The power struggle within the Public Accounts Committee climaxed this Wednesday, when PAC Chairman Hon. Julius staged a walkout, and United Democratic Party’s members appointed Hon. John Saldivar as pro-tem chairman.
Espat, on leaving the meeting, said to the media, “I had a proposed agenda as Chairman. They wanted to not agree to that, and have a new proposed agenda.”
Espat explained that the UDP members insisted on going back and conducting “forensic auditing” on pre-2008 auditor general reports.
“They are trying to go on a political witch hunt and we are saying the Prime Minister and the Cabinet have all the power to go to the House of Representatives and create a special select committee to do that if that is what they wish,” Espat added.
Espat, who insists that he cannot accept any proposed agenda that goes against the mandate of the PAC, explained that he and Hon. Rodwell Ferguson walked out in protest as his agenda was out-voted by the four UDP members.
Sometime after Espat’s departure, the remaining PAC members left the National Assembly building.
Saldivar explained to the media that the “meeting was called to order by the chairman and we discussed his proposed agenda which was voted down by the majority members on the committee who proposed an alternate agenda. That agenda was approved by a majority of member on that committee. At this point the chairman and his members walked off the meeting.”
The committee, operating under House of Representatives Standing Order 79(2), appointed the Hon. John Saldivar as pro-tem chairman in Espat’s absence.
After that they confirmed the minutes of the last meeting and agreed on a schedule to review the Auditor General’s Reports, beginning with 2003 and ending at the 2011.
The schedule, which lists its first meeting as September 23, will run into July 2014.
The UDP-led PAC resolved that on Mondays, they will review pre-2008 reports, and on Wednesdays they will review reports from the Barrow administration’s time in office.
When the members first announced the schedule they said that they would move chronologically from 2003 to 2011, contradicting what the Prime Minister had said.
However, on Thursday, they issued a revised list aligning the schedule with the Prime Minister’s directive.
The committee also agreed to review three special audits conducted by the Auditor General: the Soybean Project, Issuance of National Land Leases and Titles and the Venezuelan Housing Grant Project.
It is interesting to note that the media was barred from entering Wednesday’s meeting, although it was decided earlier this year that all PAC meetings would be pubic.
On August 21, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement emphasizing that the members of the PAC on the government side were insisting that the schedule for the review of the pre and post 2008 reports be implemented.
The release further noted that if the chairman was unwilling to implement the schedule, then in accordance with the Standing Orders, the government representatives would conduct the meetings themselves.
Espat said that he will launch a nationwide campaign to educate the Belizean electorate on the importance of the Auditor General reports and the PAC.