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Govt cuts time for opposition to query budgetary allocations

The Chamber of the National Assembly

Government on Friday cut the time for the National Assembly to cut the time for the thorough examination of monies allocated in the 2015 National Budget and the reasons for doing so.

The consideration of the estimates set to commence on August 24th

The PPP criticised government for breaking parliamentary tradition  after government successfully moved and passed the motion limiting the amount of days allotted for the consideration of the 2015 Budgetary estimates to three (3) days even though the Standing Orders (SOs) of the National Assembly allow for a maximum of 7 days for such consideration. 

Despite resistance from the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), the government used its 33 seats to vote in favour of the motion that was tabled by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira’s objections included the fact that the 65-seat National Assembly needed more time to consider the estimates because of the change in the names of several ministries and the establishment of new ones. “This will double up the work,” she said.

While  House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland was consulting with Clerk of the National Assembly on the preliminary procedural points raised by Teixeira, PPP front-bencher, Anil Nandlall heckled across the aisle to the government benches. When it was time to vote on the motion, Nandlall said “No to death of parliamentary democracy.”

Nagamootoo, who, in accordance with SO 73 (1), moved to limit the days for the consideration of the estimates. The SO reads “There shall be allotted a maximum of seven (7) days for consideration of the Estimates of Expenditure in the Committee of Supply.”

At this point, Teixeira, intervened on a point of order, arguing that such a move speaks “very badly for the new administration” as it is effectively seeking to “restrict the debate of the estimates to three days.”

Teixeira went further to “respectfully” point out to Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, that he is the “new kid on the block” and may not be familiar with the fact that there has never been an attempt to reduce the days allotted for the consideration of the estimates. She implored him to not entertain the motion, and signaled the intention of her party to not support the motion.

In retort, Nagamootoo pointed out that the language of SO 73 (1) allows for allotting three days for the consideration of the estimates as it stipulates that seven 7 days is the maximum.

“SO 73 clearly defines that delineated the word maximum. It does not mean that this House in its competence cannot set a minimum period if the house so wishes…,” the Prime Minister said. He further pointed that out that such a motion would only be wrongly moved if it breached the constitution, which it did not.

Ultimately, Scotland allowed the motion and put it to a vote. The motion was won by a 32 – 28 vote in the government’s favour.