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Local Govt Commission takes centre-stage in anti-money laundering law amendment row

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Thursday accused government of ignoring its plan to get amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) passed.

One of the AFC’s key demands is the signing of the commencement order for the Local Government Commission Act 2013 to take effect.

Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira said government would only move ahead with doing so if the two opposition parties agree to their nominees for that body.

She feared that disciplinary action, hiring and firing of local government employees could be held up if the order is signed and the opposition does not agree to its nominees. Currently, employment and disciplinary action of local government officers are done by the Public Service Commission (PSC).  “He (Opposition Leader, David Granger) fully well knows that if the parliamentary process takes a year to name the local government person, he will not name his people and therefore where are the local government employees in this country- no hiring, no firing, no promotions, no disciplinary action,” she stated. Teixeira recalled that public service promotions had at one time been held up for three years until the commission had been fully constituted.

However, Granger told Demerara Waves Online News that his A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would be ready with its nominees within 14 days of the signing of the order. “Once the government signals the establishment of the commission, we will make our recommendations or nominations. There has been no movement on the part of government,” he said.

He accused government of being “dilatory” and noted that appointments and disciplinary actions have been bound up in “one failure is creating another failure down the line” due to the fact the PSC Chairman has not been appointed.

Granger disagreed with Teixeira that APNU and the AFC could end up bickering for months over the nominees and related issues and so leave currently held PSC responsibilities in limbo. The National Assembly is yet to finalize appointments to the Public, Police, Judicial, Ethnic Relations and Women and Gender Commissions.

When established, the Local Government Commission would also be responsible for monitoring and oversight instead of the Minister and Ministry of Local Government.

The Presidential Advisor recalled that in late February the AFC backed out of an earlier agreement to support approval of the government-tabled AML/CFT amendments in exchange for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.

The AFC has since publicly decided to endorse APNU’s calls for the establishment of an Anti Money Laundering Authority and for the seizure of cash and other monetary assets of GUY$2 million if there is reasonable suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing.

Other elements of the AFC’s road-map for passage of the AML/CFT amendments include the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) submitting its nominees for the Public Procurement Commission to the Public Accounts Committee. “Failure to take this significant first step must be regarded by all Guyanese as a deliberate attempt by the Government to create a national crisis and to keep the public in a state of apprehension,” said the AFC in a statement.

Other steps of the AFC’s road-map are amending the Public Procurement Act to allow for Cabinet’s objections to be made to the Commission the re-tabling of the Local Government (Amendment) Bill to remove the  contentious clause and establishing a Tripartite Committee by the Committee of Selection to reexamine previously rejected Bills for any constitutional defects with a commitment from all sides to implement the recommendations of the committee as well as to have all works completed within 30 days.