaf ears.