Govt avoiding parliamentary scrutiny of Natural Resources sector

Last Updated on Friday, 25 November 2022, 16:39 by Denis Chabrol

The opposition Alliance For Change has accused the Irfaan Ali-led administration of refusing to summon meetings of parliamentary sectoral committee on natural resources to subject ministers and officials to scrutiny.

“We wanted to get the natural resources parliamentary sectoral committee to start functioning. What we understand is that the PPP does not want that parliamentary sector committee to function because members there have the power to subpoena,”  AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan said. He appealed to the government to release all “large scale” gold mining contracts as Guyanese would not benefit from a lack of transparency in that sector.

The AFC said it understood that the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative risked being expelled by the Norway-headquartered Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative for failing to provide details and reports on mining companies and other activities in the extractive sectors.

Mr Ramjattan said his party had hoped that bipartisan parliamentary sectoral committee would have begun work to seek answers. “They have locked it off. You cannot go to that sectoral committee to ask those questions,” he added.

According to the AFC, its only resort is to identify government officials and “name them and shame them” to gain the attention of the EITI and the international community.

Mr Ramjattan said under the then Head of the GYEITI Rudy Jadoopat, three reports had been compiled and published but now the fourth report appeared to be in jeopardy as the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) was yet to complete its work.

Claiming that the current GYEITI Head, Professor Prem Misir suffered from “complete inexperience and incapacity”  and should resign, be fired and replaced with Dr Jadoopat. Efforts to reach Dr Misir and the Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat were not immediately successful.

The AFC said a proper independent administrator of GYEITI was yet to be appointed without an open public tender process.

Earlier this week, PNCR Executive Member Ganesh Mahipaul and APNU+AFC parliamentarian said several parliamentary sectoral committees that are chaired by the government have “never met”. Those include the committee on security chaired by Prime Minister Mark Phillips, Natural Resource Committee chaired by Natural Resources Minister Bharrat, and the Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Foreign Minister Hugh Todd. “I don’t know if (Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance) Ms Teixeira is confirming” that those committee chairmen “are APNU+AFC parliamentarians because they are chairing those committees.”

Also, Mr Mahipaul said the Standing Orders Committee, Assemblies Committee and the Statutory Instrument Committee that are all chaired by House Speaker Manzoor Nadir also never met. He noted that a parliamentary sectoral committee chaired by Public Works Minister Juan Edghill met in March 2022 for the first time.

He noted that since the government’s change in the quorum for the Public Accounts Committee has not been meeting in recent times because the ministers have been staying away from those sessions. “They are effectively putting mechanisms in place so that they can carry out their (alleged) corrupt activities without scrutiny and, therefore, they don’t have to be accountable,” Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton added.