Wed | Nov 29, 2023

All eyes on McKoy

Parliament awaits attorney general’s opinion on House Speaker’s delay in tabling reports

Published:Tuesday | July 11, 2023 | 12:08 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Dr Derrick McKoy, attorney general.
Dr Derrick McKoy, attorney general.

JAMAICAN LAWMAKERS were yesterday awaiting a legal opinion from Attorney General Dr Derrick McKoy regarding a provision in the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act, which the Speaker used last week to delay the tabling of three reports from the auditor general.

At the same time, McKoy has also been asked by the Speaker to interpret Standing Orders 73D, even while she placed the brakes on the tabling of two reports from the Integrity Commission (IC).

While expectations for the release of a legal opinion from the attorney general run high, the parliamentary opposition said it will reveal its next move today if the reports are not tabled during today’s sitting of the Lower House.

McKoy’s interpretation of Section 30(2) of the FAA Act will determine whether House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple Philibert’s decision to hold reports from “public bodies” for two months was in keeping with the stated provision in the legislation.

However, two of the reports being held by the Speaker are not audits of public bodies, but relate to executive agencies.

The Public Bodies Management Accountability Act makes a clear distinction between a public body and an executive agency. In fact, Section 2 (c) of the legislation defines a public body as a statutory body or authority or any government company, but does not include an executive agency designated under the Executive Agencies Act.

For more than two weeks, three reports from the Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) sent to Parliament for tabling have been held by the Speaker.

It was revealed by the Speaker last week that two of the reports relate to the Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency and the National Works Agency, both of which are executive agencies and not public bodies.

In defending her position to hold the reports for two months before tabling, Dalrymple Philibert said Section 30 of the FAA Act provides for “the auditor general’s report on a public body to be tabled where the minister with responsibility for that public body fails to report to this Parliament within a two-month period”.

By her decision, the Speaker reversed a decades-old convention of tabling reports from the AuGD as soon as possible.

Last week, Dalrymple Philibert signalled that she would be following Standing Orders 73D in relation to the review of IC reports by the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee of Parliament.

Standing Orders 73D says the oversight committee shall have the duty to review the annual report and any other report of the IC.

It also states that the oversight committee shall convene and consider a report submitted under section 34 of the IC law within 30 days of the submission of the report.