We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The annual deliberations of the Standing Finance Committee should be open to the public.
Unfortunately, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
So, in November and December, House of Assembly members once again went behind closed doors to decide how to spend taxpayers’ money.
As usual during the sessions, public officers explained their budget requests for the coming year, and HOA members questioned them about their plans.
These discussions are clearly a matter of public interest, and we see no reason for them to be held in secret.
But because the sessions were closed, the public knew virtually nothing about them until this month, when the HOA released the annual SFC report.
As usual, this document leaves much to be desired. It is not a direct transcript of the proceedings, which would be much more helpful, but a paraphrased summary that is sometimes so clumsily worded it is nearly incomprehensible.
Worse, the annual SFC reports often appear to be redacted. And because the redactions aren’t noted, there’s no way to know for sure if material has been removed — or how much.
Instead, readers are left to guess that they have found a redaction when they stumble across a section where a sudden shift in topic suggests that text is missing.
The current government, which has repeatedly promised greater transparency, should move to amend the HOA Standing Orders as soon as possible to open the annual deliberations to everyone.
If leaders are unable to take this step immediately — though we see no reason why that should be the case — they should at least issue a complete, unredacted transcript of the SFC proceedings shortly after they occur.
We have always found it exceedingly strange that SFC meetings are closed to the public in the first place. But opening them surely would be an easy win for the government leading up to next year’s general election.
Taxpayers have every right to know the details of decisions about how their money is spent.