The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affair, Madam Rakie Macarthy, yesterday failed to appear before parliament to explain why the Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) fund was not released by her ministry for the year 2017.
Even though Minister of Social Welfare, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden was present, the committee could not interview her on the grounds that she is not the vault controller. The absence of Madam Macarthy forced the committee to postpone the hearing indefinitely.
The meeting, which was a joint hearing of both the Social Services, Finance and Human Rights Committees to investigate how funds were expended for the 2016/17 fiscal years, had as agenda a resolution of the ongoing disagreement involving the Ministry of Social Welfare, National Disability Commission and the National Children's Commission.
However, Dr. Blyden argued that the letter she received was for her to appear before both committees and not the Permanent Secretary. She noted that the PS and other staff were currently working on the ministry's budget expenditure ahead of their appearance before Sub-committee No.2, after they were stood down on Monday because of some errors in the report they had submitted.
"According to the letter I received, it clearly indicated that the minister is to face the committee and not the Permanent Secretary. I am humbly pleading for another date except Wednesday as we have Cabinet meeting," she said.
Chairman of Finance Committee, Hon. Hassan Sheriff, emphasised that the presence of the PS would be relevant because she is the Vault Controller and signatory to the account, adding that they could not continue the meeting without her.
"I am not sure if we will continue with this meeting as the PS should be here to discuss the issue and we don't have enough time now. We only have between now and Friday 17th to conclude this process. Therefore, please discuss with the Committee Clerk when you will be available so as to put this issue to rest," he said.