While the inauguration of the National Bank was at the top of the list Monday morning, the PM accommodated the press’ questions on a couple of other pressing national matters; one being the Public Accounts Committee. The committee, which has been lying dormant since its inception was thrust under the microscope by its current Chairman, PUP’s Hon. Julius Espat. He called for the restructuring of what is presently a six member committee, consisting of four Government and two opposition representatives. The proposal calls instead for a seven member committee that will see two members from each political party and three from the social partners within in the Senate – the Business Community, the Union and the Church. As part of the business community, the Chamber of Commerce joined the Opposition in its request; however, in its second formal statement, the association had a considerably different tone, saying The Chamber vigorously renews its call on both the Government of Belize and the Opposition to ensure a fully functioning Public Accounts Committee. Meanwhile, the NTUCB a member of the Union body remained steadfast on its position for a complete reform of the committee. And even following the PUP’s effort at Independence Hill where they made a party declaration for the restructuring of the PAC, the Prime Minister hasn’t been swayed in the least, or has he? He told us about Government’s new proposal to include the social parties in the meetings.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
Let me make clear again, I am not going to offend the principle of majority rule. I am not going to offend the Standing Orders of the House. Note that the Chamber of Commerce quite sensibly said in effect, “Look, we’re not really interested in any restructuring of the public Accounts Committee. All we want is to see the work done.” I’ve already put forward a proposal that can get the work done. We have already said that our proposal is that, once the current Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and once the PUP members do not cooperate in moving the work forward, when we move it forward we will invite the social partner Senators to sit with us on a rotation basis. The spirit of the Standing Orders does provide for this. With every respect to the NTUCB, I’m not to quarrel with them, we will press on and there will be no restructuring of the Public Accounts Committee so as to make it unwieldy, and so as to violate not just the Standing Orders but the whole principle of democracy.
The Prime Minister maintains that restructuring the PAC would not comply with the Standing Orders and while the NTUCB seems to agree, they contend that as done in the past, Government can and should make a provision for this proposal.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
I was really disappointed. Constitutional amendments are a whole different story. I don’t know how NTUCB could, as we say in Creole, “mix up the ham with the hammer”. We’re talking about Standing Orders of the House, and we are saying there’s absolutely no need to change the Standing Orders because the Committee, as it is currently constituted, can work and will work.