Th The Committee meets in public and publishes its proceedings and reports. Its work helps to ensure the transparency and openness of Government by providing a public arena in which government spending is explained and debated and those responsible for the spending are held to account for their actions.
Composition of the Committee
The Committee comprises eleven Members of Parliament, appointed in proportion to the number of MPs in each political party elected to Parliament.
The Chair of the Committee is a member of the ruling party but the Deputy Chair is a member of the main opposition party. Every effort is made to achieve consensus during debates, to be objective in making findings and recommendations and to avoid adopting a political position. The final report produced by the Committee reflects this consensual, non-partisan approach.
The Committee is supported by a Clerk, who advises the Chair and members on the necessary procedures to be followed when holding hearings.
He identifies the appropriate officials and other experts who are required to attend meetings of the Committee. Assisted by a small research staff, he also assists the committee in analysing the information provided to it and in preparing the report for Parliament containing the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.
The Auditor General and Audit Service Sierra Leone
The PAC works in collaboration with the Auditor General and Audit Service Sierra Leone. Together they empower Parliament to be an effective guardian of the public purse on behalf of the citizens of Sierra Leone.
Under the Constitution and other legislation the Auditor General and Audit Service of Sierra Leone are responsible for scrutinising public expenditure and providing an independent opinion on how the Government has used public resources. They provide the reports that the PAC examines during the course of its work. They provide advice to the Committee regarding the findings of the reports that they submit to Parliament and are invited to attend the hearings of the Committee as expert witnesses and to support the Committee in its deliberations.
The PAC will issue a press notice outlining the subjects that it will be examining which will invite interested parties to submit written evidence before a specified deadline. The Committee will identify the witnesses that it requires to examine and they receive specific invitations, including the date, time and venue, to attend the relevant hearing of the Committee. The failure of a witness to attend a hearing, without good reason, may be deemed contempt of Parliament and appropriate measures, including serious sanctions, will be taken to ensure that the requirements expected of the witness are fulfilled. Oral evidence sessions are normally held in public, unless the Committee decides that there are issues of a security or confidential nature to be discussed which are not appropriate for public disclosure at that stage of the enquiries. Witnesses communicate such issues to the Clerk of the Committee before the hearing to enable all concerned to find a solution that allows as much information as possible to be transparently available in the public domain. Parliamentary hearings normally take place in the Parliament Building in Freetown. Some hearings are held in regional locations and these will be publicised to enable members of the public to attend. Witnesses are specifically advised of the location beforehand.
Accountability and transparency in action – the power of citizens exercised on their behalf by democratically elected representatives. Members of the Committee put questions to witnesses. The Chair of the Committee normally starts the proceedings with a brief introduction about the subject of the hearing and invites members to ask questions of the witnesses in turn. In limited circumstances, witnesses may make an opening statement before questioning commences. However, such statements are normally provided to the Committee, in writing, beforehand.
Witnesses may appeal to the Chair of the Committee if a particular question is thought to be unfair. If the Chair considers that the question is proper, the witness must attempt to answer it. If the information to answer the question is not immediately to hand, the Committee will require the witness to submit the necessary information to it in writing as soon as possible. This information is regarded as written evidence and is published alongside other written evidence received by the Committee. Hearings normally last for two hours although the Chair will provide more time, in exceptional circumstances, if the Committee considers it necessary. Witnesses may be asked to return to a subsequent hearing of the Committee.
LIST OF PAC PROCESSES
The following are processes adopted by the Committee:
1. Auditor-General submits a Report to the Clerk’s Office;
2. The Business Committee schedules and lays the Report before the House and then it is referred to the PAC for consideration
3. The PAC Secretariat writes to all MDAs queried in the Report of the Auditor- General, forwarding respective portions of the Report that pertain to them and then requests that they forward their responses and comments if any on the Report within a stipulated time frame, usually two weeks;
4.A Sub-Committee of PAC reviews the responses and submits a report to the Committee recommending which MDAs should be invited for public hearing based on the criteria set;
5. The PAC then schedules a date for the hearing and instructs the secretariat to write to all the selected MDAs, inviting them to respond to the queries they failed to address sufficiently and/or systemic problems that should be raised for the benefit of all MDAs;
6. A date for the public sitting is published in the print and announced in the electronic media for the benefit of the Press and all interested stakeholders;
7. A public meeting is conducted where auditees are given the opportunity to explain their own viewpoint on the Auditor- General’s queries while Members of PAC who have studied the issues in detail with the help of the Audit Service Staff, cross examine the auditees;
8. The Committee then compiles its report and makes recommendations on the Auditor-General’s Report to the House for debate and adoption;
9. After the adoption of the Report by the Plenary, the PAC secretariat writes to all MDAs named in the report, requesting them to implement the recommendations and report back to the Committee within a month. The Attorney General at this point is invited to commence prosecution of criminal cases referred to his Office; and
10. The PAC takes a sample of feedbacks and follows up to ascertain the veracity of the reports and progress of implementation of its recommendations.
11. The following are the summary of the processes adopted by the Committee with aid of the Auditor-General’s Office: In the process the PAC compares responses received from MDAs to responses in management letters issued immediately after the audit with the aid of experts from the Audit Service; The PAC flags up cases of non-response and cases of inadequate/ inappropriate responses; and The ultimate objective is to determine the materiality of findings in the Auditor-General’s Report through evaluation of:
i. The gravity of the findings of the Auditor-General;
ii. The frequency of occurrence of particular lapses across MDAs;
iii. The magnitude of public funds involved; and
iv. Other administrative lapses which the Committee deems necessary for correction.