At the National Assembly, today, the Prime Minister, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, stated that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) remains the main form of parliamentary control over public expenditure. It has so far served its purpose as the watchdog of public finances, he emphasised.
More importantly, highlighted Mr Jugnauth, the PAC is composed of Members from both sides of the National Assembly and it is, by convention, chaired by a member from the Opposition. The PAC also has the power to, namely: send for persons and records, take evidence and; report from time to time in the discharge of its duty.
Moreover, the Committee is assisted by the Director of Audit and/or representatives of his office, representative of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, the Accountant-General or his representative and by Accounting Officers of Ministries/Departments and their representatives who are called upon to give evidence before the Committee, he added.
The Constitution, the Prime Minister indicated, provides that the public accounts of Mauritius shall be audited and reported upon by the Director of Audit. In addition, section 110(3) of the Constitution requires the Director of Audit to submit his reports to the Minister responsible for the subject of finance, who in turn has the duty to lay the reports before the National Assembly.
The audited accounts together with the reports of the Director of Audit, are thereafter examined by the PAC, pursuant to Standing Order 69 (2)(a) of the Standing Order and Rules of the National Assembly, he stated.
According to Mr Jugnauth, Government has taken a number of measures since 2015 following the observations made by the Director of Audit in his successive Reports. These measures include: the amendment of the Finance and Audit Act in 2015 to require every Ministry and Government Department to prepare an Annual Report on Performance for submission to the Minister of Finance; and issuing of a guideline in November 2016 by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to assist Ministries/Departments in the preparation of their Annual Reports on Performance.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister indicated that the Internal Control Unit has been strengthened and staff from that Unit have been posted in all Ministries/Departments to carry out internal audit functions, including risk assessment and reporting on effective remedial actions to be taken following queries of the Director of Audit. Audit Committees also ensure that recommendations of the Director of Audit Report are implemented and that the coverage of audit by Internal Control is adequate, he added.
Moreover, the Prime Minister pointed out that it is not proposed to amend the Standing Orders and Rules of the National Assembly to allow debates on the reports of the Director of Audit.