St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Some of the differences between the British Public Accounts Committee and that of the federation are being highlighted by Operation Rescue’s Dwyer Astaphan.
He focused on the issue during the organization’s weekly radio programme, explaining that the federation’s PAC has a much greater number of MPs percentage-wise than that of the British parliament.
“The party in power in England is the Conservative Party, there are 15 members of the PAC in England. Eight of the 15 are Conservative MPs, that’s the majority, the other seven are from the opposition but under the British rules the Chairperson of the PAC has to be from the opposition. Now let’s put this in perspective, the maximum number of members a PAC can have in Britain is 16, you know how many members are in the House of Commons in England, 650. So the size of the PAC in the British House of Commons in relation to the total membership of the House of Commons is miniscule, maximum of 16 out of 650, that by my vulgar reckoning is less than three percent of the total amount. You have a small parliament here with how many people, 14 or so, and you could have up to five of them being on a PAC , that’s 30 percent. So you have to look at the differential, it’s a good idea but sometimes you have to adapt to your realities.”
Operation Rescue’s Astaphan cites what he considers other telling differences that should be noted by the federation’s MPs.
“And based on the limited research that I have done on this none of the members of the PAC in the United Kingdom are front benchers. None are ministers if you are from the government side and none are former ministers, whether you are from the government side or the opposition. The members of the PAC in the British parliament, regardless of which side they area on politically, they take their work as members of the PAC very seriously and they try their best not to confuse their work with party affiliation. So it makes it easier for the PAC in Britain to function without being compromised in any way.”
He also made reference to the argument about PAC meetings being held either in public or private saying “PAC meetings in England are held in public, most of them, but there is no rule that says they have to be whether in public or private.”
Under the new legislation in St Kitts and Nevis, Public Accounts Committee meetings will be held in private, a measure the parliamentary opposition is frowning on.
On the PAC itself, Astaphan says it is important, especially for those involved, to understand the remit of Committee.
“The Public Accounts Committee is principally concerned with whether policy is carried out efficiently, effectively and economically rather than with the merits of the policy. The committee’s main functions are to see that public monies are applied for the purposes prescribed by parliament, that extravagance and waste are minimized and that sound financial practices are encouraged in estimating, contracting and in administration generally. That basically is the remit of a Public Accounts Committee wherever you’ll find it, in any parliament in any part of the world, whatever it may be called.”