Accounting officers who testify before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will soon be required to swear an oath before offering testimony, PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali announced yesterday.
Ali, speaking to reporters after yesterday’s hearing, explained that the decision to implement the requirement was taken as a result of the fact that officers are sometimes not forthcoming in their responses to the PAC, or backpedal on their responses after offering misinformation.
He stated that instituting the oath will remind those testifying before the committee of the seriousness of the information being presented by them, and hence, the need for truthfulness.
“We have consistently asked accounting officers to be…complete and honest in their answers to PAC. From time to time we have had the difficulties in having accounting officers deviating…they change their answers when they’re pressed in different corners and we had found that this is becoming an issue,” he explained.
“Sometimes, it takes a lot of probing. Sometimes it takes a lot out of the members, because to prepare for a meeting is not just turning up. You have to read the reports, you have to understand the issues and sometimes accounting officers are deliberate in the withholding of information; it takes a lot of probing. And that is what takes up a lot of the time,” Ali noted.
Since the PAC’s resumption of the scrutiny of the Auditor General’s 2016 report in February, many of the entities that have appeared before the committee have had to be sent away before completion of the examination of the accounts because information could not be provided.
Furthermore, much time is often spent focused on one item on the agenda as questions are sometimes misinterpreted, or time is allotted for breaks to allow those attending the hearing to retrieve the information being requested.