Prime Minister Briceno Faces Unprecedented Questioning by Joint Public Accounts Committee
Prime Minister John Briceno was called before the Joint Public Accounts Committee yesterday in Belmopan. The move is unprecedented as a prime minister has never been called before the JPAC. According to Briceno, he was a bit curious and hesitant when he was notified, but is very happy that he responded to the call.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “This morning the public accounts, 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 issue 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. So I was very happy that we had the opportunity to be able 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’re not balancing it, we don’t do it, the 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, the first time when they told me they wanted to call me first thing comes to mind, 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.”
A release from the Government Press Office states that the Prime Minister was informed of missing reports on public accounts. The committee further informed him that the last national audit report was produced for the financial year 2014-2015. The members also shared with the Prime Minister, the challenges and issues being faced by both the Accountant General and the Auditor General in meeting the deadlines and obligations outlined in the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act. The Committee stated that the government financial system is in dire need of rectification as the system is completely non-functional. Love News understands that Prime Minister Briceno assured the Committee that he will assist, as much as possible, in reaching a solution to improve the ongoing backlogs.