The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is without doubt the most powerful of the Parliamentary committees – it pushes the usually untouchable and arrogant accounting officers to the limit, grilling them to account for every Thebe, excesses, inefficiencies and failed projects. At its sittings, friendship doesn’t count – only a balancing account matters. KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO looks at the members of this committee.
The chairperson of Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Abram Kesupile, has assured the nation that no stone will be left unturned in having public officers account for every Thebe. Describing himself as a mature at heart leader who has held leadership positions within government and in the community Kesupile says his role as the Chairperson of the PAC will in fact be an easy sail through. He succeeds Nehemiah Modubule, the former MP for Lobatse who lost his Parliamentary seat in last year’s General Elections.
The soft spoken Kesupile however does not hide the fact that he is aware that his humility may be his weakest link. But be warned, the chairperson promises that though his would be an enjoyable session, one would at the same time endure the pressure that will be prompted by the call to account for everything on the book thereafter.
According to Kesupile, he is generally a leader who works through people and will at any given time not limit the extent that he will allow any member in his committee to take charge as he believes they are working together as a team to deliver an efficient feedback to the nation.
Asked whether he is not afraid that his laid back approach will give sneaky and manipulating officers a chance to cheat their way past the committee, Kesupile points out that having worked for a long time in the public service he is well accustomed to most government policies and procedures, hence it will not be easy for one to employ any deceitful tactics past him.
Although he has no formal training in finance, Kesupile points out that he is knowledgeable in basic financial documents, and can easily interprete most of them.
The Kanye South legislator says during his five-year term as the chairperson of the PAC, it will not be his intention to be hard on any one but to deliver what is due to Batswana. “Iam not looking for fame and certainly not for labels,” he says.
Kesupile has in the past chaired the Parliamentary Special Select Committee of inquiry into the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). He delivered a damning report to parliament pointing out that The Palapye glass manufacturing project was bound to fail as it was premised on poor due diligence, doubtful partner selection and a litany of project implementation violations.
At party level Kesupile is the current Chairperson of the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Vice Chairperson of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). If he lives by his word, then officers who are to appear before Kesupile and his team are in for a hard time, perhaps even more chilling than previous sittings of the PAC.
In this year’s committee also sits Moyo Guma, a veteran in matters and conduct of the committee as he has sat in previous PAC sittings. With a financial training background, Guma’s contribution to the committee has been a notable one. Guma’s sharp knowledge of figures has over time afforded him the chance to pick some anomalies and interprete complicated financial jargon for the committee. Accounting Officers appearing before the committee have not been able to escape Guma’s shrewd observation, which is clearly motivated by both his elements as a businessman and a trained financial professional and his political role as a member of parliament.
The UDC Vice President Ndaba Gaolatlhe, who also is MP for Bonnington South, is also a member of the PAC. As an economist and businessman, he has so far shown that his interest is in policy reform and development. Accounting officers after the other who have so far appeared before the committee have been asked by Gaolatlhe to state how they measure efficiency and effectiveness in their respective departments. True to his nature Gaolatlhe has when given a chance to, asked detailed and elaborative questions which in most cases prompted likewise response from accounting officers.
Maun East MP Costa Markus, who just like Gaolathe is not only new to the PAC but is also a serving his debut term as a MP is a prominent businessman in his constituency. Coming from a business family Markus says his experience as a businessman - who is well accustomed to business language and deals with figures every day - will come in handy. The outspoken MP has already taken members who have appeared before the PAC to task and for a rookie his questioning and input has been handful and insightful. Not only has he tried to get officers to answer for general shortcomings in their ministries but made sure that he highlights problems faced by his constituents.
Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane will also partake in the proceedings of this committee. Moswaane has since the beginning of the eleventh parliament proved to be a force to reckon with. If the number of questions and motions tabled by an MP is a yardstick that could be used to measure perfomance then it would be safe to say Moswaane is among the top achievers in the current parliament. Known for his hard hitting and controversial statements, Moswaane does not beat about the bush when he wants to make a point. Expect fireworks with Moswaane – a politician who does not even cover-up for his party when on Parliament floor – on the picture.
Then there is Dithapelo Keorapetse, the young and vibrant MP for Selibe Phikwe West. Keorapetse has made it a point that even in parliament his presence is felt. He had risen to the occasion several times either by asking hard hitting questions or tabling strong motions. Keorapetse has so far shown a level of high understanding of government policies and procedure in the sitting of the PAC. He has tended to ask direct questions to accounting officers who have appeared before the committee so far, which in most cases ended up with them divulging more information to the committee.
Other members of this committee are Shawn Nthaile – the soft spoken MP for Jwaneng/Mabutsane constituency – who is also making his debut appearance in parliament and the PAC. Kgotla Autlwetse, the MP for Serowe North who is also the assistant minister of Education and Skills development also sits in the committee as does the youthful MP for Shashe West and assistant Agriculture Minister Fidelis Molao, Nata Gweta MP Paulson Majaga and the aspiring BDP chairperson Biggie Butale – the MP for Tati West
PAC is established by Standing Order number 105.1 and consists of 10 members and is according to the provision chaired by an opposition MP. The functions of the committee are clearly spelt out in Standing Order number 105.3. The PAC’s duty is to examine after the end of each financial year the accounts and statements prepared and signed by the Auditor General in accordance with the provisions of the Finance and Audit Act. The committee examines the books prepared by accounting officers of public special funds. It is also the responsibility of the committee to take into account the report of the Auditor General. The committee is also tasked with examining other accounts value for money and management performance reports laid before Parliament and other matters incidental thereto. While the committee doesn’t consider the formulation of policy or merits or demerits of policy, it deals with value for money criteria which is based on economy, effectiveness and efficiency. The committee submits its reports to Parliament upon conclusion of its work.