By Alexis R. Milan
“Our governance reform agenda is about how do we fix these oversight institutions once and for all,” People’s United Party Leader Francis Fonseca said during a recent conversation with The Reporter.
“We have to legislate it. We have to put the changes that we want into law,” Fonseca said.
Singling out the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Fonseca said that a reconstitution of the PAC is necessary for it to be effective.
Sharing Civil Society’s proposition presented several months ago, Fonseca agreed that the PAC should maintain the four government representatives and two opposition representatives but include three social partners, namely, the Senators representing the churches, the business community and the unions.
Fonseca explained that giving the PAC this composition would ensure greater oversight, having taken away the majority from the government. He added that if the government isn’t able to convince at least two social partners that what they are doing is right, then that is a problem.
He said that his party intends to carry out this particular reform along with others when it becomes the government and that his party supports the idea right now and would welcome the present government’s decision to implement such a reform.
Another issue that Fonseca said needs immediate reform, one which his party intends to implement if elected, is the issue of the 13th Senator. According to Fonseca, implementing the 13th Senator would strengthen Belize’s democracy and provide greater oversight. Fonseca cited the most recent instance of the Senate’s inability to conduct an inquiry into the immigration scandal as evidence that the Senate in its present form is merely a rubber stamp organization.
The PUP Leader feels that if there were a 13th Senator in that instance, the government, who holds senate majority, would not have been able to block the inquiry from happening.
Speaking about the Prime Minister’s change in position on the 13th Senator Fonseca added: “I think it’s disgraceful that the Prime Minister came to power effectively on the backs of the unions and promising these reforms, and then having gotten into power, he’s now saying that will never happen under my [his] watch.”
Fonseca does not share the Prime Minister’s view that having a 13th Senator would cause the government to shut down or not be able to carry out any of its work.
The opposition leader stated that his party is looking for solutions to make oversight institutions in Belize more effective and have them, once and for all, work in the best interest of Belizeans. It is because of this lack of accountability and transparency oversight, he believes, that the country is in the condition that it is.
Reform is in the Leader of the Opposition’s political interest, he said because it is what Belizeans have been calling for.
Other institutions that Fonseca mentioned as a part of the PUP’s proposed oversight reform include the Integrity Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Accountant General and the Office of the Auditor General.