UNDP/UNICEF funding $92M project to boost parliamentary operations

-Speaker urges restructuring of committees

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be partnering with the Guyana Parliament to help it boost its operations in several areas.

UNDP Resident Representative Carlos del Castillo handed over the project document to Speaker of the National Assembly yesterday. The two year programme is valued at US$461,000, with the current installment being US$250,000. The programme involves assistance over a wide range of areas, including development of the parliament’s website, its information technology capacity, the Hansard department, enhancing the capacity of committees, staff training and developing a new strategic plan.

Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran expressed gratitude for the support and noted that it is a collaborative effort between the UNDP, UNICEF and the Ministry of Finance. He added that over the years, the UNDP and other international agencies had contributed to improving the Parliament.

UNDP Resident Representative Carlos del Castillo hands over the project document to Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran.

Meanwhile, Ramkarran used the opportunity to indicate some changes he would like to see in the parliamentary system. “We have been working tirelessly to improve the functioning of the National Assembly and in particular the capacity of the committees. We have gone some distance but structural obstacles remain,” Ramkarran said.

He called for full time Members of Parliament to chair the parliamentary committees and to ensure that they are adequately and permanently staffed. “The development and implementation of government policy cannot be fully and adequately monitored by committees structured as at present,” he said.

“I would like to see the Chairs of these Committees come from the Opposition, as in the case of the Public Accounts Committee, and as obtains in Jamaica. I would also like to see the agendas of the committees determined by one-third of the members,” he said.   The Public Accounts Committee has a fixed agenda, namely, the examination of the Auditor General’s Report. “This will make the work of these Committees far more meaningful, will enhance the effectiveness of the National Assembly, will increase transparency and efficiency in government’s performance and will benefit the people of Guyana,” he said. According to him, this will make the National Assembly more appealing.

In spite of the challenges, Ramkarran said that the Ninth Parliament, which concluded yesterday, had been a success. “Much legislative work was accomplished. All questions asked and approved have been placed on the Order Paper and all, or the vast majority, have been answered,” he said.  According to him, all motions tabled were debated and at least one-third of bills were sent to Special Select Committees. The committees have functioned and reported, Ramkarran said, while adding that the Social Services Sectoral Committee was outstanding in this regard.

Ramkarran also decried the absence of the parliamentary opposition from the sittings where supplementary provisions were approved. “The absence of the opposition means that the estimates were passed without the kind of scrutiny which the Guyanese people are entitled to and for which they pay us,” he said.

According to him, “whatever our political difference, the interests of the Guyanese people are ill served by us abandoning the responsibilities which we owe to the Guyanese people.” “I trust that this dereliction of duty will not visit the Tenth Parliament,” he added.

The government had used its majority to suspend the annual parliamentary recess to “complete important business.” This was without the support of the main opposition PNCR-1G and the AFC, which said they would boycott the extra sittings unless there was a national emergency or an issue of extreme national importance

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