Virgin Islands Party (VIP) leader Andrew Fahie wants to grant more powers to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to the extent where it (the PAC) can, in a sense, override Cabinet decisions if it determines that those decisions reflect poor or ‘questionable’ governance.
In a public statement on Thursday, Fahie promised to facilitate such a move if his party is elected as the next government.
“The Public Accounts Committee’s reach should extend into the government’s affairs to the extent that any Cabinet decision made outside of the scope of government policies can be ceased and re-evaluated rather than waiting until when monies would have already been wasted and not properly accounted for,” Fahie said.
“A VIP government will ensure that a Public Accounts Committee has the authority needed to deal with the government of the day in regards to any misappropriation of funds and any fraudulent or questionable acts,” he added.
He made the promise against the backdrop of the challenges he claims to have faced when he served as Chairman of the PAC — a post held by whoever sits as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
The PAC is effectively in place to monitor government and its handling of the public’s purse and accounts.
Government made to ‘go rogue’
When the PAC had comprised legislators from a two-member parliamentary opposition as well as members who sat on government’s backbench (legislators who do not sit as Cabinet members) last year, Fahie said the PAC was unable to function because government members neglected to attend the committee meetings.
“This intentional disrespectful behaviour, especially by the members of the sitting government who were members of the PAC, contributed to the many questionable actions by ministers to go unchecked. Your VIP will amend the laws to make it mandatory that members of the Public Accounts Committee must attend scheduled meetings and stop shortchanging the taxpayers,” Fahie said.
He said some examples of government “going rogue” and making questionable decisions with impunity are the $7.2 million BVI Airways deal, the cruise pier $30 million cost overran project, and the sewerage scandal whereby government, according to Fahie, “illegally” took $8 million from the East End Sewerage project to help fund the aforesaid pier project.
He further reasoned that an empowered PAC is the only way to truly keep any government accountable.
Promise of consumer protection, freedom of information
Fahie then outlined other plans a VIP government would implement such as passing consumer protection, freedom of information, and whistleblower legislation.
These laws, he said, will “assist in the restoring of democracy and good governance”.
“I must highlight that all of the aforementioned [legislation] were promises made and promises not kept by the sitting government,” Fahie said.
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