Now that the members of the Public Accounts Committee(PAC) have been appointed, it will have the uphill task of examining and reporting on the expenditure of tax dollars by the government in the last five years says Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran.
In his latest writings, Goolsarran noted that the PAC’s work has been badly neglected over the years, resulting in a backlogged examination of and reporting on the public accounts. The last report PAC report was in respect of the years 2012-2014. It therefore means that the PAC is still to deliberate and report on the public accounts for the years 2015-2018. (The official release of the 2019 Auditor General’s report has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Goolsarran said that this state of affairs is most undesirable, considering that the Government’s financial stewardship does not end until the entire public accountability cycle is completed. The former Auditor General noted that the cycle includes budget execution; mid-year and end-of-year reporting on the execution of the budget; annual financial reporting, ex-post evaluation by the legislative auditor and reporting to the Assembly; PAC examination and reporting back to the Assembly; and the Government’s response via the Treasury Memorandum.
In principle, Goolsarran said that the cycle ought to be completed within 12 months of the close of the fiscal year to enable the full and complete discharge of the Government’s accountability responsibilities to the nation. He was keen to point out that this also facilitates consideration of the next fiscal year’s budget.
On that note, the Chartered Accountant said, “It is undesirable for the National Budget to be considered in isolation of detailed scrutiny of the results of the execution of the budget of the preceding year in the form of the legislative audit report, the results of the PAC examination, and the Treasury Memorandum.”
By the time the PAC gets its act together, Goolsarran asserted that the findings and recommendations of the Auditor General would have been overtaken by time. “And given the struggles we had to endure, the battles that we had to fight to restore public accountability after a 10-year gap, we must not only guard against any further slippages but also continuously strive to effect improvements in our system of public accountability,” the Chartered Accountant concluded.
The nine members of the recently constituted PAC are as follows: PPP/C: Gail Teixeira (Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance), Juan Edghill (Minister of Public Works), Dharamkumar Seeraj, Vishwa Mahadeo and Sanjeev Datadin; and APNU+AFC: David Patterson, Juretha Fernandes, Ganesh Mahipaul and Jermaine Figueira.
The PAC’s key responsibility is to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the Assembly to meet public expenditure and such other accounts laid before the Assembly.