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House surmounts quandary for consideration of estimates for constitutional offices

sherlock_barton

Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs consulting with House Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland (seated).

After more than two hours of closed door meetings, government and the opposition reached agreement that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Irfan Ali should be able to answer questions about the Auditor General’s Office.

House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland, shortly after 6:30 PM emerged an announced that the PAC Chairman is the appropriate person to respond to questions.

Initially, Guyana’s National Assembly had found itself in a quandary during the consideration of estimates for constitutional of offices that was presented to the House on December 30, 2015.

During the deliberations prior to the adjournment, the Clerk of the National Assembly was seen consulting with the House Speaker on several occasions.

At the commencement of the considerations for the office of the Auditor General, Opposition Member and Head of the PAC Chairman rose to answer on behalf of the Agency.

Ali contended that since the Auditor General’s Office falls under the remit of the PAC, it is only right that he be able to answer the question.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall accused the government of ‘double standards’ saying that the government was now breaking the very legislation that it passed into law.

His proposal was sternly rejected as the Government contended that only a Government Minister can bring a ‘money Bill’ to the House hence a Government member has to answer.

Addressing the obvious lacuna in the laws, Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan stated that the technical officers are under the directive of the respective subject ministers hence, it was improbable for the PAC to answer questions on their behalf.

“It would be an aberration that it comes from the opposition and for that purpose I urge that you interpret the constitution to give efficacy to this new dispensation,” said Ramjattan.

Attorney General Basil Williams later reminded the House that only “no opposition member can bring a Money Bill” to the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo also opposed the suggesting stating that it is a “pious protestation (from the PPP)  that they are in defense of the constitutional agencies when they would have imprisoned the constitutional agencies.”

Speaker Barton Scotland stated that it is a difficult situation now confronting the House and urged that some compromise be arrived at.

“It is a difficult point now confronting us alll…it is the first time that we have constituional agencies by themselves,” he said adding “let us create something useful and purposeful”

  • Emile_Mervin

    The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee ought to have subpoena powers to request government officials to answer questions about government spending on their watch. Where there is evidence of illegality, then, together with the Auditor-General, a legal case can be made to the police and DPP to lay charges as necessary.

    If Chairman Ali refuses to entertain questions about the PPPs misappropriation of fund in the recent past, then the Attorney-General can bring charges on his own. This is how checks and balances work, so that no one person or side has the final say to the exclusion of others.