Today’s Editorial for June 18: New PAC direction welcomed

One disappointment of the previous government involved the Public Accounts Committee, the government entity that independently conducts investigations into the reports of the auditor general.

In theory, the PAC is charged with making sure the auditor general’s office got its report right. With the ability to call on witnesses the auditor general normally would not, the findings and recommendations of the PAC can add significantly more in the quest for better, more accountable governance.

When it took over the government, the People’s Progressive Movement promised to turn over the chairmanship of the PAC to the Opposition once it had completed its investigations on the auditor general reports that pertained to projects or matters administered by the previous government.

That never happened. Perhaps the reason it never happened is because the PAC never found the time to do its investigations on all of the auditor general’s reports from the previous government, let alone the reports on its own government.

In all, the last PAC left work on 10 auditor general reports incomplete, some of which were not even started. As a result, the new PAC has to play catch-up from the beginning.

One thing the previous PAC did do, however, was make the decision to hold its hearings in public, something we praised at the time. However, that PAC held only one set of hearings in public – those concerning the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal project. It then failed over the next nine months to even hold another set of hearings or to complete its report on the Royal Watler project.

This is unacceptable especially considering many people had to take time out of their busy days to testify in those hearings.

But the idea of holding public PAC hearings is a sound one, and for that reason we are pleased new PAC Chairman Ezzard Miller has stated he intends to open the meetings to the public in normal circumstances.

Public meetings mean greater transparency and greater transparency means more accountability. In a time of budget spending overruns, extravagant government road trips and hidden expenditures, the more accountability in government the better.

In addition to holding open meetings, Mr. Miller said he and the rest of the PAC are committed to clearing up the backlog of auditor general reports and have agreed to regular monthly meetings as well as extraordinary meetings.

For too long, the PAC has not taken its job as seriously as it should. It has completed its reports on auditor general reports well after they were submitted, sometimes as much as four years afterwards. At that point, their work loses relevance.

It will be astounding if the PAC can actually clear up the entire backlog of auditor general reports by September – which is its goal – but we applaud the new direction and energy Mr. Miller is bringing to the committee.