Independent legislator for North Side Ezzard Miller struck back this week at government members’ comments on his resignation from the Public Accounts Committee, saying that several standing committees chaired by UDP members have not met once since the party took power 22 months ago.
Mr. Miller resigned on 11 March as chairman of the committee that reviews government audits, citing a lack of support from other members of the five-member committee who, he said, had failed to turn up to meetings.
Of 30 meetings he attempted to hold, Mr. Miller said he only had a quorum for 17 meetings.
However, this was 17 more meetings than several other Legislative Assembly standing committees chaired by government members, he said.
At a press briefing Monday, Mr. Miller pointed out that of the six standing committees of the Legislative Assembly, four had not met once in 22 months.
He said the only two that had met and submitted reports to the Legislative Assembly were the Public Accounts Committee and the Standing Business Committee, chaired by McKeeva Bush, which determines the business to be considered by the Legislative Assembly in its meetings.
He said the Register of Interests Committee, chaired by Ellio Solomon; the Standing House Committee, chaired by Dwayne Seymour; the Standing Select Committee to Oversee the Performance of the Office of the Complaints Commissioner, chaired by Cline Glidden; and the Finance Committee, chaired by Premier Bush, had not held a single meeting in 22 months since the UDP party took power.
“I, therefore, invite the public to draw their own conclusions as to which chairman took their job seriously and who could handle the work and move the committee forward,” said Mr. Miller.
“If you’re not going to meet, don’t accept [the chairmanship],” he said.
Mr. Bush refuted Mr. Miller’s assertion that the Finance Committee had not met, saying it had met over seven days for the last budget and in 2009 had met under the chairmanship of Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson. “The committee did not need to meet since the budget and is required to meet when we have business,” Mr. Bush said in an emailed response to the Caymanian Compass. “There is nothing ultra vires the law or the constitution in us not meeting when we don’t have business to meet for.”
He added: “The requirements for the committee to meet also allows us to carry any matter that arises between budget meetings to the next budget session, in particular when any extra expenditure is small amounts. We have been prudent in our management of the country’s funds.”
However, Mr. Miller contended that the Finance Committee was required by the Public Management and Finance Law to meet to ratify executive decisions relating to government expenditure, which were separate to meeting in relation to the annual budget.
“Part of being premier is to make sure that these committees of the institution of parliament work on behalf of the people,” said Mr. Miller.
Requests for comment from the other chairmen of the committees were not responded to by press time.
Mr. Miller said he had called the press conference because he had not been given an opportunity to make a statement relating to his resignation when the House met last week.
He said that since he resigned as chairman, his character had been besmirched by statements made by Mr. Bush, Mr. Solomon and Mr. Glidden, as well as by an editorial in the Caymanian Compass.
He also criticised Premier Bush for not availing of a meeting of the Legislative Assembly last week to elect a new chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
He said he had timed his resignation to enable the Legislative Assembly to vote in a new chairman at its next meeting, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, 16 March, but was subsequently held on Thursday, 17 March.
At that meeting of the Assembly, Mr. Bush announced in a statement relating to Mr. Miller’s resignation that a new chairman would be chosen at the budget meeting in May.
In his press statement, Mr. Miller said: “Suffice me to point out that ‘actions speak louder than words’ and while I handed in my resignation with ample time to allow the premier and his government to appoint a new chairman during last [Thursday’s] meeting, instead of doing so, they spent the time attacking my chairmanship in a statement to which no debate was allowed,” he said.
The North Side MLA said he would not resume chairmanship of the Public Finance Committee even if it was restructured, although he “probably” would be willing to be a member of the committee. “I wish the new chairman luck, but I don’t think I have any interest,” he said.
While parliament waits to elect a new chairman to the committee, this leaves the presentation of audited public accounts by the Auditor General in limbo, said Mr. Miller. “The normal procedure is [the Auditor General] passes on his report to the Speaker who passes it on to the chairman… To whom does it go now? And we’re in that limbo situation for about the next three months,” he said.
No desire to be premier
In the press conference, Mr. Miller also insisted he did not have political ambitions to become premier and denied that he was forming a third political party.
“Read my lips… I am not forming a third political party. I have no blind desire to be premier.
“I have an unbridled desire and commitment to represent North Side. I am going to get re-elected in 2013 in North Side, God willing,” he said.