Speaker suspends Budget Debate as Gov’t MPs get rowdy
The Speaker of the National Assembly was forced to temporarily suspend the 2011 budget debate last evening after Parliamentarians from the government side became rowdy when Opposition Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan, pressed his case about corruption.
Ramjattan littered his arguments with the constant reminder of corruption in the award of massive infrastructural projects taking place across the country, causing agitation on the government benches.
The Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran, first warned the Parliamentarians that they were being rowdy and asked that Ramjattan be shown some respect.
It was when Ramjattan chose to quote from a book written by former Auditor General Anand Goolsaraan, in which he calls attention to deficiencies in the public accounting system, that the government Parliamentarians became more rowdy, forcing the Speaker to suspend the debate.
When the House was reconvened, Ramjattan quipped that the Achilles’ heel of the government seems to be corruption.
Ramjattan quoted from the book “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It” by Paul Collier, former Director of the Development Research Group of the World Bank, in making his point.
He said that behind the massive spending in infrastructure projects across the country there can be extraordinarily substandard work and extraordinary corruption.
Ramjattan’s arguments were a rebuttal of the arguments made by Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jennifer Webster.
She said that accountability and transparency have been the watchwords of this government, drawing a burst of laughter from those on the opposition benches.
She said that the government was committed to prudent spending, and said that the internal audit division in Ministry of Finance will be operational later this year.
She also pointed out that the government has been pumping millions of dollars to improve the operations of the Office of the Auditor General.
To ensure value for money, she said the government was looking at introducing new laws that would bring stiff penalties to bear against cheating contractors and consultants as Opposition Parliamentarians said.
She noted that the legislation would be to address areas of non performance by contractors and consultants.
Webster did not provide other details when she made the announcement as part of her contribution to the 2011 budget debate.
Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, recently indicated that contractors who “mess up” contracts awarded in the agricultural sector end up with contracts in other sectors.
“…When you ‘brackle’ them, as it were, in drainage and irrigation, they jump to another sector,” Persaud told reporters yesterday.
Persaud indicated that contractors who fail to meet the requirements of their contracts could be sidelined for other contracts. He stopped short of saying outright that delinquent contractors would be blacklisted.
“Whilst we are not permitted legally to do so (blacklist), we have taken steps to ensure that in the evaluation process poor performance, non-performance, shoddy performance, whatever performance that did not meet the requirements of the contract (are) noted by the evaluators,” he emphasised.
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