Fiji parliamentary committee chair defends role
The chairman of the Fiji's public accounts committee is defending its role after coming under fire from the attorney general.
The chairman of the Fiji's public accounts committee is defending its role after coming under fire from the attorney general. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last week said the parliamentary committee was acting beyond its jurisdiction and that it should remain apolitical. But the committee's chair, Biman Prasad, who is the leader of the opposition National Federation Party, says the committee has acted impartially and he is happy with the work it is doing. He told Sally Round it's unfortunate that the attorney general had to talk about the role of the committee.
BIMAN PRASAD: The role of the public accounts committee is to scrutinise the auditor general's report after it is presented to parliament. And our responsibility then is to report back to parliament and we don't report back to the executive. And so it's rather unfortunate that the attorney general talk about the work of the public accounts committee. However let me say that the public accounts committee since this appointment, has worked very well and I think it is to the credit of the government members. And we were able to you know effectively, in a focused way, produce a consolidated report for 2007, eight and nine and that report has already been presented to parliament. So I do not understand where the attorney general is coming from. But as far as we are concerned, we have called people into appear before the public accounts committee and issues raised emanate from the report of the auditor general, so as far as the members of the public accounts committee are concerned. This committee has worked in a very bipartisan, cooperative manner and I am just saddened by the fact that the attorney general would talk about, in his opinion, what the role of the public accounts committee should be. In fact none of the ministers, should be talking about any of these standing committees' work.
SALLY ROUND: The attorney general, obviously concerned about some of the, what are deemed sensitive issues. That the committee is having to discuss, issues of spending by the prime minister Bainimarama. And he said that some of these issues should be held in camera, in private. What is the, what do you think of that?
BP: I don't think he talked about any specific issue. And the committee according to a standing order is mindful where necessary we've had closed meetings. But our objective is to ensure that we conduct our hearings and our work in an open transparent manner and that is what we have done so far. And where we feel that it is necessary to hold meetings in camera, that is up to the committee. And we have held a number of meetings in private, that's what people don't know. And perhaps the attorney general doesn't know, obviously.
SR: And how do you decide which areas you need to cover in private, how do you decide that?
BP: There is clear provision for that in the standing orders. I think if there are issues that border on national security etc, which need to be held confidentially those are issue of which we are mindful and we do hold meetings in camera.
SR: Are you satisfied with the progress so far?
BP: Yes, yes I am extremely satisfied. I think given the, all of the commitments that government members have in other committees. I think we've done very well so far and we hope to clear most of the back log by the end of the year. But if it takes a little bit more time we will not hesitate to keep that flexibility.
SR: And are you making recommendations as you go and are they being taken up?
BP: Yes of course Sally of course. Yes we have in the last report we have made several recommendations and I am happy to say that the ministry of finance and other relevant stakeholders are taking those on board and now I think the committee's work is being recognised as work that is meeting the objective of holding government to account and also at the same time helping government and the civil service to improve systems and processes.
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