Barbados Public Accounts Committee Is A "Toothless Tiger"

Regular BU readers must be picking-up a recurring theme when we write about governance in Barbados. We have had a system of government which has served us well over the years__BUT. Many of the activities within the system can be described as nothing more than norms, conventions and traditions. Given the changing demographics in Barbados influenced by immigration and the need to connect in a free world, which has_rightly or wrongly_embraced globalization, such is the problem we must confront with conviction. Here is the punch line, one does not have to be a reputed constitutional lawyer and BLP lackey to understand the point.

Yes indeed Ezra Alleyne, please duck!

Barbados Tourism Minister – “Let’s Pour More Tax Money Down This GEMS Hole. NO… You Can’t See The Financial Statements You Stupid Bajans”

Theft In Progress – Somebody Call The Police! (oh, ya… nevermind)

Every body knows that the best predictor of future performance – is past performance. That’s why a store owner doesn’t hire a paroled thief just out of jail for the position of head cashier. The Government of Barbados has poured millions and millions into the GEMS hotels and refuses to provide an accounting even though it is required by law. They can’t even say how much they have lost. Nor will they provide any explanation for government purchases of run-down hotels that belong to “special friends” of the government.

Read Full BarbadosFree Press Article


When BU read the story above on BFP this week we confess that a feeling of hopelessness overcame the household. It also triggered a heavy debate on how a democracy which is held up as a model to the world would allow a government to display such wanton waste of tax payers’ dollars. The fact that we live in a developing country with a paucity of resources made the current state of affairs all the more unpalatable. If we thought that the squandermania was the issue it then dawned on us that here was a government which has broken the financial rules of the country without any fear of receiving reprisals from within the system of government which BU must admit has served us well to date.

This ongoing embarrassment__branded “JAWS” by the former leader of the opposition and currently the junior Minister of Finance Clyde Mascoll__ energized BU to quietly examine what workable options or recourse the Barbados public has in forcing accountability and transparency in matters in the ongoing “JAW” affair. The piece is not about GEMS but a critique of that government oversight body responsible for guarding the financial behavior of the Crown__the Public Accounts Committee.

BU declares that extracting information to complete this piece was very difficult. This in itself is disturbing when one considers that we now live in the age of the Internet and on an island that frequently boast to be on the threshold of first world status. The leader of the Opposition is overseas, the Clerk of Parliament is overseas, the deputy Clerk of parliament was promoted this week and will be moving on, we contacted some other people who we shall protect by not revealing their stations. We found no government website which lists information on the workings of the PAC pre or post-2003, the law was amended to enjoined members in the Senate to those sitting members in the lower house__more on this to follow.

BU have heard the perennial public criticism of Thompson, Mascoll and all the previous Leaders of the Opposition who tried to mobilize the PAC with little success. Perhaps the most successful of the leaders of the Opposition at mobilizing the PAC is Sir Henry Forde__for those of you old enough he was able to get a hearing on the St.Joseph Hospital issue. We suspect his success was more as a result of happenstance and individual resolve rather that compulsion in law. The reality as BU understand it is that prior to 2003 when the law governing the PAC was changed, it operated like one of the many committees in parliament. Now we all know that “House Committees” do not function in the Lower House, and for a good reason__there are too many! In Barbados we are heard to boast that we have the Westminster Model of government, in reality what we have is a small flavor of it.

The parliamentary system that we love and which BU admit has served us reasonable well is better suited to a parliament like the UK, New Zealand and Australia and the larger Commonwealth territories that command hundreds of members of parliament (MP’s) sitting. The efficiency of the West Minister Model_and we are no experts_is the ability of the standing committees to be assigned duties over different aspects of government’s legislature to ensure that there is detention to detail. We can use the comparison of a large corporation which has to establish project teams to assist management in getting the work done. The good governance of Barbados over the years can be attributed to “good” members of parliament and an “excellent” civil service. BU’s concern given the changing profile of the modern politician__the increasing corruption and complexity of government__ is that Barbadians need to pressure our governments to ensure that the committees of parliament are revamped.

