The Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee was formed following an opposition protest and a secret ballot vote Wednesday by lawmakers.
The committee, to be chaired by George Town MLA Roy McTaggart, will consist of two Progressives party members, two independent lawmakers – including the chairman – and United Democratic Party leader, West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush.
However, one of the independents, Winston Connolly, is also sitting on the Progressives government backbench, effectively giving the government side of the house three members – a majority – on the Public Accounts Committee.
The other PAC members appointed Wednesday are Progressives MLAs Joey Hew and Alva Suckoo.
Mr. Bush asked government Wednesday to reconsider its decision to include more opposition party members on the committee, a request that led to the secret ballot vote confirming the appointments. Seven MLAs received votes to participate on the committee, but independents Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean did not get as many as the other five MLAs and so will not be on the committee.
Mr. Bush said he thought it would have been more fair to appoint either Mr. Miller or Mr. McLean, rather than Mr. Connolly. He said he wasn’t questioning the new George Town MLAs ability or competence, but the UDP leader said he was troubled by the arrangement.
“The government seems to stack the PAC with their members,” Mr. Bush said. “They won on the basis of a change in the way things were/are done. Well, is this a change or the same old, same old?”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said in an earlier interview that he believed the make-up of the committee, which reviews reports from the Cayman Islands Auditor General’s Office, was important to the process.
“The key factor, I believe….is the balance of power – that is who actually controls the outcomes of decisions in PAC and I think that is the more important factor rather than actually who is the chairman,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Typically, Public Accounts Committees have consisted of more members of the opposition party than of the government bench. However, the current situation with 10 Progressives members, five independent members and only three UDP members creates a bit of a change. In this case, two Progressives, two independents and one opposition member was fair, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“What the Leader of the Opposition is trying to achieve is to have a PAC that he controls,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The problem with that is that for the first 18 months at least, PAC is likely to be considering the auditor general’s reports on the work of the UDP administration. It would be unwise, therefore, for my government to agree to Mr. Bush’s demand.”
Mr. Bush said he planned to request the committee to meet next week to “seek clarification on a number of accounts, expenditure and projects which I, as [former] Minister of Finance could not get information on”.
“Let’s see the impartiality and desire for good governance of one and all,” Mr. Bush said.
PAC Chairman McTaggart did not return phone calls or text messages seeking comment about Mr. Bush’s request for the meeting or about whether the committee would be held in open meetings, which has been the standard practice.