Thu | Dec 7, 2023

McKoy responds to House Speaker on tabling of reports

Published:Saturday | September 9, 2023 | 12:07 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Dr Derrick McKoy, attorney general.
Dr Derrick McKoy, attorney general.

THE ATTORNEY General’s Chambers has submitted to Parliament its opinion on two matters for which the Speaker of the House, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, had sought the Government’s chief legal adviser’s interpretation in relation to the tabling of reports from both the auditor general and the Integrity Commission.

Attorney General Dr Derrick McKoy confirmed to The Gleaner this week that the opinion from his department was now with Parliament.

The House Speaker, on July 4, said she would discontinue the practice of tabling reports on public bodies from the Auditor General immediately after they have been received, but would hold them for two months, in keeping with Section 30 subsection 2 of the FAA Act.

The controversial withholding of reports from the Auditor General’s Department by the Speaker in July for “two months” before tabling and the initial delay in the tabling of reports from the Integrity Commission (IC), triggered a raging debate among some members of civil society and the parliamentary Opposition, who warned against any move to deny the public the opportunity to review documents from investigative bodies.

McKoy acknowledged that there was a statutory duty for Parliament to table reports sent to it by commissions of Parliament.

However, he noted that whether those reports are tabled “today or tomorrow” was a matter for the legislature to determine.

Taken by surprise

The Speaker of the House is expected to unveil the opinion from the Attorney General’s Chambers when the House reconvenes from its summer break.

In July, members of the parliamentary Opposition were taken by surprise when Dalrymple Philibert refused to table three reports from the Auditor General’s Department, indicating that they would be held for two months.

The Speaker defended her decision at the time, claiming that she was guided by Section 30 of the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act.

Section 30 (b) of the FAA Act states: “If the appropriate minister fails within two months after receipt of the report to present it to the House of Representatives, the Auditor-General shall transmit a copy of the report to the Speaker of the House to be presented by him to the House.”

At the time, the Speaker conceded that all reports from the Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) had always been tabled upon receipt by the Lower House.

However, the Speaker said that this practice was “not in my understanding, in keeping with Section 30 of the FAA Act”.

Dalrymple Philibert said that she had written to the attorney general seeking an interpretation of Section 30 of the FAA Act.

Two reports from the Auditor General’s Department which were initially withheld by Parliament were subsequently tabled after Deputy Speaker Juliet Holness acknowledged that Section 30 of the FAA Act spoke to public bodies and the reports that were being delayed for “two months” before tabling related to executive agencies.

Also in July, the Speaker had signalled that she would be following Standing Orders 73D in relation to the review of the Integrity Commission reports by the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee.

An interpretation of Standing Orders 73D was also sought from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Based on parliamentary convention, reports sent to Parliament from the Integrity Commission in the past were tabled within a short time and members of the public and lawmakers had the opportunity to review the documents immediately.

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 says 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.