Opposition MPs call on Government Ministers to resign from PAC over continuous absence

Opposition MPs call on Government Ministers to resign from PAC over continuous absence

Another meeting of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was cancelled today over the lack of a quorum, as Government members stayed away from yet another meeting.

Chairman of the PAC and Opposition MP, Jermaine Figueira is now calling for the Government’s Chief Whip, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira, and the Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill to resign from the PAC for being consistently absent.

As he sat in the empty Parliament Chamber with his fellow Opposition MPs Ganesh Mahipaul and Juretha Fernandes, MP Figueira told News Source that the consistent absence of the Government Members from the PAC Meetings is stymieing the work of Committee, and it’s time for the sitting Ministers to step down.

“We are saying, yes, you have responsibilities in your respective portfolios as ministers but put some other person you believe is competent. Are we to believe that the PPP MPs are incompetent to the point that no one else could replace the other Ministers, who are here and are supposedly always busy? The work of the Public Accounts Committee is very important to this nation, and we believe it adds good governance, transparency and accountability of the people’s money. So, those excuses are irrelevant,” the PAC Chairman said.

Today is the 9th time the Meeting of the Public Accounts Committee has been cancelled since the start of the year.

From January 2021 to now, there have been 21 cancellations, 17 of which, occurred following the change in the quorum requirement, which now mandates that there be two MPs from each side, along with the chairman present, for there to be a quorum.

The PAC Chairman said it is clear that it was Government’s intention to stall the work of the Committee when it used its majority in the National Assembly in April 2022 to amend the Standing Orders, to reflect a new quorum rule.

“We have seen time and time again, the PPP making excuses not to attend Public Accounts Committee, and it brings into question their seriousness with regards to good governance, their seriousness with respect to transparency and accountability, and we are of the view that they are not interested in that because these frivolous excuses about them having other government commitments is very concerning for us,” the PAC chairman said.

MP Mahipaul accused the Government of deliberately delaying the work of the PAC to avoid scrutiny. He explained that the PAC is currently examining the public accounts for 2019, and once that is completed would turn its attention to the use of tax payers’ dollars by the Government.

“The Government’s action is a clear indication that they do not want the nation to know about their spending. We have had huge budgets in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and we are currently examining the Auditor General’s report for 2019. I say that to say that the slower we move with 2019 means the longer we have to wait to get to the PPP spending and that is what they are trying to hide from the Guyanese people. Twenty-one meetings so far had to be cancelled, that is 21 Mondays we are lagging behind and completing and reaching up to date with the Auditor General’s report of 2022,” he explained.

He warned that the trend does not augur well for the PAC, and it comes at a time when Opposition MPs are inundated with complaints about lack of accountability across various sectors, including the Public Infrastructure and Health Sectors. 

Contextualizing this most recent cancellation, MP Juretha Fernandes explained that last Friday, the members of the PAC were informed by the Parliament Office that today’s statutory meeting was cancelled due to a lack of a quorum. She said hours later, the nine members of the PAC were informed that the meeting was back on schedule as two Government MPs had committed to being present.

“Staff would have come into Parliament on Saturday to make sure they set things in place for this meeting. Today, Monday, we are getting phone calls to make sure we are coming, then when we are already here at Parliament, we are being told that the meeting is cancelled because there is no quorum any more. This is how the PPP is playing with Guyanese people at this point in time,” she explained.

The Opposition Member of Parliament described the Government’s regular absence from the Public Accounts Committee as a direct threat to accountability.

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