Latest update May 28th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 24, 2023 News
…accuses Government of installing lackeys to key boards, avoiding Parliament, dodging PAC meetings
Kaieteur News – In recent times, the People’s Progressive Party Government has instituted several measures to ensure it cements control over a number of key management boards, while at the same time skillfully avoiding the involvement of other stakeholders in critical decision-making processes, Economist Ramon Gaskin has said.
In an exclusive interview with this publication earlier this week, Gaskin explained that the country is now being governed in a one-man show manner. Gaskin argued that the administration is unwilling to listen to the counsel of other stakeholders as is evident in the reduced sittings of the National Assembly. “This government doesn’t listen to recommendations from anybody. The Parliament does not meet (as it should) to discuss things among the members in the Opposition. This government is not interested in that. They are just interested in what Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo wants and what (President) Irfaan Ali wants, the government does not want to discuss anything with anybody.”
The activist said it is difficult to recall when the last Sitting of the National Assembly took place. This he said confirms that the institutions in the country are not functioning as it should, as was referenced recently by a Jamaican Economist, Dr. Damien King. Gaskin went further to point out that the respective sub-committees of Parliament have been failing to meet frequently. Notably, the Public Accounts Committee that is tasked with reviewing national expenditure has been unable to convene regularly due to the lack of quorum, resulting from absent government representatives.
Gaskin said while the government boasts of implementing a strengthened Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act, “the legislation is simply not designed to avoid corruption at the government level.” This newspaper had reported that the law does not outline penalties for misuse of funds, but rather provides for jail time for failing to report on funds transferred to the account. But even on the boards provided for by the Act, Gaskin said government has hand-picked its own representatives to ensure there is little input from civil society on how the finances are invested.
According to him, these members will not be managing the funds but it is “Jagdeo that is running things”. In 2021, the Vice President said the 22-member Public Accountability and Oversight Committee would no longer be featured in the legislation, however a nine-member body was appointed by President Ali in August last year.
“They changed that committee and have a new set of people with their own people so that they can run things. They spend couple of hundreds of millions all the time and that’s what they are doing, they are wasting the money all the time and a lot of it is corrupt transactions,” he insisted.
The legislation states at Section 16 (2) that “All withdrawals from the Fund shall deposited into the Consolidate Fund and shall be used only to finance- (a) national development priorities including any initiative aimed at realizing an inclusive green economy; and (b) essential projects that are directly related to ameliorating the effect of a major natural disaster.” Government had said the oil funds would be used to develop the Gas-to-Energy project that is expected to cost in excess of US$2 billion. Gaskin said this is one such “corrupt transaction” since there are not enough studies to back its feasibility. More recently, Cabinet appointed an Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) comprised of senior government officials, including Dr. Mahendar Sharma, Mr. Joslyn McKenzie and Dr. Garvin Cummings. These appointments were all questioned and protested by citizens. In fact, a citizen even wrote the President to reconsider the appointments but was ignored.
No contracts cast in stone, except Norton and Jagdeo own!
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