(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee told government that he expects a response from it on the reports he tabled following the PAC’s recent review of several auditor general reports on public spending issues. The final part of the process for each of the audit reports once PAC has made its recommendations is for government to produce a ‘minute’ to the LA which sets out how it will address the findings. Ezzard Miller also raised concerns about civil servants not cooperating with the parliamentary committee tasked with examining the audit office’s reports and making recommendations, as he accused them of shifting responsibility for things that had gone wrong to others.
He said PAC had largely endorsed the findings of the Office of the Auditor General on the reports that were tabled because there was no evidence before the committee to contradict them. However, Miller noted that in many cases where government was trying to meet the recommendations, timelines were not being given by the public authorities involved.
He also said PAC was particularly concerned that a lot of work still needed to be done to address the auditors’ concerns about the delivery of social welfare. Miller said the Needs Assessment Unit was concentrating on increasing the headcount to better deliver services but PAC recommended an overhaul of the entire system to reduce the bureaucracy that members believe is at the heart of the problems.
Miller also condemned the behavior of civil servants following the hearings on the controversial audit report on the issue of national development as well as those on government projects. Miller said senior staff was unwilling to cooperate or accept responsibility for the problems identified in the reports or for carrying out the recommendations.
He said senior ministry staff management gave “evasive and inadequate” answers to the committee and, falling short of accusing the civil servants of lying, he said that on at least two occasions the committee had evidence that did not support the claims of chief officers.
Concerned over what he said were attempts to shift the blame for issues relating to the reports, which he said “sailed close to contempt”, he urged the deputy governor to ensure that when chief officers appear before a parliamentary committee that they give clear accurate evidence.
Miller also encouraged government to create a hospitality policy in line with the travel policy to address the recommendations in the report regarding government spending on entertainment, as he pointed to the pressing need to minimise the risk of public cash being mishandled in this area.
When it came to the report on the Nation Building Fund audit, Miller urged government to take steps to prevent a repeat occurrence of the mismanagement of the controversial fund.
Asking for a response from government to all of the PAC reports tabled within three months, Miller, who returned to the committee just last year, said that the current committee was functioning very well.