"I would like to ask the government to ensure that in our new [national] budget there are resources in there to support the work of the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC)," Belize Network of Non-government Organization (BNN) Senator Osmany Salas urged in Wednesday's Senate Meeting.
Salas, who rose to speak on the third General Revenue Supplementary 2021/22, lamented the JPAC's lack of support and resources which has prevented the committee from functioning appropriately. "The JPAC was set up seven months ago," Salas reminded. "[Yet] we are nowhere close to starting the job that the JPAC was intended to do, which is to examine, consider and report on the accounts."
Salas indicated that the delays are, once again, tied to politics. "Your politics takes precedence as usual," he scolded. "There are always the different excuses and reasons as to why we cannot meet and engage."
The Joint Public Accounts Committees, established last July, is an expanded version of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which originally had membership from only the two political parties represented in the House. The House of Representatives (Amendment) Standing Orders 2021 amended section 73 of the Orders by adding the following provision:
"The Joint Public Accounts Committee shall consist of nine members as follows ... three members nominated by the President of the Senate from among the social partner members of the Senate.”
The reconstitution of the committee represented the first time that social-partner senators were allowed to join the PAC. "When the JPAC was first set up, we hailed it as a bold move from the Government," Salas reminded. "For the first time, the non-government representative on the JPAC would outnumber the government representatives. Seven months and nothing has happened."
However, despite the broad support for the creation of the JPAC, Salas criticized the lack of support that has the committee nowhere "close to starting the job."