Beautiful Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

Standing Finance Committee an exercise in futility — Flax-Charles

Standing Finance Committee an exercise in futility — Flax-Charles

Territorial At-Large Representative Shereen Flax-Charles has argued for better planning and more preparation ahead of Standing Finance Committee (SFC) meetings. 
Effectively, the Standing Finance Committee comprises the territory’s legislators who meet with all government departments and statutory bodies annually to examine their operations for the year in review.

“The exercise of Standing Finance [Committee]; sometimes I believe it’s an exercise in futility. I must agree with [Neville Smith], the Deputy Speaker,” Flax-Charles said during the budget debate in the House of Assembly (HOA) recently.

Smith, who had earlier complained about the budget’s impact, previously asserted that too much time was being wasted when lawmakers meet with department heads to discuss budget matters, but end up having informal discussions at length.

Flax-Charles, who is also the Junior Minister for Trade, said legislators have been asking for meetings ahead of SFC deliberations for years, yet these have never materialised.

She also echoed sentiments by Smith that House of Assembly staff were disadvantaged in the process. “To me, it puts not only a burden on them (HOA staff), but it puts all of us and the entire country in a predicament that we’re here at the 11th hour, still trying to pass a budget,” the legislator added.

Flax-Charles called for earlier budget submissions from statutory bodies and department heads so that SFC meetings could be held in October instead of at the end of the year when the budget presentation is made.

In contrast, Opposition Leader Julian Fraser and the current Health Minister Marlon Penn have both protested in the past that SFC meetings have been greatly reduced and are now rushed; leaving little to be done in a much shorter space of time.
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