The Public Accounts Committee is a body tasked to keep an eye on Government’s spending and investments and ensuring that the checks and balances are in place. But as far back as 2013, there have been problems in having a functional Public Accounts Committee as the current Chairman, Julius Espat has been lobbying for the majority on the committee to be made up of the Opposition and social partners. Prime Minister Dean Barrow has made it clear, as recent as October 8, that while he has no problem expanding the committee and making room for additional social partners, he maintains that the majority should be Government appointed. Prime Minister also added to his comments, saying that it should suffice that the Chairman of the committee is from the People’s United Party. According to Espat, the Public Accounts Committee has never been a priority for any administration that has gone to Belmopan and this is one of his goals he plans to achieve.
“Since 1991 no political party, mine included, did not see it was fit for the Public Accounts Committee to function. The Prime Minister refuses anything that has to do with accountability. If you remember since 2012 the first fight was to just make the meetings public and that took a whole year before they agreed, then we invited the social partners. As I told you the People’s United Party’s platform is about partnership with people; we cannot have good governance if the social partners don’t join us and that was the fight. We wanted to invite the three social partners that formed the Senate to join the Public Accounts Committee so that we can have true transparency and accountability; so that it is not political. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister believes that everybody is against him, the churches supposedly are against him, the unions are supposedly against him and the chamber of commerce supposedly is against him. How can you be like that when you are the Prime Minister. We think the opposite way, they are our partners and they should be part of the process to make sure that we have checks and balances so how can he say that I am the problem when the only time the Public Accounts Committee existed was when I became chairman in 2012.”
Following a press conference on October 8 at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel, Kay Menzies of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry did tell the media that the chamber would like to see the Public Accounts Committee get active with the involvement of the social partners. Menzies did not state, however, if they too are lobbying for a majority on the committee, be that of social partners and the opposition.