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PAC says no to sanctioning delinquent agencies

Published:Wednesday | July 6, 2016 | 7:00 AMChristopher Serju

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday shot down a recommendation from Julian Robinson to bring sanctions against delinquent agencies that fail to respond within the timelines prescribed by the auditor general.

The member of parliament (MP) for South East St Andrew was responding to concerns from Fitz Jackson, MP for South St Catherine, about the failure of some agencies to adequately respond to the auditor general in reasonable time

He argued that the usual response time of three weeks to one month should be cut, since most of the entities deliberately disregard the auditor general's request for information.

"They ignore it. Not even the courtesy sometimes of acknowledging what is sent to them. So they ignore it all along in the normal course of time provided by the AG Department for them to respond to the query ... bearing in mind that the things that come to us is after the AG would have sent the query and asked them to respond. They would have known long before that these matters are outstanding. So I think they should be given no more than about two weeks," an obviously peeved Jackson declared.

However, committee chairman, Dr Peter Phillips, argued that Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis does have all the powers at her disposal to "cause them to respond when she chooses".

Robinson then asked if a shortening of a response timeline would improve the efficiency of PAC proceedings, and when Phillips replied in the negative, he served up this recommendation.

"So the solution is really not about shortening the period but having some sanctions," Robinson insisted. However, Phillips would not be swayed, arguing that punishing the delinquents would not necessarily have the desired results.

"I think there are, no doubt, recalcitrant agencies, but the majority do reply in a timely fashion. I don't think one should necessarily make rules because of the few recalcitrant ones."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com