Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:00 by GxMediaLess than one week before Guyana’s National Assembly votes on crucial amendments to the financial crimes law, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has severely rapped Opposition Leader David Granger’s downplay of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
Granger was quoted by the privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper as saying that the opposition coalition does not regard the PPC as an immediate concern and there is no reason to tie it to passage of amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).
“The concerns about the Public Procurement Act have nothing to do with APNU at this point in time or our attitude towards the AML/CFT Bill,” he said. Granger reportedly added that there was no nexus between getting the PPC and the AML/CFT, positions that have angered the GTUC.
Registering “serious objection” to the Opposition Leader’s statement, the trade union confederation urged APNU not to be a party to flouting Guyana’s constitution by not forcing government to set up the bipartisan commission that will oversee the award of billions of dollars of contracts.
“Constitutional requirements cannot be cheery-picked or dismissed at will. Doing this is in itself a violation of the Constitution. Further, it gives tacit support to the government’s contempt for this sacred instrument, which remains the foundation for good governance,” said the GTUC.
The trade union body, which has historically enjoyed a close relationship with the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR)- the major partner in APNU)- called on that parliamentary grouping to “respect the Constitution and revisit its position on having the PPC activated.”
In contrast, the Alliance For Change (AFC) has vehemently maintained that if government wants to win its crucial seven-seat support for the financial crimes amendments bill, it should set up the five-member commission before. The AFC has argued that the PPC is equally important as the AML/CFT in fighting corruption including money laundering.
In this regard, the trade union body appeared to be on the side of the AFC’s position. “The fact that Mr. Ramjattan, Leader of the AFC, alleged money was offered him to derail tying the establishment of the PPC to the Anti-Money Laundering bill and in light of Mr. Granger’s willingness to go ahead with the obvious violation of this constitutional provision is placing him in an untenable situation where the APNU is called to question.”
The GTUC queried what Granger’s incentive not to act was; a situation the trade union organisation said reflected his need to be wary of his quality of decision-making that is becoming associated with APNU.
Arguing that corruption is a human rights issue, the GTUC demanded that APNU ensures good governance, accountability of public procurement and holding government responsible for holding the constitution sacred. “Where government is failing, APNU must give voice and leadership to this nation to protect and defend the Constitution,” added the GTUC.
GTUC, APNU and AFC are, nevertheless, united in their position that amending the Procurement Commission Act to ensure Cabinet can exercise its no-objection was unacceptable.
APNU and AFC have already named their nominees to the commission. The government side has maintained that it would submit the names of its nominees only if Cabinet retains the right of no objection as currently exists in relation to decisions by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
If all parties submit their nominees, the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly will have to reach consensus on who should sit on the Commission and then send the names to the Assembly where two thirds of the lawmakers present will decide whether to approve before taking them to the President for their appointment.