A sitting of the House of Representatives is scheduled for Wednesday, August 7th, and we know at least one of the heated subject matters that will be addressed there. That is the Public Accounts Committee. Chairman of the PAC, PUP’s Deputy Leader the Hon. Julius Espat has filed a motion requesting the restructuring of that committee. Presently, it has representation from the Government and the Opposition, but Espat is appealing for representation from non Government Ministers as well as the social bodies in the Senate. The proposal hasn’t even seen inside the National Assembly as yet and the back and forth has already begun. On Friday, PM Barrow stated that he has read the motion and for a number of reasons will waste no time in objecting to it once it is tabled tomorrow. Well on Tuesday morning the Hon. Espat and former clerk of the National Assembly Conrad Lewis appeared on Rise and Shine for a preview of what is expected to be a hail stone debate. The Hon. Espat reiterated his plea and stated why he finds such a change necessary.
Hon Julius Espat – Chairman PAC:
We are proposing two members from the House in opposition, the Chairman is an Opposition member; two members from Government in the House; and we’re inviting the three Social Partners from the Senate, the Churches, the business Community, and the Unions.
We are not asking to change to change the mandate of the Public Accounts Committee. We are asking to change the composition of the Committee. Why are we saying this? Because it has not worked from 1981 to 2013. There is nobody in the People’s United Party or in the United Democratic Party that can come to your television station and tell you that it has worked, and if they do so they are lying. So if it has not worked there is a specific reason why. It hasn’t worked because our bipartisan spirit in Belize is non-existent, and we are not mature enough as politicians in this country. Therefore we are saying, take it away from political manipulation, both UDP and PUP, and put it into the hands of the people.
It is an unprecedented move as it relates to reorganizing the composition of the PAC and it is stirring much anticipation; however, it will not be the first time a member of the opposition has presented such a daring motion. Conrad Lewis, took us down memory lane, when the now area representative of Port Loyola, the Hon. Boots Martinez, who was on the other side of the floor, crafted a motion.
Conrad Lewis – Former Clerk of the National Assembly:
I don’t know if you could recall when the current Area Representative for Port Loyola wanted to have a budget. When he crafted a motion and then presented it to the National Assembly so that it be included on the Orders of the Day for that particular sitting, Hon Boots Martinez was given the opportunity to present his motion, and that motion was also debated, but the motion was not approved because when it comes to money matters, any motion or bill going to the House that relates to allocation of government resources must be first approved by Cabinet. So that was the downfall of that motion.
Mr Espat’s proposition, he says, differs in the sense that the PAC does not deal with the allocation of Government resources, but rather, it keeps an eye on spending to ensure that the monies are spent where and how Government says it will be. Nonetheless, the PM maintains that Espat’s motion still doesn’t comply with the Standing Orders. Meanwhile, the former clerk argues that the Standing Orders have enough latitude to accommodate the proposed revision. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out in the House on Wednesday.