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APNU+AFC protests change in Public Accounts Committee rules

Last Updated on Friday, 8 April 2022, 22:54 by Denis Chabrol

A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) on Friday condemned efforts by the government to amend the rules governing the bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Currently, the PAC’s rules , officially called “Standing Orders” provide for a quorum of any three members including the Chairman.  But now, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration is next Wednesday expected to use its simple majority in the 65-seat National Assembly to amend the rules for a quorum to consist of two government members, two opposition members and the Chairman. 

While  no reason was given for the intended amendment to the PAC’s Standing Order, Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira said “we don’t live nor function by their standards” . Told that APNU+AFC was arguing that government wanted to shut down scrutiny of audit reports under its tenure by failing to attend or withdrawing those meetings, she queried: “Are they projecting their own guilt as this they have done this in the PMC (Parliamentary Management Committee).”

PAC Chairman, Jermaine Figueira said that bipartisan parliamentary committee, which reviews Auditor General’s reports on how public funds have been spent and grills accounting officers, was never informed about the proposed change. “This matter has never been discussed at the level of the PAC although the mover of the motion is a member of the said committee. That this motion is being brought directly to the House and not via the Standing Orders Committee, which is the long-established and correct route is of grave concern,” he told a late afternoon news conference.

APNU+AFC member of the PAC, Ganesh Mahipaul is accusing the government of setting the stage to avoid scrutiny of the audit reports for 2020 and 2021. “i believe that this is an attempt by the People’s Progressive Party to avoid scrutiny. They are avoiding us reaching  the 2020 and 2021 Auditor General’s Reports and they are well-aware that we are moving at a pace  where we are considering these reports to reach up to date with the Auditor General’s Report,” he said. 

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan echoed similar concerns but said there was little the coalition could do to block an amendment to the Standing Orders governing the PAC because government enjoys a simple majority. “Well, there is very little that could be done in view of the fact that a majority can change the Standing Orders rules. We saw that when there was this confidence in the Chairman  then, David Patterson, and although we made it quite clear that that ought not to be done because it must be selected by the opposition but they went and did their thing,” he said.

Mr. Ramjattan, nevertheless, hoped that by the APNU+AFC speaking out it could trigger “public pressure, opprobrium against this very degenerate development happening in our rules of Parliament.”

He chastised government for effectively discarding long, tedious work in developing those rules.