The Public Accounts Committee has voted to resubmit to the Legislative Assembly its findings on an Auditor General’s report into the operations of telecoms regulator OfReg. The move comes after Attorney General Samuel Bulgin found Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush had no grounds to block the information.

The PAC attempted to table its report on 30 Oct. but Bush refused to accept it, saying he had not had a chance to “verify” it.

In a statement Thursday evening, the PAC announced its decision to resubmit the report following legal advice from Bulgin, which stated that there is no requirement for the Speaker of the House to verify a PAC report.

During the PAC hearing into the Auditor General’s report in July, OfReg chairman Linford Pierson had registered his displeasure with the audit, which found that OfReg’s first three years in operation were plagued by a lack of strategic planning, little oversight and inconsistent leadership.

On 30 Oct. Bush blocked the tabling in the Legislative Assembly of the PAC report into the Auditor General’s OfReg investigation, which was titled ‘Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg) – June 2020′.

According to a statement issued by the PAC Thursday, PAC Chairman Ezzard Miller wrote to the Attorney General’s Office about the legality of the Speakers actions and scheduled an administrative meeting for Nov. for the PAC to consider the position.

In response, Bulgin wrote, “In essence, we are unable to find any provision in the Constitution or the Legislative Assembly Standing Orders which require the Honourable Speaker to ‘verify’ the information contained in the PAC report prior to its tabling in the Legislative Assembly in circumstances where the business committee had decided that the report should be placed on the Order paper for a particular day.”

During the 30 Oct. sitting of the Legislative Assembly, after Bush refused to allow Miller to lay the report before the House, Miller questioned under what standing order the refusal was being made.
Bush replied, “The Speaker has to verify the report. You just can’t come because you’re a committee and think you can lay a report that goes out public… that has all matters connected to it, has all sorts of things said in it without the Speaker having a chance to examine the report.”

The PAC met Thursday, 5 Nov., and agreed to resubmit its report, together with the report from the Office of the Auditor General, to the Business Committee of the Legislative Assembly for tabling during the next meeting.

During the 30 Oct. PAC hearing, Pierson, during his testimony, had said he had not been consulted during the Auditor General’s audit process and claimed information regarding the implementation of government policy in the performance audit was not accurate. He also claimed that the audit was conducted outside of the legally stipulated timeframe of three years.

The PAC later struck Pierson’s comments from the record after a report from Auditor General Sue Winspear.

The PAC statement outlined the process leading up to Bush’s actions, saying that the Auditor Generals’s Office delivered its report to the Legislative Assembly in accordance and in full compliance with all the relevant Standing Orders the report was referred to the PAC.
”The PAC conducted its review of the report, including public hearings in full compliance with all the relevant Standing Orders, [and] prepared its report, that was signed by all members of the PAC with no dissenting reports. The PAC then sent its report, as required by the Standing Orders, together with the report from the OAG to the Business Committee of the Legislative Assembly for tabling during the next meeting,” the statement said.
The Business Committee, it said, accepted the reports and placed them on Business Paper No. 19 to be placed on the Order Paper of the Legislative Assembly for the next meeting of the House; namely, the first meeting of the 2020-2021 Session which started on 14 Oct.
”The Order Paper for Friday 30th October contained the three annual reports from the PAC, but not the reports on OfReg,” it said.
The three reports on the Order Paper were tabled, and when Miller enquired as to why the reports on OfReg were not on the Order Paper, Bush indicated that it was his decision not to place the reports on the Order Paper.
This prompted the PAC to meet and seek legal advice, the statement noted.

The reports under reference have all been prepared in accordance and in compliance with all the relevant Standing Orders and in the spirit of natural justice and that the reports contain no inflammatory language and that all its recommendations are fully supported by evidence contained in the verbatim transcript of the public hearings,” the PAC added.

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