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AFC says opposition should sit on wealth fund board, despite concerns about passage of law

Last Updated on Monday, 14 February 2022, 15:41 by Denis Chabrol

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Monday said it was keen on nominating an expert to be a member of the Board of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) to scrutinise spending of the oil money, while maintaining that the new NRF Act was badly structured and rammed through the House.

“Good politicians that like good governance then realise that, although we oppose the Act, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the contents of the Act cannot be as best possible be fulfilled  and so, although we are in opposition, and in very vociferous opposition against this new Act of 2021, that does not necessarily mean that all things being equal, as you say, are given an opportunity to nominate a competent, capable person, we will not do that. I think it will be bad politics on our part and it will not be in the exercise of your right to go towards good governance,” he said.

Mr. Ramjattan said he was unaware if the parliamentary appointments committee had started the process to thoroughly scrutinise the nominees. “I quite frankly think we should participate in that process and take it from there,” he said. AFC General Secretary David Patterson did not think that the coalition had been invited to submit nominees. He said the process should be based on technical qualifications or blueprint for selecting or recommending such persons.

Mr. Ramjattan said  the coalition had a number of potential independent-minded nominees who could do a “proper job” on the NRF Board.  Mr. Patterson said already the government has failed to say on what specific projects the US$607 million that has been withdrawn from the NRF will be spent. “If you can get a person of high credibility on it that is independent maybe some light can be shed on the processes,” he added.

The AFC officials said no talks have been held with its coalition partner, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), on whether someone should be nominated.  Opposition Chief Whip , Christopher Jones told News-Talk Radio Guyana / Demerara Waves Online News said the opposition has not taken a definitive decision on whether someone should be nominated. “We are of the opinion that it wasn’t passed legally and, therefore, naming somebody to represent us, we can’t make that decision now so, as it stands currently, nobody will be named,” he said. He clarified that that is the position of the opposition parliamentarians but the coalition parties would have to “guide us” given the need to serve as an NRF watchdog.

AFC Executive Member, Cathy Hughes said her party was not prepared to surrender the very important role of scrutinising how Guyana’s monies would be spent. “We have a responsibility to ensure that we can scrutinise regardless of how we may be treated or how we come to the table but primarily we have to make sure that that money is put to good use because it belongs to each and every Guyanese,” she said

The governing PPP in December had ignored calls by APNU+AFC and several civil society organisations for more consultations on the proposed amendments such as the reduction of an oversight committee and the introduction of a board.

Despite a ruckus, including the blowing of whistles, damage to audio and internet connections and the removal of the mace by several opposition parliamentarians, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh persevered with a human chain of government parliamentarians around  him in the controversial passage of the Bill.

APNU+AFC had said that the legislation had  not been properly passed because the authentic mace had not been before the Speaker and several government parliamentarians had not been in their designated seats when the Bill had been put to a vote.

House Speaker  Manzoor Nadir is on record as saying that a replica mace had been used, something the opposition has since said it had never heard about before.