…President refuses to sign amended Bills to ensure its financial independence – Greenidge
Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman is unhappy with how financially dependent the Parliament is on the Executive.
In order to strengthen its independence, he proposed that Parliament be given its money upfront as opposed to its current financial arrangements with the Ministry of Finance.
The House Speaker made this statement during a televised Alliance For Change (AFC) programme on Sunday last.
The Speaker was reminded by Moderator of the programme, Beverly Alert, about a tabled motion for the Independence of the Parliament and to what extent it is still reliant on the Executive.
The House Speaker asserted that to a large extent, it is dependent. He said that the Parliament can put up proposals but it would have to be scrutinized by the Ministry of Finance and approved.
He noted however that there are instances where it would be told that the Finance Ministry does not have money to support certain projects that may even be about training as it has had in the past when the Parliament was operating as per normal.
He told viewers that there were times for example, when the Tenth Parliament needed a Legal Advisor but the Ministry of Finance informed that it cannot afford it.
Trotman also mentioned that in some cases, Members of Parliament had difficulties with travel for conferences and what he would appreciate, as a solution to the problem, is for the Parliament to have a lump sum grant which of course would be subject to any audit.
He is hoping that monies would be available to the National Assembly upfront, the same way the Judiciary should have its money at hand as well.
Because of the current financial arrangements, Trotman reminded that during the Budget cuts case, which saw several protests, parliamentary staff came to him in tears worried about how they would be affected and if it would be a good decision to go on the picket line.
“Parliament staff should not have to be put in a position to choose…,” he added.
He said too that there was the introduction of a Bill for a Parliamentary Commission comprising all parties that would make certain appointments and deal with the problems facing the Parliament. But this Bill remains languishing in the National Assembly.
The House Speaker said that he would still advocate for the Commission.
In sharing his view on the matter, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Carl Greenidge, said that his coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) was the one that piloted that Bill to provide for the independence of the National Assembly. But he opined that the reason it has not been realized was because the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) asked for it to be shelved to permit certain discussions. That was in 2012. The discussions led to nothing, he emphasized.
Greenidge said that that was the purpose of the request and he went on to state that it is a very common strategy of the PPP.
The APNU Parliamentarian said that what the nation is witnessing is a clear case where offices such as the Parliamentary Counsel and a Budget Office needed and requested by the Assembly have been denied by the Executive. He believes that this is a travesty because those two bodies are supposed to be separate and independent but it is clearly a case where one decides on the facilities available to the other.
Greenidge said that the PPP executive can be expected to continue to refuse funds for the Budget Office because that office is supposed to help in the vetting of the Executive’s work.
The APNU Shadow Finance Minister said that obviously, the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act need to be amended to permit the House to take care of such business and needs.
He highlighted that The Fiscal Management and Accountability Amendment Act of 2013 and the Constitutional Amendment Acts of 2013 did this.
“And, surprise, surprise, President Donald Ramotar refused to assent to them,” he asserted.
“Therein lies Guyana’s problem – the inconsistency of the Constitution with the principles on which it is based and the ease with which the Presidency can undermine those very principles,” the APNU financial point man concluded.
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