The Public Finance Committee met today in Belmopan - the first time in a very long time - and we're talking years! Chairman of the Committee and Opposition member Julius Espat made much of the meeting - and invited all and sundry to attend. But, it was an anti-climax because he didn't get the approval of the entire committee for a public hearing. And when the government members who comprise the majority got there - they shut down the public hearing.

Observers and media were ushered out - and the meeting proceeded behind closed doors with only the six members. It was over quickly - and we spoke to key members as they left - about the conduct of the meeting:..

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"It was adjourned because we couldn't agree on the agenda. The chairman had proposed an agenda which the rest of us did not agree with. It was also adjourned because the chairman did not agree with the minutes of the last meeting which I was not present but which the members from the government side agree is the minutes of the meeting. He wants an opportunity to review the transcript - all these meetings have been recorded, so we have adjourned to give him an opportunity to review the transcript and satisfy himself that the minutes are accurate."

Daniel Ortiz
"We understand that you made a move to have the public accounts committee meeting this afternoon to be closed to the public. Can you tell us why you decide on that?"

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of National Security
"These committee meetings are never open to the public as such. The public can attend if they have a presentation to make to the committee but it is never under the standing orders of these committees of the House that they held in public. They are held in private and who wants to make a presentation is invited to make a presentation."

Hon. Michael Finnegan
"I think it is something that can work and we as the government side looks forward to have it work but the chairman in my view he has an attitude problem, a behavioral problem and I my view if things continues the way he behave the we will not get anywhere."

"We don't have any problem with the public attend these meetings but that is not for the chairman. That is for the committee which consists of 6 members and the committee must say when the public will come in or when the public will not come in."

Hon. Patrick Faber
"Belizeans must understand that the date of this meeting and the time of this meeting was set from the last meeting, so when it is that the chairman goes around making this claim and trying to say almost like the members of the government side will not attend and try to put pressures outside through the media and through even the chamber of commerce and so on to force us to come to a meeting - that was very disingenuous because he knew from the onset that in fact we were the ones who agreed on today's date and time."

Hon. Julius Espat
"what was presented this morning does not reflect what we said at that meeting and therefore as a responsible chairman I requested from the clerk that I be given a transcript of the minutes of the last meeting and on top of that I requested that there be given a recording so that we can be clear as to what we agreed to on the last meeting."

"This has to ne open to the people of Belize. It doesn't matter what an individual person or persons are trying to say. It is about the people on Belize wanting transparency. It is about credibility, it is about opening that up so that we can look at it and we can see if the monies that are being spent, our money, the GST money, the tax money - if it is being spent properly. It is simple; we are not fighting with anybody."

"The Auditor General which is a clue and it is important - the Auditor General in her report made one statement which said 'I am withholding my opinion form the audit that was done.' In any institution; lending institution, corporate body, government, political organization - once an auditor refuses to give her opinion - it is sending you a signal that something is wrong. People tell you out there that they don't want anything behind close doors - they are tired of that - PUP and UDP - they don't want anything behind closed doors - we want to know what's happening with our money."

So, a new date for the next meeting will have to be decided on.

Channel 7