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Government is a no show at Public Accounts (PAC) Committee

The Public Accounts (PAC) Committee had been reviewing the Auditor General’s report from as far back as 8 years ago. The report seeks clarity and accountability of Government spending.  The PAC reviewed the 2012- 2013 Auditor General’s Report and conducted its investigation and hearings and that was concluded in May, 2018. The Committee requested the Chairman, PUP Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat to prepare a report for the House to review. That report was prepared and sent from September for the Government’s side for their members to give their input. But just like the titular game that carries the same name, Julius Espat and his fellow PAC man Kareem Musa have been chasing ghosts. Since September 2018, Espat and Musa have been the only PAC men who have attended committee meetings.  We caught up to the PAC men outside the National Assembly Building in the capital where they left another scheduled meeting that had no representation from the Government.

Julius Espat Chair PAC: “I have continuously been calling meetings: September, October, November, December and now January and the same thing continues. I am not surprised and I think the Belizean people will not be surprised either but I think it’s a shame and it is showing that Government has no intention of respecting the rule of law and we have to understand that the PAC is the only thing in Parliament to exercise checks and balances in the executive and so they are fully aware of what their doing and that is why I believe corruption is at its highest right now and it is going to get worse because the Government in power doesn’t care. The only report that we have been able to review was the 2113 and I have what I considered the minority report and if they can’t read; they can’t give no reason why they can’t analyze it and the thing only has twenty pages and one page of the important ones which gives six recommendations of what we need to do and the recommendations is not difficult ones for any Government to deal with. The members that are welcome to all meetings are the Honorable Kareem Musa and myself and the members that seldom come to meetings and Honorable Patrick Faber, the Honorable John Saldivar, the Honorable Tracey Ortega and the Honorable Alpha Mena and they by the way should not be on the PAC. None of the four because they are sitting Ministers of Government and in this report I think two of those Ministers Ministries were analyzed so you see the conflict of interest and that’s what I am trying to say.

Reporter: So in 2017 you were advocating for these PAC meetings to become public meetings?

Julius Espat Chair PAC: We agreed, it was agreed upon in that time.”

Kareem Musa: “And every time we have a PAC meetings we have a motion  that it becomes public and they vote it down everytime.”

Julius Espat Chairman: “There are two things that have to happen in PAC 1. It has to be held in public , the hearings, I am not saying the irregular paperwork. The hearings have to be held in public so that you don’t say “bwai the Chairman of the PAC say this” “bwai the Honorable other members say this” No you will find out from your own, you will feel the body language, you will listen to the people and you will hear how they respond and then you the Belizean people  right away start making an analysis of their own, that is called transparency, you don’t get false transparency so it has to be held in public in the future for it to function and two the restructuring of the PAC is of utmost importance was that the majority in Government do not control the PAC. It is totally ridiculous that you have a check and balances committee that does not do checks and balance which is what the role of PAC and then you have the majority from Government that refuses for you to analyze them. Anybody in any world knows that that is wrong.”

Espat says that they have called several meetings. There was only one meeting that one of the Government’s PAC men attended. Minister of Education Patrick Faber made an appearance last year to say they had not agreed with the report.