Academics comment on PAC chairman change
Risk of being ‘meaningless’ By Nasik Swami The Fiji Times. Saturday, May 14, 2016
SENIOR economics academic at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Dr Neelesh Gounder said the Public Accounts Committee risked becoming ‘meaningless’ as its mandate was severely restricted.
Dr Gounder’s comments followed the appointment of Government member Ashneel Sudhakar as the chairman of the all-important PAC and Professor Biman Prasad being voted out on Thursday.
He said it was not clear as to what was wrong with the practice of an Opposition MP as chair of the PAC in Fiji.
“The tradition meant that an Opposition MP as chair will question the reports of the Auditor-General more effectively, and hold the Government accountable, better than the Government side,” Dr Gounder said.
He said PAC was an important institution of checks and balances within democratic governance.
Dr Gounder said with the committee no longer chaired by an Opposition member, it had “risks of becoming meaningless”.
Issue of credibility
By Nasik Swami. The Fiji Times. Saturday, May 14, 2016
UNIVERSITY of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Government, Development and International Affairs Professor Vijay Naidu says it is important for Government to answer why it’s so necessary to change the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
Prof Naidu said it appeared the committee was being given the identity and prominence that it should have, and was beginning to follow its significant mandate. He said it was important to have an Opposition as chair because of credibility issues.
“This is a credibility issue. With an Opposition member as chair, there is a greater likelihood of critical and close scrutiny of government use of public revenues.
“There is a greater likelihood of more openness to the media (as we have seen). This in turn would mean a more informed citizenry on matters relating to the use of public resources,” Prof Naidu said.
He said with a government MP in the chair and government’s numerical dominance in the committee, whether the same level of scrutiny and publicity regarding this scrutiny (and therefore accountability and transparency) would be manifested in the future remain to be seen.