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Minister Espat Gives an Update on JPAC

In July of 2021, the Briceno Administration established the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC). The committee is tasked with scrutinizing public spending and reviewing reports by the auditor general. At the time the move was hailed as an important move in favor of good governance and accountability. The committee had agreed that the meetings would have been available to the public but, some eight months later the public has yet to be allowed to view the proceedings. This morning, Cayo South Area Representative, Minister Julius Espat, appeared on The Morning Show and explained why the meetings are still closed to the public.

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “I would like to see immediate results. It’s just how we do things. I managed to immediately get the PAC reconstituted so that it is now the Joint Public Accounts Committee which I think was very important. Well it is now in the hands of the Honorable Tracy Panton and so it is her to decide how to move forward that’s how the system is done. I  have just requested that I stay on the committee as government’s representative because so that we can have some level of continuity. We have placed on the table that we want to analyze the Auditor General’s report that our pending since 2012. You have  Auditor General’s report that was submitted the House of Representatives from 2012 and because of political reasons they haven’t been analyzed.” 

Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: Well we’ve had Ms. Tracy Panton Taeger here she alluded to the fact that she wants to have the meetings and it’s not her fault. 

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “She is chairman how can she say that? She calls the meeting? I have a record of every meeting that is called I am there she can testify to that.” 

Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: But nothing is coming out of those meetings. 

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “That’s the chairman’s responsibility. You have to understand that Public Accounts Committee is set up so that the opposition chairs it. It’s done for a purpose.” 

Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show:  But information they can’t work without information they want more records. 

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “One thing that we have failed at which was part of the agreement we made when we reconstituted the PAC was that all meetings should be held public and every meeting I am on record telling the chairman that these meetings have to be held in public and none have been held in public up to now.” 

Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: So the chairman decides that? 

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “The chairman decides that but it will get to a level where the chairman will not be able to decide that because we will make sure that the standing orders are followed and if I have to make the Speaker make a pronouncement on that then we will. It was agreed that all meetings are to be held in public except maybe one or two to be able to decide on administrative issues and if you don’t believe me that’s why it’s important that the members of the social partners are there. You have Ms. Elena Smith who is a PAC member representing the unions. You have the gentleman from the Chamber of Commerce I don’t remember his name Herrera he is a Senator now. You had the NGO president at the time Mr.Osmany and now will be replaced by Ms. Chanona they also sit on that meeting so they can verify exactly what I’m saying. It is on record that I have been placing every meeting that the meeting should be held in public and that we should be analyzing parallel. This is the proposal I made to the chairlady. Let’s look at the analysis on a parallel view. Let’s look at the 2012 Auditor General’s report up to date and at the same time let’s look at the present budget so that you can’t say it’s political. One meeting is a look at what’s pending another meeting is to look at what’s present. I think that’s a fair proposal.”