March 06, 2015
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Hubert Chipman continues to express frustration with the inability of the members of the PAC to meet consistently, despite having majority Opposition membership.
Chipman, the Free National Movement (FNM) MP for St. Anne's, told Guardian Business that he couldn't count on a quorum for the meeting scheduled for today (Friday), and that it has been difficult to secure consistent attendance even with the traditional week's notice. The PAC consists of five members: three from the Opposition (FNM MPs Peter Turnquest, Richard Lightbourn and Chipman as chair), and two from the Government (PLP MPs Shane Gibson and Ryan Pinder).
No Quorum At present, the group is scheduled to meet every Friday, but Chipman confirms that is not happening. "What happens when one of my guys isn't there? It takes three members to have a quorum, and I've had challenges. Just looking at July 17, 2014, no quorum. September 4, 2014, no quorum. October 24, no quorum. October 31, no quorum. You can go down the line," he said. Clearly frustrated, Chipman explained that he had complained about the matter already. "I told my leader there is no excuse for this (kind of behavior)," he said.
"Because at the end of the day we have the majority...I have brought it to the attention of the Speaker (of the House of Assembly). "It is a very, very important thing. It is one of the most important committees in Parliament," Chipman said. "But for some strange reason, people just don't take this seriously." Noting his previous experience on Parliamentary committees, Chipman said he was unprepared for what appears to be a chronic inability to meet. And in fact, Chipman reported that one of the Opposition members has already given notice that he will not be present, as has one of the Government members: today's meeting will be contingent on the remaining three members being present at the meeting. Added to attendance issues, Chipman noted the lack of PAC-specific resources.
"We don't have any staff. We have no budget. The whole system is broken," he said. "The computer in the House of Assembly doesn't work. The printers don't work. And you expect the committee to work?" "I came out of the private sector. I am not accustomed to this. I worked 36 years at Ernst and Young, so until I got into politics I never understood how bad the system was.
Information Clog "The whole problem with the system is that information is not forthcoming. You can request information, but it'll be months before you get things," Chipman said. "And (Prime Minister Perry) Christie will get on the floor (of the House of Assembly) and say 'just ask for it, we'll give it to you.'
Well it doesn't work that way," he said. According to Chipman, the PAC needs its own budget and staff, because without those important tools, the work of the committee is being stymied. "There is no question about it: it should not run this way," he said.
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