Long live, live PAC broadcasts!

Long live, live PAC broadcasts!

To see the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in action has been instructional. Many of us until quite recently, had limited knowledge of the role or function of this committee let alone its existence.
But today, thanks to the live broadcasts of the PAC hearings, Basotho now better understand the meaning of holding government accountable for its spending of taxpayers’ money.

We are discovering (in a manner that would otherwise not be possible for most of us) that a well-functioning PAC is crucial to effective oversight of government’s financial management.  We are also learning that to be effective, a Public Accounts Committee must do its work in the full glare of public scrutiny.

Public scrutiny allows the public to see the people sleeping on the job. This is a powerful motivator for people to do the right things all the time.
But when the public is shut out, space is created for systems and processes to be subverted. For example, The Auditor General could delay making audit findings or the PAC might not do enough to act on the Auditor General’s Report or the government simply ignores recommendations from the PAC.

The point is that these live broadcasts are helping to ensure that lack of financial probity by the government does not continue to remain hidden.
The government therefore deserves credit for deciding to have these hearings broadcast live. Basotho can witness for themselves government officials being made to explain how they have spent taxpayers’ money.

Civil servants who have used for their own enrichment public funds meant for service delivery are being exposed. Because we see their faces, we now know the thieves in our villages who should be in jail.
The way I see it, it is these live broadcasts that will cause lack of financial probity by the government to be exposed and accounted for and not the politicians sitting as members of the PAC.

Experience has taught us to be wary of politicians in this country. We have learned to view their every action with suspicion. They have proven too often that when they do things, their motive is expediency and not doing what is in the public interest.
So, does this mean that the excitement some people feel about the work of the Mochoboroane-led PAC is misplaced?
I think it is misplaced for the simple reason that there is nothing they have done to this point to suggest extraordinary ability.
They have merely done (and there is room for lots of improvement here), what would be expected of committees of that nature. In fact, were it not for the cameras during the hearings, this PAC would be no different from previous PACs i.e. impotent and ineffective.

The areas where I think they could do things better are many. For example, I think they should prioritise arriving quickly at recommendations and conclusions for implementation by the government instead of spending so much time being wannabe investigators.
It makes for great TV viewing but not for bringing back our money and getting people to be held accountable for not doing the right things.

They could also show more determination and political will to have the officials fingered for contravening rules and regulations arrested, prosecuted or subjected to relevant disciplinary processes. They must not attempt to solve all these cases themselves.
I also think that when questioning witnesses, their focus should be to identify the larger system weaknesses that give rise to the individual problems the Auditor General has uncovered.

They should aim to use the insights gleaned from the hearings to make policy and regulation change recommendations for debate and adoption by parliament and not the other things they like to preoccupy themselves with.
I stand by my earlier statement – the Public Accounts Committee needs to do its work in the full glare of public scrutiny if there is to be any hope of effective government oversight.

The daily live coverages of the hearings MUST continue. They are helping to show the faces of those who steal from the people so that when we see them still staying with us in the village, we will ask “why are these thieves, these law breakers not in jail where they belong?”

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