Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Bunting: Senate president’s tabling of reports ‘chaotic and confusing’

Published:Saturday | July 15, 2023 | 12:10 AM
Senator Peter Bunting, leader of opposition business
Senator Peter Bunting, leader of opposition business

LEADER OF Opposition Business in the Upper House, Senator Peter Bunting, has described as “chaotic and confusing” the approach taken by Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson in tabling reports from the Integrity Commission (IC) and the Auditor General’s Department (AuGD).

“Just last week, you told us that you were not tabling any of these reports until the opinion from the attorney general (was available), which the Speaker sought in writing,” Bunting said.

He was making reference to at least two reports from the IC which were not tabled in the Senate the week before.

“Notwithstanding the Speaker not having this opinion, the reports of the Integrity Commission were tabled in the House earlier this week and today here in the Senate,” Bunting said.

He asked the president to clarify the situation, arguing that “on the face of it, it seems very arbitrary and capricious”.

Tavares-Finson, in his response, said he was not in a position to address how Bunting analysed the developments.

“Arbitrary and capricious, your words. If you had taken the time to listen to the Speaker, you would have heard her say that ‘following discussions with the Attorney General Chambers she had taken a decision to table the documents’,” he said.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, had written to Attorney General Derrick McKoy seeking an interpretation of Section 30 of the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act.

Tavares-Finson yesterday signalled that McKoy has sent correspondence to Parliament detailing his opinion on Section 30 of the FAA Act.

Formal correspondence received

He told his senatorial colleagues that a formal correspondence had been received from the Attorney General’s Chambers on the matter, but he was not in a position to speak to it yesterday.

On July 4, Dalrymple Philibert made a decision to halt the tabling of three reports from the AuGD, arguing that her reading of the law was that the documents should be held for two months before being laid on the table of the House.

The Speaker’s decision reversed the decades-old convention of tabling reports from the AuGD as soon as possible after it was delivered to Gordon House.

In defending her position, the Speaker said she was guided by Section 30 of the FAA Act that states, among other things: “If the appropriate minister fails within two months after receipt of the report to present it to the House of Representatives, the auditor general shall transmit a copy of the report to the Speaker of the House to be presented by him to the House”.

The Speaker’s decision has ignited a torrent of criticism from civil society groups, the latest coming from the Advocates Network.

In a statement on Thursday, the Advocates Network said it viewed the recent actions by parliamentarians in delaying the tabling of reports from the AuGD and the IC as unacceptable.