By Linda Straker
Grenada’s Lower House of Parliament on Friday appointed a new Public Accounts Committee, due to the fact that one of the original members is now a Minister of Government, making her unable to continue serving in that post.
The Public Accounts Committee is normally chaired by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House Parliament, but following the 2013 General Elections, there was a Parliamentary challenge because the Party winning the General Election won all 15 constituency seats.
In consultation with the Governor-General, the post of Chairman for the PAC was offered to Opposition Senator in the Upper House Dr George Vincent, while the other members were the three members in the Lower House who were not given ministerial posts: Yolande Bain-Horsford, Clifton Paul and Tobias Clement.
However, as of December 2014, Yolande Bain-Horsford became the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, which resulted in her becoming unable to serve on the PAC.
During Friday’s seating of the Lower House, the first for 2015, Leader of Government Business in the Lower House Gregory Bowen presented a motion naming new persons to the Committee. He explained that it was not just a case of replacing one person, but the naming of a new Committee.
The new Committee now comprises five persons, and will continue to be chaired by Dr George Vincent. The other members are: Senators Christopher DeAllie who represents the Business Community, and Franka Bernardine — one of the three oppositions senators from the Upper House; as well as Clifton Paul and Tobias Clement from the Lower House.
Though he gave the assurance that he will continue to serve on the Committee which has only met twice, the last being in July 2014, Clement said that he had mixed feeling with regard to the impact the Committee is making on the Parliamentary system.
“I wonder if we have fulfilled the mandate that was given to us,” he told the Speaker while making contributions to the motion. He said that it was his hope that the new committee will do more work that the previous committee.
“It’s my hope and my wish that the mandate given and the powers that be do the country justice and allow the Committee to function the way it has to function,” he said.
In the Westminster Parliamentary Democracy, which is the structure Grenada follows, the Public Accounts Committee is central to the effective performance of Parliaments. The PAC is mandated to hold the Government accountable for the proper management and administration of public funds.
It performs this function by examining the audited accounts of Government Ministries and Departments and Statutory Bodies. The PAC has the authority to summon senior public servants and managers of state corporations to appear at Committee meetings.
A press release issued in March 2014 from the four member Public Accounts Committee had agreed at its first meeting, to meet monthly and complete the examination of the Audited Statement of Accounts for 2008, 2009 and 2011 before the end of 2014.