…Senior Ministers withhold support as opposition points to legal flaws
Three Government Ministers last evening withheld support for a motion brought to the House, designed to grant duty-free concessions for increased cylinder capacity (cc) for two key appointees of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
It is the first time since the Coalition Government, which took the majority in the House at the 2015 polls, lost a Motion it presented.
Dr. George Norton, Minister of Social Cohesion with Responsibilities for Culture, Youth and Sport moved the Motion as the Chairperson of the Committee on Appointments which reported that the Committee had agreed to offer Surendra Lall Boodhoo and Yonette Scarville the positions of Accountant and Attorney-At-Law, respectively, of the FIU.
Abstaining in the vote were Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge. The final count saw 26 members voting ‘yes’ and 28 ‘no’.
Minister of Public Communications, Cathy Hughes had voted no, but then changed to yes.
Notably absent from the count was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams and Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, who left his seat just as the vote count had started.
During the debate it was pointed out that the standard cylinder size for public servants was 1,500 cc while the Motion was seeking to grant the two FIU officials with 2000cc. Further it was noted that the Motion was seeking to take away the power to grant duty free concessions from the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority.
Opposition MP Juan Edghill stated that the Motion was outside the scope of the committee that is presenting it.
“The Committee of Appointments has no jurisdiction or authority to determine who gets duty free concessions and at what capacity, because that is already determined by policy and the days of discretion by the Minister to determine who gets duty free concession have long gone,” Edghill stated.
He further added that the granting of concessions is outside the scope of the National Assembly.
According to Edghill, some of the persons who applied for the positions may have turned down the post based on the package that was offered, including duty free vehicles below 2000 cc. However, he noted that to now increase the offer indicates that someone took the job knowing that they would have gotten a change in package.
“This motion is exposing it,” Edghill declared.
His opposition colleague, Irfaan Ali, warned that the Parliament should not adjust duty free based on individuals.
“We have to adjust based on principle. We have to adjust based on position. We have to say here that we are going to create a new category of posts that will benefit from such concessions,” Ali stated.
Ali warned that the Motion would open up questions from other appointees in other areas who are functioning in the same capacity and same level.
“They will want to know why is it that they are not considered for the granting of duty free concessions at the same level as indicated in the Motion,” Ali noted.
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