Public Accounts Committee Chairman Roy McTaggart has offered to resign his seat on the oversight panel as soon as the five-member group and the auditor general scrutinize the ruling People’s Progressive Movement’s government programs.
“I would never put myself in a position with Public Accounts Committee matters relating to the government. It would be a conflict of interest,” Mr. McTaggart told the Caymanian Compass.
“I have spoken to the premier about this, and when the PAC gets around to this government’s programs and the government’s performance, it is the best thing that I would step aside,” he said. “I suppose one could recuse oneself in some cases, but I would step down, in a permanent sense. I could still be a member, but not hold the chairmanship.”
Mr. McTaggart, who was elected May 22 as a Coalition for Cayman-backed independent legislator for George Town, accepted appointment as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee a week after the poll. In June, however, he joined the PPM back bench, accepting positions as councilor in the ministries of both finance and financial services, upsetting the traditional composition of the committee, normally chaired by a member of the opposition.
Protests from former Premier McKeeva Bush, leader of the opposition and sole PAC member from the United Democratic Party, were initially disregarded. But a statement from the Office of Premier Alden McLaughlin on Friday announced the resignation of committee member Bodden Town representative Alva Suckoo “to allow a member of the opposition to be appointed, and thus bring balance” to the group.
Mr. Bush dismissed Friday’s move as beside the point, saying, “Alva Suckoo is not the chairman and no one from the governing party should be the chairman. I am complaining about the chairman. It’s completely against the statutes of the Commonwealth. Parliamentary regulations do not allow the chairman to come from the governing party.”
Mr. Bush described Mr. McTaggart’s position at the head of the PAC as “an abomination.”
“It’s an abomination to all Commonwealth states,” he said. “We are told we must adhere to all their standards of proper conduct and all the procedures make it clear.
“The leadership must guide the auditor general’s office. He sets the program for works,” the chief focus of the committee, Mr. Bush said.
Mr. McTaggart disputed the interpretation of Commonwealth statutes, saying, “It’s not unusual or unheard of that the PAC should be headed by a parliamentary back-bencher. In Australia, for example, it has happened, and while the majority of the committee may go to the opposition,” it was not unprecedented, he said, noting that Canberra’s PAC “was led by the ruling government.”
Mr. Suckoo said that his decision to step down had been made “weeks ago.”
“When we first assembled [PAC] members,” Mr. Suckoo said, both Mr. McTaggart and fellow independent Winston Connolly were not part of the ruling party.
“Then these changes came along, and Mr. McTaggart joined the government,” he said, followed by Mr. Connolly as councilor to Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Tara Rivers.
“So I decided I’d resign to keep a balance and make room for the opposition,” Mr. Suckoo said.
Mr. Bush proposed North Side legislator Ezzard Miller as a replacement for Mr. McTaggart, although acknowledging that the independent North Side representative had already served once, resigning after only a few months “because the [members] were not doing their work.”
“I already recommended Ezzard, but it could be me, it could be Arden [McLean, East End independent], it could be Bernie [Bush, newly elected West Bay representative]. He’s new, but he could do it,” said Mr. Bush.
He acknowledged, however, that “you’re not going to get McTaggart out. [Premier] Alden has said that when it came to looking at the accounts, then he would decide what is to be done.
“It’s not up to him,” Mr. Bush insisted, reiterating Commonwealth law. “I am prepared to give the government a wide berth but not to shirk my duty as the leader of the opposition.”
Mr. McTaggart said a secret ballot to choose Mr. Suckoo’s successor is scheduled for the next gathering of the Legislative Assembly on Sept. 4.