Friday, November 23, 2012

THE MYTH OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE IN THE BELIZE GOVERNMENT - the enabling license to steal from tax revenues in Belize-

This message sent to the Bz-Culture Mailing List from "G. Michael Reid" <gmikereid@gmail.com>:
The hullabaloo surrounding the Public Accounts Committee has died down
some but it is in the interest of all Belizeans to revive this and
keep it going.  While many have, as is the case with just about every
subject in Belize, pigeonholed this issue as just another red and blue
rift, it is far from being that and is a matter that should be in
everyone’s interest to pursue further.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is one of six House Committees but
the only one that is chaired by a member of the opposition.  There is,
without doubt, a very good reason why the framers of our Constitution
decided to implement this safeguard as it is designed to hold our
elected officials accountable.  For the most part, everything else
gives the majority members in the House a free run of things and it is
utterly ridiculous to run a government without some sort of checks and
balances in place.

What the people of Belize should realize, is that what Julius Espat is
trying to do, will not just work to hold this current government in
check, but any subsequent government that comes into office.  Once the
PAC becomes active and functional, it will not be easy to break the
fetters that we so desperately need to bind these politicians to the
order of good governance.

A main function of the PAC is to examine the report of the Auditor
General.  Unfortunately, the Public Accounts Committee has been
practically dormant for many, many years.  As a result, it matters not
what type of damning evidence is produced in the Auditor General’s
Report or even if there is any report at all.  Without a functional
Public Accounts Committee, the government of the day can do whatever
it wants to with taxpayer’s money and has no one to answer to.

Honorable Julius Espat should be considered heroic for what he is
trying to do.  It will not be popular in Belmopan and already the
smear campaign is in full effect.  Last week, the UDP’s El Guardian
dedicated its entire front page to the disparaging of Espat and the
UDP radio station has been constantly ridiculing and deriding this
honorable member of the House. The fact is that never has a head of
this committee, neither blue nor red, stood so resolute to demand
performance by the committee.

In an interview on Love FM, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, among other
things, discussed the controversy surrounding the PAC.  Unfortunately,
instead of looking into the matter with a fair mind and with an end
toward finding the truth about what was happening, the Prime Minister
immediately took up the defense of his Ministers. It is obvious that
the Prime Minister and his ministers, who sit on the committee, met
and got their stories together.  They all seemed to be singing from
the same song sheet.

Mr. Barrow had just returned from one of his many and extended trips
abroad and would obviously have had no firsthand knowledge of what was
going on.  Yet, he professed to know word for word what had transpired
in the meeting and who said what and when and even what the agenda was
supposed to have and not have.  When asked about a very current
situation however, that being the McAfee affair, the Prime Minister
denied knowing the man or anything about the man.  “If you show me his
picture”, said the Prime Minister, “I would not be able to recognize
him”.  This after McAfee’s picture had been plastered all over the
news for several days and after the same McAfee had donated on several
occasions to the Police Department. The Prime Minister also seemed to
know very little about anything else that had been happening in the
country.  It seems that all Mr. Barrow’s attention had been focused
entirely on matters connected to or coincidental with the Public
Affairs Committee.

The truth of the matter is that had not the President of the Chamber
of Commerce taken the time to write a letter to both the Prime
Minister and the Leader of the Opposition demanding action, there
probably would not have been a quorum for that meeting; which has been
the case for just about every meeting of this committee since
Independence.  The Chamber of Commerce, the Opposition and indeed the
people of Belize need to continue to demand that this Public Accounts
Committee get busy and get on with the work that it was established to
do.

The Prime Minister and his ministers have all stated that they are
anxious to see this committee work.  Why then do they continue their
attempt to frustrate the process?  Instead of attacking Julius Espat
and using the standing orders as an obstacle, the members of the
committee should get on with the task of dissecting the Auditor
General’s Reporting and questioning the Auditor General herself.  This
is not about Julius Espat, it is about the good governance which was
the very platform upon which this party ran and which was prominently
promised in the manisfesto of the United Democratic Party.

The Prime Minister also stated that once the committee gets active, he
does not want the committee to review anything current.  He wants the
committee to start back as early as 1999, which was the beginning of
the first term of the last administration.  This is an entirely
arrogant and ridiculous suggestion.  Let the committee start current
and then work its way back as it finds the time.  If that’s the case,
we can work back as far as Independence but to ignore what is
happening now and concentrate instead on what has happened then is
ludicrous.  That was the job for committees back then which were in
fact, chaired of members of this government which was then in
opposition. Obviously, none of them had the will or integrity of a
Julius Espat.  Let us all stand behind Julius and insist that the
Public Accounts Committee perform its function and hold this runaway
government in check.  Big respect to Julius Espat for his bold
intiative!
                     _________________________________________

The Public Accounts Committee is a check and balance on the political party in power spending and embezzling.  So far, in the short history of Belize, BOTH the major winning parties have succeeded in denying this committee the ability to form and operate. Thus they steal and embezzle with impunity.

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