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PPP, Govt bicker over ministers on Public Accounts, other parliamentary oversight committees

PPP parliamentarian Juan Edghill and PPP Executive Committee member, Dr. Roger Luncheon briefing the media at Freedom House Friday afternoon.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Friday afternoon protested the appointment of government ministers to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and several sectoral oversight committees but Government Chief Whip, Amna Ally rejected the opposition’s claims of a conflict of interest.

“These steps are more evidence of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government’s attacks on parliamentary democracy overthrowing the laws, rules, standing orders and traditions of Parliament,” said the PPP.

But Ally said no parliamentary rule, law or Guyana’s Constitution has been violated Asked about the decision to break with the PPP’s model that no minister should be members of those committees, Ally said only time would tell. “I don’t know what are going to be the advantages. We just believe that these are the correct persons for the various committees and the end result will be evident; we will see how they perform,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Chief Whip said Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence would be a member of but not the Chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that scrutinizes government’s accounts.

She said a member of the opposition would continue to chair the PAC.

Asked about the likelihood of a conflict of interest by cabinet ministers, who are members of the PAC and the Sectoral Committees, because they are part of a collective decision-making body, Ally said in the case of the PAC the Permanent Secretaries are the accounting officers who would have to appear before the PAC. “Whatever are the rules, they have to abide by the rules. If they are summoned for scrutiny they have to attend and they have to ensure that all the information is provided. That has nothing to do with who is who friend and who is not who’s friend,” she said.

PPP Parliamentarian, Juan Edghill heaped criticism of the decision taken by the Committee of Selection on Friday for almost all the parliamentary committees. Edghill argued that the appointment of a sitting minister to the PAC violates the Standing Order and the Constitution. “To now have a sitting minister of government, whose ministry will come under scrutiny by the very same committee sitting on that committee is surely a departure from everything that relates to accountability and transparency as it relates to the rule of law,” he said.

PPP Executive Committee Member, Dr. Roger Luncheon accused government of militaristically cementing its fetish and control of the Committees and Parliament by violating the laws, parliamentary rules and custom and practice through the appointment of ministers.

Edghill said more than one ministers would be sitting on the Economic Reform, Social Services, Foreign Relations and National Resources that would be overlooking the work  of those committees. “What is interesting is that you will have members of Cabinet participating in discussions that are scrutinizing and overseeing actions of the executive,” said Edghill, a former Junior Finance Minister.

Members of the PAC are Minister Volda Lawrence; members of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services are Ministers Carl Greenidge, Jaipaul Sharma, Simona Broomes and Noel Holder with the alternate being Jennifer Wade. The PPP’s representatives are Irfaan Ali, Juan Edghill, Komal Chand and Colin Croal.  The make-up of the Sectoral Committee on Social Services are Ministers Karen Cummings, Raphael Trotman,  Valerie Garrido-Lowe and government parliamentarian John Adams. The PPP’s representatives are Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Alister Charlie, Indra Chandrapal and the alternate Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo. The Standing Committee on Foreign Relations is made up of Ministers Volda Lawrence, Sydney Allicock, Dominique Gaskin as well as Hemraj Rajkumar and the alternate, John Adams. Representing the PPP on that Committee are Gail Teixeira, Africo Selman, Zulficar Mustapha and the alternate, Nigel Dharamlall.  Making up the Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources are Ministers Winston Jordan, Joseph Harmon, Ronald Bulkan as well Audwyn Rutherford and Mr Figueria as the alternate. The PPP’s members are Odinga Lumumba, Pauline Sukhai, Neend Kumar and Yvonne Pearson as the alternate.