Monday, February 25, 2013

Feature: Mitchell wants watchdog committee to keep government honest

by Marcia Braveboy
Victory rally - Photo by Arthur George Hosten
Grenada’s comeback kid, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, told a huge rally at the Grenada National Stadium on Friday night that they can rely on specific institutions that will keep the government in check – in the face of no official opposition. He told thousands of Grenadians the constitution can protect the country’s democracy, even where there is no opposition.

“Your constitution specifies there must be institutions to protect our democracy; even in the face of no opposition. One such is the Public Accounts Committee,” Mitchell said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a watchdog committee. In accordance with the standing orders of Grenada’s House of Representatives, the Public Accounts Committee has the authority to scrutinize state owned entities and the government’s financial statements.

An opposition leader is required to nominate three Senators to the Senate and to spearhead the working of the PAC, said former Attorney General and Speaker of the House Lawrence A. Joseph.

He said this is not easily attainable with one party winning all fifteen seats in the House of Representative.

What makes it easier is Section 62 (2) of the Grenada constitution, which states that the Governor General may act in his own deliberate judgment without the advice of a leader of the opposition if a leader of the opposition cannot be appointed. As was done in 1999 when Keith Mitchell and the NNP won all 15 seats, the Governor General can, under the constitution appoint three Senators to fill the space of the Opposition Senators in the Senate.

Standing order 69(3)(ii)(a) states that the chairman of the committee shall be the leader of the opposition in the House, if any….the PAC may comprise of a chairman and other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate as the House of Representatives may determine. (b) Where there are no members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, one of the Senators appointed by the Governor General under Section 62 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada shall be appointed as chairman.

Mitchell told the gathering that he started holding discussions with his elected team about their responsibilities and reminded them that not everyone who is an MP will be given a cabinet post or even made a Government Minister. Mitchell also said there is a need for backbenchers whose functions will be known in a matter of days.

He quickly admonished the audience that all the MPs will be treated equally. “Whether you are members of cabinet or not, you will receive the same salary. No one will be marginalized,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also warned his executive team that no Minister will be untouchable, referencing a situation in the Tillman Thomas led NDC where there was the perception that a certain Government Minister was untouchable, even by the Prime Minister.

Mitchell also advised his MPs that the need may arise later in the operations of the government where he will need to reshuffle his cabinet, based on changing situations; an exercise that is allowed by the constitution.

Mitchell said never in the history of the commonwealth has a political party won all the seats on two occasions as he did. He thanked the supporters, told them they were good to themselves and to their country and reaffirmed that he will have a united, loving and respectful team that will lead by example.

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai