The Meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) got off to a heated start this morning, after Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, fired off at the PAC’s Chairman, Opposition Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira, over statements that were made by Opposition Member Ganesh Mahipaul regarding the regular cancellations of the PAC meetings, due to the absence of the Government members.
As the Committee was about to consider the 2019 Accounts of Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), MP Mahipaul said scrutiny of the Region’s accounts was hampered because of three cancellations of meetings of the PAC.
He said while the Parliament Office would send out notices ahead of the PAC meetings about cancellations due to unavailability of members, he believes more specifics should be offered since the Opposition MPs are usually available.
“I would like to suggest sir, that when the parliament or National Assembly staff decides to send an email of cancellation, it be specific,” MP Mahipaul said.
However, before he could conclude his statement, the PAC Chair interjected, and stated that the matter must be discussed in-house.
“This matter would be discussed further, if it so pleases you, in-house. No further member would be given the floor to discuss this matter,” the Chairman ruled.
However, his ruling did not sit well with Minister Juan Edghill, who despite being repeatedly cautioned, demanded that his voice be heard.
“I will speak because Mr Mahipaul was allowed to speak. This is not a grandstanding,” Minister Edghill said, even as he was told by the Chairman that he did not have the floor.
He argued that the matter should have been dealt with under “any other business” in-house.
“You allowed Mr Mahipaul to carry on, on camera, and you interrupt him after three minutes, then you say no other member will speak, that’s nonsense. This is lawlessness and it must not be allowed to happen,” the Works Minister added.
MP Figueira while urging Minister Edghill to conduct himself with some level of decorum, indicated that MP Mahipaul’s statement will be struck from the record, but that did not allay the concerns of the Minister.
For his part, MP Mahipaul indicated that he was unaware that the sitting was being streamed live at that point, and he respected the ruling of the Chair.
The Opposition has long complained about the regular unavailability of Government Members of the Public Accounts Committee, resulting in cancellations because of a lack of a quorum.