By Gary Hatigeva
THE seventh meeting of the 10th Parliament House was again forced to adjourn all sittings for this week and is expected to resume on Monday, March 26, 2018.
This was voted on in a motion of special adjournment moved by the Prime Minister, Rick Houenipwela with reasons to allow the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a little more time to finalise matters of the 2018 National Budget.
The motion of special adjournment faced no objections from both the Opposition and Independent groups but received heavy criticism from the Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga, Matthew Wale who earlier called for an amendment to the original special adjournment motion.
Wale on the floor yesterday, expressed his disappointments in the Prime Minister, on how he has been handling matters of important interest to the government, the country and responsible bodies of parliament as far as dealing with the budget is concerned.
During the earlier motion of special adjournment over a fortnight ago, the Aoke/Langalanga MP and also member of the PAC, Matthew Wale suggested for the Prime Minister to extend the proposed date for parliament’s resumption to the 26th and not 19th of March 2018 as projected.
“But because the PM never wants to lose face and don’t want to be seen stepped on, that is why he never accepted that suggestions for the amendment.
“Because the documents Mr Speaker were never delayed from our side,” the PAC Member stressed on the floor of parliament before the vote for special adjournment was made.
He added that the documents only reached the committee on March 12, 2018 to enable the Committee to begin inquiry proper, something the PAC Chair also confirmed while making his contribution to the special adjournment motion.
He revealed that the Prime Minister in his ignorance rubbished the PAC request and a request from the Auditor General who asked for an extra three days to go through all the documents to furnish wholesome advice to the committee.
He further revealed that the committee also received a letter from the Prime Minister, which Wale described ‘seeming silly’.
In the PM’s letter, the Aoke/Langalanga MP quoted, saying that nothing can hold back the government from proceeding with debates of the second reading of the Appropriation Bill without the report of the PAC based on standing order 69.
While supporting the special adjournment motion, Wale replied that the Prime Minister was very much against his own words as it is clearly stated in the said standing order.
Based on the PM’s letter, Wale also quoted from Standing Order 69 but cap 1 (g) which explained that a report must be presented to Parliament in such a way that the report may inform Members prior to the Parliamentary debate thereon of the background to the Draft Estimates draw attention to those matters which the Committee feels should be the subject for such Parliamentary debate.
“And I found that very odd from a former chairman of Public Accounts Committee and a champion for good governance a champion for parliamentary of oversight of executive governments.
“What the PM stated in the letter is uncalled for and unnecessary which is almost as if it is a threat to the PAC and this one I feel is not in the spirit of our parliamentary democracy.
“We’re not shirking our responsibilities and we take our responsibility seriously and we want to do a good job of the important tasks that are before us in dealing with the budget.”
Meanwhile, the PAC Chairman and MP for East Honiara, Douglas Ete shared similar sentiments with the Aoke/Langalanga MP, however thanked the PM for allowing the committee a little more time to finish all its inquiries into the budget.
“The reason I wrote to the Prime Minister for the adjournment is because the papers that came not from the Office of the Prime Minister but from all the budget departments and we did not receive the development budget until 12 March.
“I think before becoming PM he was once upon a time a part of this committee and he would know very well what the PAC thinking,” the PAC Chairman said.
He added that with the given additional time, the PAC will certainly put in a full report when parliament resumes on March 26.
“We will not be putting in a half report, we will certainly put in a full report and with this few remaining days allowed will be very adequate for PAC to complete this report.
“It will be a good report in this fiscal year,” the relieved Public Accounts Committee chair stressed.