Public Accounts Committee moves forward without change

The Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee met Thursday over previous protests of former Premier McKeeva Bush, who is now the lone non-government member on the body. 

“The PPM is going back to the same thing they’ve done in 2005 to 2009. They accused me of not being transparent and not being open, then they get into office and they stick me alone on the Public Accounts Committee. [Roy McTaggart] is one of them, as chairman,” Mr. Bush said on Wednesday.  

“Where is the accountability? Where’s the good governance? It’s bad governance, that’s what it is.”  

Committee Chairman Roy McTaggart, who switched over to the government benches in the weeks following the 22 May general election, said Wednesday that he remained the head of the five-person board and that a meeting schedule for the PAC would be determined after talks with members this week. The PAC reviews reports from the auditor general’s office and makes its own recommendations based on those investigations.  

The Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee was initially formed following an opposition protest and a secret ballot vote by lawmakers in May.  

The committee then consisted of two Progressives party members, two independent lawmakers – including Mr. McTaggart – and United Democratic Party leader Mr. Bush.  

Two of the independent lawmakers, George Town MLA Winston Connolly and Mr. McTaggart, are now sitting on the Progressives government backbench, effectively giving the government side of the house four of five members on the Public Accounts Committee.  

The other PAC members are Progressives MLAs Joey Hew and Alva Suckoo.  

Mr. Bush has asked government 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 votes 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 MLA’s 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?”  

Mr. Bush said the situation became even more lopsided when Mr. McTaggart switched over to the government benches.  

Premier Alden McLaughlin said in an earlier interview that he believed the makeup 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.” 

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