Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Douglas Leopold Phillips Jr.
The Auditor General reports to Parliament. As such the Speaker of the House of Assembly can, if so minded, make use of his/her office to give effect to the concerns of the Auditor General (AuG).
Staffing of the AuG department is subject to questioning as his reports may very well indicate that there is a human resource (audit) weakness in Government on the whole which is manifested in his (AuG) workload and reports thereafter.
It would perhaps be a better use of human capital and organizational efficiency to strengthen the audit functions of Ministries, allowing such departments to report directly to the Director of Finance.
Then we may find that Ministries are more accountable for their work, you can quickly identify and fix deficiencies and there is less wrong to be exposed by the AuG Office.
Giving the AuG more staff without fixing the core issues is like putting plaster on the raw sore.
The Chairmanship of the PAC would be less of a problem if MPs follow the legal route and recognise that Parliament as a body and our Constitution as a legally binding authority, do not recognise political parties.
As such, each MP is suppose to be independent of thought and action whilst serving as MP. You never hear sound Parliamentary debates making reference to DLP or BLP MPs. However we know the practicalities of such.
Since the AuG report deals primarily with money matters and since money matters are invariably originated in and resolved in the Lower House, it can be argued that Chairmanship of the PAC is best reserved for a member of the Lower House.
However, deeper thought and a thirst for independence may lead one to lean towards having an Independent
Member of the Upper House (The Senate), occupy this position of Chair.
The harsh reality is that the Government side, even in the most balanced Parliament, can control the PAC.
I do not think that the Chair has an original and “deciding” vote on matters before the PAC. Also note that a requisite number of members can deliberately absent themselves from PAC meetings or votes therein, resulting
in a sense of uselessness of the PAC.
Added to this is the fact that PAC meetings can only deliberate on AuG reports that have been tabled
Cabinet can influence when such reports are laid. I hope people appreciate the extent to which the Cabinet determines the Parliamentary agenda.
When PAC reports (on the AuG) are completed, then as a Committee of Parliament, said reports of the PAC meetings are laid in Parliament and only there.
Any actions to be taken thereafter is dependent upon the Members of Parliament, the majority of whom are supporters of the Government side. That is, they sit on the right hand side of the Speakers Chair.
Inject the fact that the Speaker is invariably a member of the Government’s side, however an oxymoron that may be – the most “independent member” of the House of Assembly is a financial member of a political party to whom most of the elected members are members of.
Therefore, it is my considered opinion that the call for and debates around the AuG report and its Chairmanship and staffing are but mere red herrings that will never catch more than a sprat.
Perhaps more time, energy and cranial exercise should be expended on taking a broader look at Parliament, Political Parties and Government. Meanwhile we just keep spinning top in mud.