House Speaker to rule on scope of PAC probes

House Speaker to rule on scope of PAC probes
Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie. (FILE PHOTO)

PAC limited to probing tabled reports

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie said he plans to rule on the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) scope of investigations by the opening of Parliament after it breaks for the summer.

In May 2015, former speaker of the House Dr. Kendal Major ordered that the committee confine its investigations to documents tabled in Parliament.

He made the decision after receiving an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General that said the PAC’s probe in the Christie administration’s Urban Renewal program was “legally improper” as the auditor general’s report, which raised serious concerns with the use of public funds in the program, had not been laid before the House.

Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, Moultrie said, “The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament should be the committee that would carry out some of the functions that are being legislated to be carried out by the Fiscal Responsibility Council.

“… I sort of delayed my ruling with respect to the request of the opposition to review the ruling of the former speaker.

“The difficulty I am having is; I am having all sorts of problems getting the House Business and Rules committee to meet because there are certain deficiencies in the rules that should be corrected, and I would like to have [that] in place prior to my ruling.

“And so, I am being put in the position now where I will have to make recommendations in my ruling with respect to the changes in the rules because it doesn’t look like that is going to happen before we go into summer recess.

“I really want to be able to have my ruling prepared over the summer recess and to be ready for the opening of Parliament.”

According to PAC Chairman Philip Brave Davis, its work has been stifled due a lack of response from the government, and not because of Major’s rulings, which he said the government has used to justify a lack of cooperation.

Former committee member Reece Chipman, the Centreville MP, resigned from the committee in January, citing a lack of action on its part.

Centreville MP Reece Chipman

According to Moultrie, suggestions that the committee is functionless is not entirely true, noting that there have been a number of reports tabled, including those by the auditor general, relating to a wide range of government agencies and departments that could be probed by the committee.

In his ruling, Major also said the committee’s powers to send for persons, papers and records could only be exercised in the “performance of its functions delegated by the House and subject to any parliamentary or statutory limitations that may apply”.

The PAC is the only committee in Parliament majority led by the opposition.

Other members of the committee including, Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper, Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes and South Andros MP Picewell Forbes.