Public Accounts Committee Bill passes to provide better oversight on public expenditure

(SKNIS):After two days of intense debate among parliamentarians in St. Kitts and Nevis,the Public Accounts Committee Bill, 2017,was passed into law on Friday, August 11, in the House of Assembly to provide better oversight on public expenditure.

The Public Accounts Committee Bill, 2017, makes provisions for the establishment of a Public Accounts Committee.According to the legislation, the Committee will comprise members of both the Government and the Opposition.

It addresses how the Chairman and Deputy Chairman should be selected, stating that “if the Leader of the Opposition is a member of the Committee he or she shall be offered the option to Chair the Committee before all other members” and that “there shall be a Deputy Chairman, who shall be elected by the members from time to time and shall hold office as Deputy Chairman during the pleasure of the Committee.”

The legislation also outlines how often the Committee should meet, what constitutes a quorum, how voting should be conducted, the power of the Committee to summon witnesses and who can be called as a witness, among other matters.

Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, was the mover of the Bill. He described the Bill as “historic” and said that it would set the legal framework for the proper functioning of a Public Accounts Committee. The prime minister said, “we open government to the sunshine of public scrutiny because we do not intend to hide the public’s business from the people.”

Equally important, the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was also passed into law on Friday, August 11. The Fourth Schedule to the Principal Act was amended by replacing section 70(4) to now read “The duties and powers of the Public Accounts Committee shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act, 2017.”

Mover of the Bill, the Honourable Vincent Byron, Attorney General,said that, “the purpose of the Bill is to amend the National Assembly Elections Act, Cap. 2.01. Mr. Speaker this amendment, this proposed amendment would be as a consequence of the Public Accounts Committee Bill, as a consequence of the passing of the Public Accounts Committee Bill by the National Assembly.”

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