Government has slammed claims that Members of Parliament (MPs) are consuming huge quantities of high end liquor every sitting in the Parliament Buildings.
Yesterday, an incensed Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, made it clear that the Opposition Leader’s claims were deliberate “lies”.
Speaking to reporters, Hughes, a senior member of the Alliance of Change, which is part of the Coalition Government, said she woke up and learnt, in anger, of the “inaccuracies” of reports of alcohol use during the Parliamentary sittings in the lounge.
She also said that she want to clear the air about the cost of food at every sitting of the National Assembly.
Kaieteur News, reporting on costs recently associated with sittings of the National Assembly, the country’s highest law-making forum, quoted the Clerk of the National Assembly, who disclosed that an estimated $700,000 was being spent on food of each occasion.
The news sparked a raging debate about costs and even the work of MPs, in context of the seemingly high bill for food.
On Thursday, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, during his weekly press conference, suggested that the cost for alcohol might be just as much as the cost for food.
He said, “It’s not just food. It’s a huge amount of alcohol that gets consumed and imbibed in the Parliament… fancy, fancy liquor. The Opposition leader said that it is simply “ridiculous.”
Jagdeo said that he consumes the food provided, but never indulges in the alcohol. He noted that he has a room at the Parliament Building and he has instructed that no alcoholic beverages be put there. “You can ask them, I told them not to put any alcohol there…I do not even touch the things they provide.”
Further, Jagdeo said that Opposition Members of Parliament would hardly ever, if at all, utilize alcohol provided by Parliament Office.
“They do eat. We eat. I eat the food. What do you suggest? I don’t go and eat the food? I eat the food, but I don’t drink the liquor,” I like eating too, and it’s not like its fancy food. It’s not fancy food, but it’s the alcohol part that I have a problem with,” said Jagdeo.
Jagdeo suggested that some members of Government are excessive with the imbibing during sittings.
Jagdeo recommended that systems be put in place to allow MPs to purchase alcohol if they desire to have a drink when they meet for sittings.
He said that a canteen should be considered, “let them buy their own liquor.”
He made it clear that he was not suggesting that legislators be made to eat out of boxes or that food be skimped.
However, according to Minister Hughes, who is an MP, when she heard Jagdeo’s “ranting and raving and lying deliberately, misinterpreting the facts,” she felt it necessary to let Guyanese know that they (parliamentarians) are not an irresponsible set of people.
“It is not 65 MPs eating $700,000 every sitting,” an upset Hughes told reporters yesterday.
“I would not be sitting in that Parliament and tolerating that.”
In fact, the minister pointed out, many of the MPs and quite a few of the Opposition side, with whom she is “friends”, are similar in that regard.
She disclosed that just over 300 persons eat at every sitting of the National Assembly. That works out just $2,200 (US$11) per person.
Among that 300 persons would be the MPs – 65 of them; 40 media workers; 115 Parliament staffers; drivers and medical personnel. “There are even two drivers of Jagdeo who eat too,” Hughes said.
She described the news of Jagdeo’s claims as “fake news” that MPs are eating $700,000 on each sitting, and said that it was all untruths being peddled.
According to Minister Hughes, she does not know which lounge Jagdeo, a former president, visits, but the lounge in which she eats, does not serve alcohol. Rather, there is a range of teas, coffees, juices and water.
She was quick to point out that there is alcohol served on occasions – at Christmas or when an MP would bring some for his or her colleagues during a birthday celebration, but these “are few and far between”.
Hughes said that it is a big disservice to Guyanese to hear that their hard-earned money is being
“wasted” and “squandered”.
Responding to questions about the food bill and other issues, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs disclosed that the Assembly Committee of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana considered and gave approval for a number of food suppliers to be invited through the restrictive bidding process, to bid for the supply of meals and snacks for sittings of the National Assembly and Committee Meetings.
The four suppliers that bid were Maggie’s Snackette and Catering Service; Ambience Restaurant and Catering Service; Carnegie School of Home Economics and Water Chris Hotel and Bar.
According to Isaacs, the contract was awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on 5th July, 2018 to Maggie’s Snackette and Catering Service for the supply of meals and snacks for sittings of the National Assembly and Committee Meetings.
It was reported sometime back that the cost of every sitting, for food; for putting up MPs in hotels and for paying travelling from out of the region, among other things, was over $1.5M.
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