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REOs’ appearance at Public Accounts Committee suspended; PPPC’s Juan Edghill objects

FILE PHOTO: The Public Accounts Committee in session on February 19, 2018.

The Ministry of Communities has suspended the appearance of Regional Executive Officers of the 10 administrative regions before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to allow them to better prepare to answer questions, but opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) parliamentarian, Juan Edghill has objected, saying  the REOs have failed to consult the experts before each sitting.

In a letter to PAC Chairman, Irfan Ali, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emil Mc Garrel asked the committee to suspend consideration of the examination of the 2016 Auditor General’s report for the remaining Regional Democratic Councils “to allow for better preparations by regional officials”

“While the ministry is desirous of seeing this process through expeditiously, we are constrained to take this course of action due to the recent unsatisfactory level of performance before the PAC.  This time will be used to have regional officials better prepare to assist the PAC in carrying out its mandate,” Mc Garrel states in the June 26, 2018 letter released to the media by Edghill.

The REOs are appointed by Central Government, while the number of councillors are elected at the same time with general elections, the last one having been held in May 2015. The PAC should have met on Thursday, July 5, 2018, but it has now been postponed to next week Monday.

Over the past several months, a number of REOs and their support staff have either made severe blunders, admissions or failed to provide adequate answers posed by PAC members, resulting in embarrassments for the Regional Councils and Central government.

However, Edghill accused the Acounting Officers of the 10 of “seeking shelter through the Permanent
Secretary of the Ministry of Communities from appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.”  Indicating that Mc Garrel’s request would most likely be approved because the government has a majority on the PAC, Edghill said he would not support it. “While it is ultimately up to the majority of the members of the PAC, of which the Government enjoys, to grant this request, I’d like to put on public record my strong
disagreement to this request and I further object to Public Officers stymieing the work of the PAC,” he said.

The PPP parliamentarian noted that every Region,  before appearing at the PAC, can tap into the services of the  Audit Office, the Accountant General and the Financial Secretary to assist with their preparation. “It was
disclosed that these services have not be utilized by the officers, thus resulting in them being unprepared for their appearances before the PAC.”