Fiji NGOs Concerned Public Accounts Committee Lacks Independence

Professor Biman Prasad

Opposition MP removed, government MP now chairs PAC

By Losalini Bolatagici

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 24, 2016) – Non-governmental organisations in Fiji are concerned that the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is being held by a government representative.

NGO Coalition on Human Rights says accountability is key to realising human rights and the perception of the independence and credibility of this important committee has been gravely undermined with the appointment of Government MP Ashneel Sudhakar.

"It's disappointing to see the experienced chair of the PAC, Professor Biman Prasad, replaced almost immediately by a government representative, at the first opportunity," Coalition on Human Rights chairwoman Tara Chetty said.

"This is not about whether or not the new chair will do a good job.

"The concern is that our perception of the independence and credibility of this very important committee has been gravely undermined," she said.

The coalition raised concerns in February this year when amendments were being made to the standing orders that removed the requirement that the chair of PAC must be from the Opposition.

"That amendment to Standing Order 117 removed an important check and balance for our national financial governance."

Ms Chetty said the committee chair was a difficult role, responsible for carefully scrutinising public revenue and expenses.

She said Fiji initially adopted good governance best practice by ensuring that the position be held by a member of the Opposition in Parliament.

This strengthened accountability has an important link to human rights, particularly towards the realisation of socio-economic rights for all Fijians.

In a statement, the coalition called on the Government to reconsider its position and reverse the regressive change made to Standing Order 117.

Prof Prasad was voted out as chair on May 12.

Fiji Times Online.
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