PPP/C Chief Whip Gail Teixeira says that government did not follow through on its agreement to names its nominees to the long-delayed Public Procurement Commission (PPC) because the AFC failed to hold up its end of a bargain struck two weeks ago.
In an interview with Stabroek News last evening, Teixeira explained that an agreement, dubbed the “Mashramani Agreement,” between the AFC and the PPP/C would have seen significant movement with regards to the setting up of the PPC, as well as progress towards passing the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill.
She said the AFC had agreed to support the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill when it came to the floor. It is presumed that all three parties were anticipating that the bill would return to the floor during last Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, and in time to be passed before a February 28 deadline set by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
In turn, she said, the PPP/C agreed to give its PPC nominations to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on February 26, after which the members of the PAC would work assiduously towards concluding the processes needed to set up the Public Procurement Commission.
Once the work of the PAC on the PPC was complete, the names of the nominees would be brought to the House where a two-third majority vote would be required to approve the names, after which the AFC would lend their support to the passing of government’s Procurement (Amendment) Bill, the passing of which would see Cabinet retaining its no-objections vote in the procurement process.
With this done, Teixeira further explained, President Donald Ramotar would have moved to appoint the nominees to the PPC.
The AFC though, reportedly stepped back from the so-called Mashramani Agreement, probably after the party realized that it would require more than an agreement between itself and the PPP/C to get the two-third needed towards setting up the PPC.
Teixeira said that the AFC, during a meeting with government last Wednesday, required that government give thought to the demands of A Party for National Unity (APNU). APNU has said that it will not vote for the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill unless the amendments it has proposed are passed as well. Furthermore, the coalition says that government must give some sort of commitment that Ramotar will assent to several bills which he has torpedoed.
Ultimately, Teixeira pointed out, the AFC went back on a deal, which necessitated the PPP/C doing the same.
Meanwhile, CFATF will meet again in May, by which time Guyana is expected to pass the bill in order to be considered CFATF compliant. Failure to comply might see the country placed on a list of blacklisted countries which CFATF Financial Advisor Roger Hernandez told reporters in Guyana can take years to get off.
Teixeira said Nigeria, a previously blacklisted country, has recently been purged from a list of CFATF non-compliant countries. She said that it is important to note that Nigeria had been on the list since 2006, before being taken off last year.
She said a similar fate awaits Guyana if sufficient progress is not made. Teixeira added that beating a blacklisted status would involve entering into a plan of action with CFATF’s International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) which would see several deadlines set by which time the country is expected to meet laid out requirements.
In the meanwhile, the country will remain blacklisted, and very precious resources, human and otherwise, that could have been used for other purposes would be tied up trying to beat the blacklisted status.
As attempts to continue to have the bill passed, the select committee on the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill is slated to meet tomorrow at 17:30 hrs. For any work to be done during this meeting, Chief Parliamentary Counsel Cecil Dhurjon must first complete the drafting of opposition amendments. Last Thursday, during the committee’s last meeting, he indicated by letter that he was not finished and would require more time. He did not say how much more time was needed, and Teixeira, as well as Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, has told Stabroek News that they are unaware of Dhurjon’s progress, or lack thereof.
Teixeira also said that even if Wednesday’s meeting sees the bill being finished in time to be sent back to the National Assembly and passed during the next sitting this moth end, its contents will still need to be scrutinized line by line by CFATF to ensure that there is compliance to CFATF standards.
She suggested that at the current rate, Guyana might still be found non-compliant even if the bill is passed since the amendments proposed by the opposition threaten to interfere with the legislation’s level of compliance. This was also pointed out by Hernandez.