22 December, 2006

Public Accounts Committee

Public Accounts Committee”. The Constitution of Anguilla provides for the Leader of the Opposition to chair a parliamentary committee of this name. The principal function of the PAC, under the Westminster style system, is to oversee the expenditure of public funds. It functions like one of those famous “Senate oversight” committees we see so much of on US television.

Our problem is that in Anguilla, as in so many of our Caribbean islands, the PAC has not functioned for many years. The fact that we presently do not have a ‘Leader of the Opposition” is not a good excuse. For those who are unaware, we have two opposition representatives in the Assembly. They are the Hon Hubert Hughes and the Hon Edison Baird. They have not agreed on who is to act as the official Leader of the Opposition. The Governor has been unable to appoint anyone to this important constitutional position. That situation has only existed for one year. For decades we have not had a functioning PAC.

A correspondent points out to me that there is one in the West Indies that is functional. It is the PAC in Bermuda. There was an interesting article in last week’s paper. It would be interesting to learn how well it works. And, what they are doing that Anguilla is not doing. See as examples the Royal Gazette. And, also. And, yet another.


  1. We in Anguilla do have an advantage over our independent Commonwealth Caribbean neighbours. We have an independent Chief Auditor appointed by the Governor, not a politician. But the advantage is not complete. Unless the Chief Auditor has sufficient resources that are independent of political whims, the scheme falls down. In AXA at the moment that is not an issue, no thanks to the Constitution, but rather to the desire of the GoA to do the right thing. The problem exists in all independent countries, where no distinction is drawn between an internal and an external auditor. Although the Constitutions of independent countries protect the auditor personally from arbitrary dismissal or reduction of emoluments, he is still a mere Director and as such reports to the Minister of Finance, who can, and often has, put great pressure on Auditors not to report things. He’s protected in law from taking on inappropriate tasks, but the reality is another matter. He can be hamstrung by not giving him staff or more commonly giving him poorly trained staff. Audit is commonly a dumping ground for non-functioning civil servants.

    All Constitutions in the Caribbean should be amended to make the Auditor responsible only to the House, a committee of which would hire him and dismiss him when necessary. The House or a committee of the house would annually determine the appropriation necessary for sustaining the office of the auditor and would make a recommendation to the Minister of Finance as to the appropriate appropriation. (His office would be independent in law and in fact.) While the Estimates are not binding on the Govt, such a recommendation as to what money is required would normally be treated as binding. The Canadian system upon which this is modeled is not constitutionalised, but its provisions could be easily adapted for that purpose. See the Auditor General Act of Manitoba and the Auditor General Act of Canada on the hiring and s. 27 and 19 respectively of those Acts for the treatment of estimates.

    I believe this is an idea whose time has come in the Caribbean.

  2. I'd like to thank the last person for their thoughtful comments on the Chief Auditor.

    Let's say I'm in the trucking business and I rent two trucks to government. I make a deal with the corrupt PS whereby I invoice government for 3 trucks, the PS approves it and I split the rent for the third truck with him. Once a week I drive the third truck to Public Works for diesel, so the fuel records will conform. Realistically, is the auditor likely to uncover our plot? (I'm not implying here that such a thing is happening with trucks.)


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