On Tuesday, the day after the most recent
auditor general’s report was distributed to Legislative Assembly members, North
Side MLA Ezzard Miller took a copy of the report to a radio station and
proceeded to read from it.
The way Legislative Assembly Standing Order
77(3) was amended in 2006, the report became a public document once it was
distributed to the MLAs, so Mr. Miller did not contravene Standing Orders.
However, since the time of former Speaker
of the House Edna Moyle, there has been an informal agreement in the House that
reports of the auditor general would not be made public for 48 hours, a
courtesy to allow the parliamentarians time to peruse the document first.
Mr. Miller chose to ignore the informal
agreement because of the opportunity he had to discuss the contents of the
report during his weekly radio show appearance.
Although we have been critical of Mr.
Miller in previous editorials this week, we don’t actually have a problem with
what he did. We do, however, have a problem with a system that allows the
possibility of any of the House members ignoring the informal agreement and, if
it suits their agenda, discuss or release the contents of an auditor general’s
report before 48 hours have transpired.
We believe Standing Order 77(3) as it was amended
is perfectly clear as to when auditor general’s reports should be made public
and that there is no need to wait 48 hours for members to peruse a report
before it is released to the public. At least one parliamentarian – Mr. Miller
– apparently agrees with us on that point.
We agree with Auditor General Alastair
Swarbrick’s contention that reports from his office should be made available to
the media and general public as soon as they are distributed to the Members of
the Legislative Assembly.