Miller resigns from accounts committee

Independent lawmaker
Ezzard Miller resigned Friday as chairman of the committee that reviews
government audits, citing a lack of support from fellow members.

The North Side
legislator said his resignation was effective immediately. Speaker of the House
Mary Lawrence confirmed that Mr. Miller had submitted his letter of
resignation.

“It is unfortunate and I
am troubled by the fact that I did not succeed in doing what I set out to do,”
said Mr. Miller, who had vowed to clear up years of backlog of audited financial
reports of government spending when he was elected chairman of the five-person
committee by members of the Legislative Assembly in June 2009.

He said failure by
members of the committee to show up for meetings in recent months, and a lack
of commitment from government, meant he was unable to function as chairman
of the committee.

Mr. Miller said the
committee had had some success in clearing the backlog, and a report he
received from the Auditor General last week showed that as of February, there
were seven government departments,
ministries or portfolios that had not completed their 2009 accounts; two had
not completed their 2008 accounts; and one – the Ministry of Finance – had not
completed its 2006 accounts. When Mr. Miller began his chairmanship of the
committee, some of the backlog of audited accounts dated to 2003.

Mr. Miller said that
most of the remaining outstanding reports and accounts dealt with government
spending over the last two years, and he said he hoped that the “serious
scrutiny” of the spending of the current administration was not the reason why
the committee, with its United Democratic Party majority membership, was
failing to show up for meetings.

He insisted he had not
taken the job as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for the “prestige”
of the position, and had simply wanted to get the job done, but could not do
this on his own without support from the committee members.

However, UDP members of
the committee, Ellio Solomon and Cline Glidden, suggested that Mr. Miller was
stepping down because he had not been able to complete the work of the
committee. “Maybe it was too much of a job for him to do,” said Mr. Glidden.

Mr. Solomon said he sat
on eight committees and was chairman of three of them. “You can’t always get a
quorum… but I’m not going to quit because of that,” he said, adding that he
had to prioritise his work, and at times had been unable to attend Public
Accounts Committee meetings.

Mr. Solomon said that
previous Public Accounts Committees had also faced issues with lack of progress
and attendance and this was not unique to Mr. Miller’s chairmanship. “Quitters
quit, and that’s what he is doing,” said Mr. Solomon.

Both he and Mr. Glidden
said they had received no notification of a meeting to be held on Tuesday, 8
March. “If I cannot attend a meeting, I will let him [Mr. Miller] know,” said
Mr. Glidden.

He said he felt that
there were more important issues that government members could be dealing with
than accounts “from four or five years ago”. “I don’t have any apologies to
make,” he said, adding that he and the UDP government were dealing with current
crises and issues.

Mr. Miller said that the
United Democratic Party members had agreed last year that PAC meetings would be
held on the second Tuesday morning of every month. As well as discussing and
receiving public accounts from the Auditor General’s Office, the committee also
meets once a month to sign off on bills from the Auditor’s General Office for
staff salaries, Mr. Miller said.

“They all pretended when
we made the decision to meet on the second Tuesday of every month to put the
dates in their Blackberries,” said Mr. Miller. “Do we need to send them a
reminder every time? The Auditor General knows when the meetings are – he and
his staff turn up.”

He said no one had
attended the meetings in January and February and only one member, Moses Kirkconnell,
had responded to a round-robin email sent this month requesting the signing off
of the Auditor General’s invoice for January – which would have been dealt with
at the January meeting if anyone had turned up.

Responding to Mr.
Glidden’s comments that government members had more pressing issues to deal
with than government accounts from previous years, Mr. Miller said: “The
problem we have with that is that until we sort out the historical accounts,
there is no confidence in the facts that we are being given today.”

“I feel that the Public
Accounts Committee is one of the, if not the most important committees
established by Parliament,” he said. “Its role is to scrutinise the
government’s accounts and whether it has spent the money in accordance with the
authorised budget. I cannot think of any committee that is more important than
that, particularly if you are saying you are occupied with the country’s
finances. This committee deals with the finances. It is true that we are
dealing with historical information, but those historical numbers are very
important.”

The other two members of
the committee – the UDP’s Dwayne Seymour and the People’s Progressive
Movement’s Mr. Kirkconnell, did not respond to calls for comment by press time.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. As everyone is saying I told you so this irresponsibility includes ALDEN MCLAUGHLIN the newly undisputed leader of the PPM. Is this the man you pPM upporters want for Premier? All of them need to be replaced. Are you convinced now hat the LA in 2013 needs NEW BLOOD?Bring out the brooms in 2013!
    problem solved.

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  2. Having failed to submit the necessary reports to account for the various expenditures for year, the committed detailed to clear the back-log is saying they have more important things to do! Maybe a freeze on government spending will get someone attention.. Where is the leadership?. If the premier dont have the skills and the Governor dont have the authority to detail a crew and get this mess cleaned up, they are not earning their pay. Someone is slipping, and I am sure someone is watching them slip.

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  3. Mr. Miller took on a formidable task. What amazes me is that it was allowed to go on this long that the biggest spender in the economy was not held accountable for its spending. Then again, what am I saying…held accountable,is simply too funny!!!The fox was left in charge of the henhouse and now we are going to ask the fox, after eating a load of chickens, did you do that? The fox is likely silent with the feathers sticking out of his mouth. Thats what we have here and Mr. Miller realized it.

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  4. The PAC was structured with a member of the PPM who was, under the PPM a backbencher and remains so today. This gave him some degree of independence as it relates to the PAC reviews and allowed for the other members to questioned the last administrations spending decisions. A Chairman who is an independent and 3 UDP members, all parties were represented. There is a backlog of outstanding accounts that still need to be audited, this has been a public debate and concern for a number of years. Ezzard, on his appointment as Chairman vowed to fix the problem within months, he, on several occasions changed that date as he realized just how difficult this would be and today, has thrown in the towel.

    It is irrelevant his reasons. We still have unaudited accounts and blaming the Premier or the leader of the PPM is both unfair and will not produce audited accounts.

    The bipartisan approach to this has not worked and has only resulted in further blame game. We just may be better off if the PPM member would also resign and the ruling party elect a new Chairman and Ezzard remains to form PAC. The Auditor General in the
    execution of his duties along with the new PAC can then be held accountable.

    After all, elected members are expected to place country before self. Or, we can continue the immature blame game.

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