Thu | Dec 8, 2016

A chance to show interest in accountability

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Edmund Bartlett, chairman of the PAAC. - File

A.C. Countz, Gleaner Columnist

Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, under the chairmanship of Edmund Bartlett, is meeting this week.

It will be interesting to see whether this important committee takes any interest whatsoever in the tragic delays that take place in producing public entity accounts, particularly after Opposition spokesman for finance Audley Shaw has, quite correctly, made such a song and dance about the absence of Outameni accounts.

The committee members - all of whom should show interest - are Chairman Bartlett, Lloyd B. Smith, Fitz Jackson, Richard Parchment, Mikeal Phillips, Denise Daley, Raymond Pryce, Dr Dayton Campbell, Audley Shaw, Dr Horace Chang, Lester Michael Henry, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, Dr Winston Green, Dr Andrew Wheatley, Damion Crawford, Jolyan Silvera and Andrew Hylton.

If the committee is serious about public accountability, it should request and table a comprehensive report, available to the public, on the status of the accounts of all public entities with deadlines for them all to be brought up to date.

Let's see if the committee members have the will to act.

Meantime, the Auditor General surprisingly has failed to comply with the request sent to her on October 14 asking for details of the backlog of accounts awaiting audit by her office.

Response to requests under the Access to Information Act are meant to be made within 30 days.

This column also wrote to Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, QC, on September 26 2014, asking him to detail the sanctions his department has taken against public entities that fail to produce their accounts within four months after the close of the financial year.

He was also asked whether there is any legal restraint placed on public entities releasing their accounts prior to the accounts being tabled in Parliament. His department has requested more time to respond. It is now over two months since the original letter.

GETTING THE RUNAROUND

The Office of the Prime Minister and its agency, the Constituency Development Fund, have so far failed to provide copies of any accounts for the Constituency Development Fund - in spite of requests sent repeatedly from as early as February of this year.

The total disregard for requests under the Access to Information Act is appalling.

Who does one appeal to if the Office of the Prime Minister is so lax and the agency responsible for imposing sanctions - the Attorney General - takes so long to reply?

This column wrote to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM) asking for a schedule of entities that report to the ministry.

This seems a simple matter to address, but the information has not been forthcoming "as the ministry has been experiencing short staff due to illness", it replied. Now that the incidence of chik-V is reduced, perhaps we could get an answer.

Additionally, the accounts requested from the same ministry for the Postal Corporation of Jamaica have not been forthcoming.

However, MSTEM has advised of the details amounting to US$3.812 million spent on the LNG project by the last government. More on this at a later date.

Come on, Mr Paulwell, get with the spirit of accountability; so should your permanent secretary, Hilary Alexander.

The Ministry of Health has also failed to provide us with accounts for the Cornwall Regional Hospital, despite that request having been sent at the start of September. Does this mean that the Cornwall Regional Hospital, which falls under the Western Regional Health Authority, has no accounts?

This column reviews the audited and in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government.

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