We should remember that the 2003 amended Public Accounts Committee Law was required because the Thompson led Opposition was comprised of two members only, this meant that the quorum required to call a PAC meeting was impossible. An important change to the 2003 law was the inclusion of Senators to the pool of members qualified to sit on the PAC. BU can draw out this matter but we suspect that it would be boring to Barbadians who despite our intelligence pay little interest to these matters which we take for granted. What we will say is that successive Opposition Leaders have been frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the PAC in our system of government. Some of them had procedural challenges and in more recent times it has been more legal. A BU source confirm that a “paper” from a committee in parliament to address the PAC will be laid in parliament shortly. Let us hope that is helps to raise the awareness of a “dumb” public.

Barbadians maybe surprise to know that the PAC has had no real teeth through the years. It has been the “fear” of being investigated which has propelled individuals to respond to concerns of the royal opposition. Because of the challenges faced by the PAC over these years to have regular meetings, the fear factor has dwindled. If we are to use the GEMS issue as an example. The inability of the PAC to call meetings and as a result call government MPs and relevant parties to appear before the committee ensures that the government can continue to flout the financial rules of the country. The opportunity for a rogue government to hijack our wonderful system of government is REAL and Barbadians should sit-up and take note. It is time Barbados start to reap the benefits of the huge sums invested in our education system over the years. In a nutshell the many calls we hear to have Integrity Legislation cannot standalone as a measure to manage corruption and sustain good governance. The bedrock issue here is to create a more efficient working government. Unfortunately with only 30 members available to parliament, and allowing for the few Senators that can now participate on the PAC__it is not enough.

BU understands that even with the change in legislation, and notwithstanding the recent work done by a parliamentary group__the challenges of the PAC will be further frustrated as members called to appear will probably be accompanied by lawyers given the legal and reputational issues which have become increasingly relevant in our changing society. So Barbadians let us start to educate ourselves and our children on this subject if we want to defend our democracy.

Resource: Public Accounts Committee Law (2003)

9 thoughts on “Barbados Public Accounts Committee Is A "Toothless Tiger"

  1. Truth be told the “toothlessness” of the Auditor General over the years can be attributed to the same failing in the system. His effectiveness has been at the whim and fancy of Ministers with integrity who have been compelled to lay special reports in parliament.

  2. No public accounts committe hearings,no promises by the commissioner of police,no assurances by the Dlp will convince these BLP thiefs that they are in any danger for misappropriation of public funds.

    It is only when investigations by a forensic accountant,and any other such legal action with teeth is taken will there be any peace to the bajan public’s heart that someone is finally taken us serious.

    It is only then that these men and women in the BLP who are currently living large and high on the hog off taxpayer’s hard earned dollars will finally start messing themselves with fear.

    Their arrogance stinks to the high heavens – they do what they like,and they are answerable to no one.

    The ball is in the DLP court.

  3. Pingback: The Auditor General Of Barbados Is Another “Toothless” Tiger « Barbados Underground

  4. IF THE REPORTS that have surfaced following last Monday’s meeting of the newly reconstituted joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are accurate, then the Leader of the Opposition may very well be happy that the media aren’t allowed to attend.

    Still, he is on good grounds in dismissing the excuse given for not allowing the media to cover PAC deliberations as “foolishness”.

    Nation News

    The more we read Brandford the more his slip shows. Instead of making political mileage out of the effectiveness of the PAC and the no show of DLP members, he show truly talk to the Clerks of Parliament or people knowledgeable who can enlighten him on the legal and procedural challenges faced by the PAC for YEARS by DLP and BLP. We are sorry Brandford but your political stock is waining. We about to be grouped with Ezra Alleyne and that crowd shortly.

    You really not to stop with your partisan nonsense!

  5. Despite Mr Thompson’s best efforts the PAC will always be a struggle just see it for what it is a committee setup to report on the gov’t misspending and their corruption where can you go with that one ?

  6. Todays nation gives Hartley Henry’s preview of what is to come in a special report which BU broke a couple weeks ago! One of his expectations from the report is that it addresses the issues related to GEMS, Eastry House and related matters. We have news for Henry and others, it does not. As we have stated it addresses mainly procedural matters of the PAC to improve how it can do its work.

    UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Awaiting PAC’s bite
    Published on: 7/19/07.


    MY INFORMATION is that the most recent report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will be tabled in Parliament next Tuesday. All Barbadians should be interested in the contents of this document as this provides coverage of the work of the PAC during the period 2000 to 2005.

    Full Article

  7. Pingback: Barbados Underground Responds To The Barbados Labour Party Blog «

Leave a comment, join the discussion.