Inaugural Public Accounts Committee Seminar conducted for Tuvalu Parliamentarians
(Funafuti, Tuvalu) - Many Tuvaluans over the years have seen the Public Accounts Committee as an extension of the Opposition group in Parliament. This misconception was thoroughly discussed and the role of the Committee clarified in a training attended by Tuvalu’s Members of Parliament, government departments, state-owned enterprises and the Auditor General’s Office who were trained on how to use the Public Accounts Committee more efficiently.
The Public Accounts Committee is one of Tuvalu’s Parliamentary oversight mechanisms When effectively used, Public Accounts Committees play an important role in ensuring accountability over the use of public funds.
The seminar focused on the powers and functions of the Committee, its relationship with the national government and the Kaupule (local level government), state-owned enterprises, and the challenges and opportunities for strengthening the oversight role of the Committee. Questions discussed by the 15-member Parliament included: What are the powers and structure of Public Accounts Committee? What is the role of this committee in relation to the police, the state-owned enterprises and the Falekaupules (Tuvalu’s traditional assembly)? What does the Committee need to have in order to be effective and what are the challenges faced by the Public Accounts Committee in Tuvalu?
At the closure of the seminar, the Speaker of Parliament, the Right Honourable Sir Kamuta Latasi said “I found it very useful and the feedback I received from MPs and public servants was very positive. The seminar explained in detail the roles of the Public Accounts Committee and its relationship with the Government in scrutinizing the Auditor General’s report on accounts of Government Departments and state owned enterprises and is a wake-up call to those who do not follow the law.”
The Minister for Home Affairs and Rural Development, Honourable Pelenike Tekinene Isaia, the only woman elected to the Tuvalu Parliament and a first-time Parliamentarian, found the seminar very useful. She said “It is very useful and interesting for me as a Government Minister. It will help me to ensure that Kaupules are complying with the national financial reporting requirements.”
The seminar concluded on 15 March with concrete outcomes that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee will present in Parliament during its first sitting for 2012 scheduled for 28 March to 6 April 2012. The agreed outcomes included a proposal to establish a law entitled a Parliamentary Committees Act which aims to strengthen the oversight function of all Parliamentary Committees including the Public Accounts Committee; the establishment of a full-time dedicated office with qualified staff for the Committee, and that the Committee distributes its report to civil society and allows opportunity for feedback.
The three-day seminar was designed and facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tuvalu’s Parliament staff and the Alfred Deakin Research Institute including senior officials from government departments. The workshop is an activity of UNDP’s Tuvalu Parliament Support Project 2011 – 2013 with funding support from the British High Commission’s Suva Office. UNDP supports the Parliaments in several Pacific Islands countries, including Tuvalu.
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