Joint Public Accounts Committee Under Fire: Reports Stuck, Transparency at Stake

Joint Public Accounts Committee Under Fire: Reports Stuck, Transparency at Stake

Almost two months ago, Prime Minister John Briceno was summoned before the Joint Public Accounts committee.  In that December meeting, the Prime Minister was notified of the shortcomings of the government departments when it comes to financial reports, and other documents requested by the Auditor General for review.  In that interview, Prime Minister committed to do better, and to push for the reports to be submitted.  Tonight, however, there are reports that the Joint Public Accounts Committee is the body failing to carry out its work, and failing to push for the transparency and accountability it is mandated to promote.  Love News has learnt that several reports coming out of the Office of the Attorney General are still stuck at the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC).  Two particular cases that had created controversy, several years ago, were the Julian Cho Technical High School, and the Marion Jones Sporting Complex.  Reliable information say that these reports were sent to the National Assembly, and subsequently forwarded to the JPAC.  Since then, however, the reports have not been addressed or presented before the committee.  The other reports that have also been set aside are the financial reports for the periods, 2012/2013; 2013/2014 as well as 2014/2015.  As it relates to the Julian Cho Report and the Marion Jones’, reports had surfaced of mismanagement of project funds, an audit was ordered, but no one was held accountable.  Our newsroom reached out to several members of the JPAC including the Chair, Tracy Taegar-Panton.  While several others refused to comment, Panton had promised to return our call, but that call is yet to come.  It is an interesting turn of events since December 5 when Prime Minister Briceno was called before the JPAC.  For context we bring back the Prime Minister’s interview after the meeting with the JPAC.

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “This morning the joint Public Accounts Committee hauled me up for me to answer to them for some questions and they’re saying it’s the very first time that that has ever happened in the history of Belize. But the clerk was there, he made sure that they were nice to me so it was a good meeting, it was a very productive meeting. I was very happy that we had the opportunity to do that. The meeting this morning with the Joint Committee from the House and the Senate for the Public Accounts we were pointing out some glaring challenges that we’re facing that for way too long governments have not been balancing their books, they’ve not been balancing their accounts. Something that’s foreign to people like myself that come from the private sector, your bank account you balance it every month and here we are we have not balanced it we don’t do it, departments don’t do it, ministries don’t do it for a very long time and it is important for us to be able to be held accountable for the people’s monies, that is a part of the democracy. It is a part of democracy when any person can be called in front of this committee to be able to answer starting with the Prime Minister and yes if the first time when they told me they want to call me first thing that comes to my mind is “why do I have to go to that committee ?” but it was the right decision. This is the development and the strengthening of our democracy, of this culture of having to ensure that we are answerable at all times and that we can be more open and more transparent to our people and to the people that we have appointed in these different committees.”

Love News will keep following this story.

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