Public spending faces three-pronged oversight
Three watchdog groups to scrutinise public spending will start work in the new year, the Speaker of the House of Assembly said.
The Parliamentary Oversight Committees will hold ministers and their departments to account in an effort to get value for money.
Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, announced the new groups and some of their members during a special House sitting on Monday.
He said: “I’m going to meet with the individual committees during the time of recess to walk them through the process and the roles and responsibilities that they will have.
“Hopefully, we’ll get them started early in the new year.”
They were among recommendations in a wide-ranging report on spending in 2013 and were promised by the Progressive Labour Party before it took power last year.
MPs from both parties and senators will form the committees, which cover areas including health, education, transport and security.
Derrick Burgess, Lawrence Scott, Kim Swan and Tineé Furbert from the Progressive Labour Party, as well as shadow education minister Cole Simons, will sit on the Infrastructure and Transport Committee.
A watchdog for education, health and welfare will include PLP backbenchers Neville Tyrrell, Michael Weeks, Christopher Famous, deputy Opposition leader Leah Scott and her One Bermuda Alliance colleague Jeanne Atherden.
The central policy, security and economic growth committee’s MPs will be Renée Ming, Michael Scott and Scott Simmons — all PLP backbenchers — alongside Sylvan Richards, the shadow minister of planning and environment, and Susan Jackson, the shadow Minister of Health and seniors.
Mr Lister said he expected the Senate members on each committee to be announced at today’s sitting of the Upper House.
He told The Royal Gazette yesterday that the Public Accounts Committee had traditionally had oversight of government spending.
Mr Lister added: “Their guidelines and the structure that they operated under was more the ability to look at an item after the dollars had been spent, after the expenditure had already been made.
“The new oversight committees have the ability to question funds and operations of ministries and government agencies as it is actually happening.”
As well as spending, the committees can monitor performance and whether specific projects or programmes are on course to meet their objectives.
The oversight committees were recommended in the 2013 report by the Spending and Government Expenditure Commission, commissioned by the former OBA administration.
The PLP pledged to establish the committees inside its first 100 days in power in its 2017 General Election platform.
Lovitta Foggo, then the Minister for Government Reform, told MPs in October last year she was a “fierce advocate” for the committees, although their introduction was a matter for the Speaker.
David Burt, the Premier, said in July — a year after the PLP’s landslide victory — that the establishment of the groups fell under the scope of the House of Assembly.
He added: “From the government perspective, we’ve done our bit of it.”
Mr Lister said yesterday that Parliament’s Standing Orders — the rules that govern the House — had not covered oversight committees, so amendments had to be approved.
He added it had also taken time to create a framework for the implementation of the groups.
Mr Lister said the way similar committees operated in other jurisdictions was also considered.
He added: “It’s no real hiccup as far as the government process of it.
“It’s something that’s totally new and there are different forms based on the different Parliament styles that we were doing a full assessment on and making sure we found what fits best for Bermuda.”