By anguillian April 11, 2016 10:22



I cannot express how pleased I was to learn that increasing efforts are being made to ensure that the Public Accounts Committee of the Anguilla House of Assembly functions effectively. For those readers who may be unfamiliar, the Legislative Assembly Procedure Rules 1976 provide for the establishment of a standing committee of the House, known as the Public Accounts Committee, which should have no less than three and no more than five members drawn from both sides of the House. According to the legislation:

“(3) The House of Assembly shall from time to time appoint a Member of the Committee who is a member of the Opposition in the House to be Chairman of the Committee and may appoint another member of the House to fill any vacancy in the membership of the Committee occurring from time to time.

(4) The duties and powers of the Public Accounts Committee shall be as follows—

(a) to ascertain that the authorised expenditure during each financial year, including supplementary expenditure, has been applied to the purposes prescribed by the Legislature;

(b) to scrutinise the causes which may have led to any excess over authorised expenditure, and to verify applications of savings on other authorised items of expenditure;

(c) to make an effective examination of public accounts kept in any Department of Government; and

(d) to summon any public officer to give any information, or any explanation or to produce any records or documents which the Committee may consider necessary in the performance of its duties….
(6) The Public Accounts Committee shall submit its reports to the House from time to time.”
In keeping with the legislation, the current Public Accounts Committee is chaired by the Honourable Palmavon Webster, Leader of the Opposition. Mrs Evalie Bradley, Mr Terrence Harrigan and Mr Paul Harrigan are also members. Its duties are quite wide ranging and if used effectively can assist in ensuring prudence in Government spending. We are all aware that there have been occasions when the public has been highly critical of the manner in which taxpayers’ money is used. From time immemorial there have been subtle allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds which, in public knowledge, have never been probed. In addition to the audit function, the Public Accounts Committee can be seen as another means of protecting the interests of the public in that it assists in holding Government accountable for how public money is spent. If this Committee functions as it should there should be some positive changes in the way senior officers in Government operate. Sadly, there is nothing more effective at making persons do what they should be doing in the first place, than having someone (in this case an entity) looking over their shoulder.

However, despite the potential that an effective Public Accounts Committee holds we have to be conscious that, given the size of both our population and our legislature, the Committee will be laboring under serious challenges to its objectivity which it will have to make a deliberate effort to overcome. In short, the Committee will have to guard against being used as a political weapon or alternatively as political armour. This is the reality of our context and begs the question as to whether or not the Committee can be truly impartial.

In any event, I believe the effort must still be made to ensure that the Committee functions as it should. I applaud the efforts being made in this regard and I look forward to hearing of the positive outcomes. We ought to embrace any mechanism that can be used to improve accountability in Government. The entire country will benefit in the long run.

By anguillian April 11, 2016 10:22


Latest Poll

Do you like the new layout of the Anguillian ?