PAAC wants answers from Parliamentary entities

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PAAC wants answers from Parliamentary entities

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) today vented their frustration with the long-standing impediment the committee faces in seeking to have commissions and other entities set up by Parliament answer questions on matters before them.

The committee took a decision to formally invite the Integrity Commission – the agency it is most concerned with for the moment – to appear to discuss its probe involving the Government's multi-million dollar police used car deal, Petrojam, and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

PAAC Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill said the committee would also inform the House Speaker of its intention, and that based on the response from the Commission, a decision would be taken as to whether the Solicitor General's intervention was needed.

Both Opposition and Government MPs agreed that it was time to act.

The development comes in the wake of the Integrity Commission's indication to the PAAC that under its governing statute, it could not participate in the discussions.

Prior to proroguing in July, the PAAC had written to the Integrity Commission and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency (MOCA) expressing it's discomfort with the lack of finality to a number of investigations, and inquiring about their resources.

The members stressed that the Integrity Commission and other commissions of Parliament could not continue to avoid appearing before the Parliamentary committee using statute as a reason.

North West Manchester MP PAAC Mikael Phillips said that the committee must take action.

“We have had this problem for quite a while since I've been on this committee, of agencies or commissions that are a creature of this Parliament not reporting to any committee at all, there is no oversight for them and they are not beyond the law and the reproach of this House.”

He added that, “We have been hearing for quite a while now from the prime minister himself, the leader of Government business about setting up a committee of Parliament to be able to hear agencies, which are a creature of the Parliament and we have not seen any action”.

At the same time Dr McNeill pointed out that it ceased deliberations on the matters because the committee was informed that they had become subjudice.

“In all three cases MOCA and the Integrity Commission were called in -- two years later, no finality.The point is we are now stating that we need closure, but it wasn't that we stopped arbitrarily we stopped because they had gone under investigation,” he said.

The Integrity Commission in a letter to the PAAC that was read today, stated that in the absence of its oversight committee as set out in statute, appearing before the Parliamentary committee in the manner requested, “may be inconsistent” with those provisions.

Phillips argued that the Commission has a responsibility not just to the Parliament but Jamaica as a whole.

“It's frustrating for me as a Parliamentarian who has spent a lot of time in this committee, in dealing with matters like this ...Jamaica is waiting to hear something, to at least see a report tabled in the House, that can be ventilated and action be taken against those who may be culpable.”

Alphea Saunders

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