BELIZE CITY, Wed July 13, 2022
Regional Representative for Albert Division and Chairman of the Joint Public Accounts Committee (JPAC), the Hon. Tracy Panton, responded to a joint letter sent by four social partner senators, who in this letter called for the convening of a JPAC meeting as soon as possible. When asked by local media yesterday, Panton pointed out that she did not receive a copy of the letter directly, but only learned of the senators’ scathing message via the media.
“I am a little disturbed, given what I thought was a relationship of mutual respect between colleagues, that a letter of this nature should be shared with the local media without ensuring that a copy was received by the president, giving me an appropriate time to respond,” Panton said.
She acknowledged the fact that a meeting was due to take place in April, but noted that life-altering experiences for her entire family (including the death of her husband, Herbert Panton) forced her to take time off. during the months of April and May. .
“So, indeed, a meeting is overdue of the Joint Public Accounts Committee, and it is certainly in the interest of all parties that such a meeting be convened as soon as possible,” Panton said.
Panton went on to say that she has since written to the Clerk of the National Assembly after seeing a copy of the letter and that in that correspondence she suggested two dates as early as next week that the JPAC meeting could be held. She noted that three meetings were called during her presidency this year – one where JPAC met with outgoing Auditor General Dorothy Bradley and a meeting with the Accountant General. She said the meeting that had been scheduled for April was to be held with the financial secretary, Joseph Waight, but he was unable to attend due to a court case. She added that she hoped JPAC would agree to pressure the government to expedite the selection of a new auditor general.
“We still don’t have an Auditor General, to my knowledge. I checked with my colleague the Minister of Public Service last week, in fact, to get an idea of when an Auditor General will be appointed or if any candidates have been recommended for the position, and he replied, not yet. The work of the Office of the Auditor General is instructive and essential to the work of JPAC; we share a symbiotic relationship in that sense, so hopefully one of the things that can come out of the meeting, and which I hope will happen quickly, is a call for the government to put in place a Auditor General and ensuring that the Office of the Auditor General operates with the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency so that we have these reports to review,” Panton said.
Panton further pointed out that no new reports of concern have been issued by the Auditor General’s office during this legislature and she believed that the Auditor General’s last report tabled in the House of Representatives was published in 2012.
“As long as there is still [might] To the credit of us looking at this report, to see how the system can be improved, I also think it’s imperative that we look at current public spending. You know, I think of the extent of our national COVID-19 relief program, for example, I think it took review and input from the Auditor General and the joint public accounts committee, for example. So I certainly have no reservations about calling a meeting and look forward to doing so soon,” Panton said.
In an interview today, the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Briceño, also commented on the vacancy of the Auditor General. He said that in a conversation he had with Dorothy Bradley, the former auditor general, she hinted that she was willing to take the job until a suitable candidate was chosen. Finding a suitable candidate has been difficult for the government, the prime minister said.