APNU not linking financial crimes law to procurement commission

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:01 by GxMedia

Inside the Parliament Buildings Chamber where the government and two opposition parties will eventually vote on whether the financial crimes laws should be approved.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Thursday said it would not tie its support for changes to financial crimes legislation to the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPPC).

APNU parliamentarian Joseph Harmon said that his party’s decision to give Guyana a “good” rather than a “piecemeal” AML/CFT law was not contingent on the PPC being established.

“That’s right. We are saying that we are going to be working carefully in ensuring that we have good legislation,” Harmon said when asked whether the AML/CFT was not tied to the PPC

That means that amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) are expected to be approved by the House though the Alliance For Change (AFC) continues to hinge its support to the setting up of the PPPC. Even if APNU abstains, government can still use its 32 seats to pass the amendments.

Asked why the APNU was not using approval of the AML/CFT amendments as leverage to get government to establish the PPC, Harmon countered by saying that APNU had other mechanisms that it planned to use to pressure the administration.

“There are several leverages. That is just one aspect of it. There are other aspects that are available to the opposition and whatever is necessary, apart from the anti money laundering legislation, there are other things which we are aware and which we’ll use to ensure that we have good governance in this country,” said Harmon.

Reacting, AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan said APNU should feel free to support changes to the AML/CFT. He dismissed suggestions that with APNU breaking ranks, the AFC was being left out in the cold.

“Not out in the cold. We would have stuck to our principled position of stating that we want a procurement commission. If it does not happen because APNU would have done what it is now intimating that it will do so be it,” Ramjattan told a news conference.

The AFC and APNU have already named their PPC members, but government has effectively put a brake on the process by arguing that it wants the law amended for Cabinet to still enjoy oversight over the award of contracts for the provision of goods and services.

Even as the two parties held their news briefings Cabinet Secretary and chief governement spokesman Dr. Roger Luncheon was holding one of his own. Asked whether the amendments would be forthcoming before the August 10 parliamentary recess he said they were instead appealing to the parties on points of reason and would only bring the amendments if there was a commitment that they would be passed. 

“My feeling is the approach to parliament with amendments to the Procurement Act in the absence of a commitment by the opposition not to oppose, better yet even to support, these amendments would be a disaster,” Dr. Luncheon said. 

He added that reaching an agreement with the opposition on the amendments was “paramount” at this time. The opposition has maintained that the current system of procurement and tendering facilitates multi-million dollar corruption.

The amendments to the AML/CFT are currently before a parliamentary select committee to which, among other persons, the Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Hack has made a presentation. The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) has given Guyana before year-end to approve and assent the amendments or face stiff sanctions that can delay incoming and outgoing financial transactions and increase the time and cost of doing business.