Consultants looking at parliamentary committees

Two parliamentary consultants are in Guyana to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the committee system of the National Assembly and are to make their recommendations in a report to be released early next year.

The visit is sponsored by the Commonwealth Parlia-mentary Association and the United Nations Development Programme.

The two men, Dr. Robin James, Co-Clerk of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and David Ponet, Parliamentary Specialist of UNICEF were briefed by a number of stakeholders on their visit. Ponet said that a report detailing the findings of the study will be released in January and will be made available to the public.

From left are Dr Robin James, David Ponet and Dr Clive Thomas

At a media engagement yesterday afternoon, the two consultants asked about the media’s access to the work of the committees, and what would prompt the media to want to cover the committees. They asked as well whether or not there were any barriers to the coverage of the committees.

Professor Clive Thomas, present at the media engagement, shared research that he had done on Parliament, which found that the institution had structural weaknesses and that there is a lack of capacity in the committees.  Dr. Thomas is of the belief that the committees produce very few reports and he has communicated this to the consultants.

They asked about the media landscape in Guyana and wanted to know whether or not there was balance in the media, with regard to print, radio and television. To this they were told that there were imbalances in coverage across all spectrums of the media, regardless of the medium.

Dr. Thomas was of the view that there is too much self censorship among the media and he said “We have to keep pushing the envelope.”

The consultants also considered the proposal to create a budget office for the National Assembly. Professor Clive Thomas had been asked to do a study on the possibility of a national budget office for the National Assembly but he said that there has been no further action on this.

Dr. Thomas made the point that the executive would not want to relinquish its control over the finances of the National Assembly and therefore would be reluctant to set up the Parliamentary Budget Office. But he noted that he believes the budget office is something that the Government MPs would welcome.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman said that the partnership between the UK House of Commons and the UNDP is a new feature, citing a recent visit there by himself and a number of other Members of Parliament and staff of Parliament. The Speaker noted that while the committee system is a fairly strong institution, it remains weak because of the differences among the MPs.

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