Photo: Members of the government benches
Public Accounts Committee Bill passes
Basseterre, St. Kitts – After two days of intense debate among parliamentarians in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Public Accounts Committee Bill 2017 was passed into law Aug. 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.
The prime minister, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, was the mover of the bill, describing it as “historic” and saying that it would set the legal framework for the proper functioning of a Public Accounts Committee. “We open government to the sunshine of public scrutiny because we do not intend to hide the public’s business from the people,” he said.
Equally important, the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 was also passed into law Aug. 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.”
The mover of the bill, the Hon. Vincent Byron, who serves as 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.”