Public Accounts Committee Aims to Increase Its Visibility

Grid of the UK funded project to improve Montserrat’ internal audit systems.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) intends to be more visible and transparent says Chairman and Hon. Leader of the Opposition Easton Taylor-Farrell.

Last week, Montserrat hosted their counterparts from the Scottish Parliament, Isle of Man, and the Parliament of Jamaica to look at how the local PAC can be improved.

The PAC is a constitutionally ordered body which has oversight of government spending. Hon. Member of Parliament Dr Samuel Joseph and Hon. Parliamentary Secretary Gregory Willock also sit on the bipartisan committee.

The members agreed that to date, the PAC has been very low key on island and not many people are aware of the role they play within the Legislative Assembly. The PAC is empowered to submit reports to parliament and to call for inquiries into public spending.

Hon. Michael Coleman from Tynwald, Isle of Man said the aim of the workshop was to expose Montserrat to the range of ways PACs are run across the British Overseas Territorities. He said it was not a one-size fits all operation and Montserrat has to design a process that will work for them.

Coleman said above all else, the PAC must have a reputation of being independent and that respect for the institution grows the more it demonstrates its independence. He also encouraged the use of the media to promote and to broadcast its activities in an effort to raise the profile of the committee.

Hon. Parliamentary Secretary Gregory Willock, Hon Michael Coleman, Isle of Man and Hon. Opposition Leader and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Easton Taylor-Farrell at the PAC media briefing on Friday, November 10, 2017.

Hon. Member of the Jamaica Parliament Mikaell Phillips and member of the visiting PAC team, said the role of the PAC was to look at how government funds are appropriated and to ensure value for money. He said the PAC was to do this by submitting reports in a timely fashion and  when they are tardy, the pressure must come from the media and civil society to ensure they do their job.

During the workshop, mock exercises were conducted to show the process of collecting evidence from civil servants. This is a process, the officials say is not meant to intimidate or penalise public servants. Hon Taylor-Farrell said over the next six months, Montserrat will see a difference in how the committee works.

The workshop is part of an ongoing project to support the improvement of the government’s internal audit systems and is funded by the UK Government,