December 8, 2006

Empowering the Director of Audit, Public Accounts Committee


Part 5

The Constitutional Review Commission has made significant recommendations on the monitoring and auditing of the state finances.

They focused on two main areas: that of the independence of the Director of Audit and the effectiveness of the Public Accounts Committee.

Director of Audit

Currently the Director of Audit is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Public Service Commission after consultation with the Prime Minister. Once appointed, that person has the same tenure as does a Judge of the High Court.

“In order to preserve his/her independence, the Director of Audit should be appointed by the Public Service Commission on the recommendation of the National Assembly and not in consultation with the Prime Minister,” the commission recommended.{{more}}

In addition, they have removed one step in the process of submitting the Annual Report of the Director of Audit to the National Assembly. The present process is to send to the Minister of Finance who then has seven days to submit it to the Speaker of the National Assembly. If he fails to do so then the Director of Audit may submit it directly. The review commission has recommended that the Director of Audit submit directly to the Speaker.

They also recommended that the director be given the power to investigate the financial affairs of all public corporations, some of whom presently fall outside of the authority of his office.

It was also recommended that the National Assembly be empowered to investigate the conduct of the director and that the director be consulted by the Public Service Commission before any changes are made to his staff.

Public Accounts Committee

The Constitution provides for the appointment of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) while the practice has been to appoint the Leader of the Opposition as the Chairman. The shortcoming is that the majority of the members is selected from the majority party and Public Accounts Committees have been known never to be able to convene for lack of quorum.

The review commission has made recommendations to turn this around.

• Firstly, they recommended that the Minority Leader (as the Opposition Leader will be referred if recommendations are accepted) should be enshrined in the Constitution as the Chairman of the PAC.

• Secondly, the PAC should be structured so that the majority of its members do not belong to the majority party in Parliament.

• Thirdly, the PAC should be given the power to summon public officers and relevant public financial documents, and fourthly the PAC should have the power “exercisable with the consent of the National Assembly, to engage the services of accountants and other technical experts at public expense, to assist the proper discharge of its functions”.