Greenidge to move motions for autonomy of courts, audit office, service commissions

APNU MP Carl Greenidge has served notice of parliamentary motions aimed at securing the independence and autonomy of the Courts, the Office of the Auditor General and the service commissions by ensuring that they are funded by a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund rather than by an allocation from the government.

Notice of these motions was received by Parliament Office on March 26 and they are listed for debate on April 17, 2012

In relation to the courts, Greenidge’s motion said that Article 122A of the Constitution prescribes that “all Courts and all persons presiding over courts shall exercise their function independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control”.

This article further caters for all courts to be administratively autonomous and funded by a direct charge upon the Consolidated Fund.

However, Greenidge said that the Supreme Court of Guyana and all other Courts are being treated as a Budget Agency, “a practice which seriously calls into question the independence and autonomy of the Courts”.

The resolve clause of the motion urged that “the National Assembly takes steps to amend the Schedule to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 2003 so as to remove the Supreme Court from the Schedule of Budget Agencies and restore it to its rightful place as an autonomous body drawing directly from the Consolidated Fund and that the changes should be reflected in the Annual Estimates to be submitted by the Minister of Finance for the approval of the National Assembly.”

The budget speech and the annual estimates come up for consideration next week.

Pattern

The other motions follow the same pattern. Greenidge pointed out that Article 198 of the Constitution establishes the Judicial Service Commission; Article 200 of the Constitution establishes the Public Service Commission; Article 207 of the Constitution establishes the Teaching Service Commission and Article 210 of the Constitution establishes the Police Service Commission.

The motion noted that the functions of the abovementioned Service Commissions include appointments to the offices falling under their jurisdiction and the exercise of disciplinary control over the removal from office of appointees to those offices.

Pointing out that the ability to act independently is an “indispensable requirement in ensuring public confidence in our national institutions in general and the aforesaid Service Commissions in particular”, the recital to Greenidge’s motion contends that the “continued maintenance of the aforesaid Service Commissions in the Schedule of the Budget Agencies seriously compromises their independence in the discharge of their functions”. The motion therefore urges that the National Assembly resolves to have them discontinued as budget agencies.

A separate Greenidge motion also makes the same argument for the Auditor General’s office. He adverted to the fact that the Office of the Auditor General is a Constitutional Office and under Part 2 of the Audit Act (No. 5 of 2004) the Auditor General shall be the external auditor of the public accounts of Guyana and in the discharge of his function shall have complete discretion. He further noted that Part 2 of the Act provides that the Auditor General shall act independently in the discharge of his functions and contended that the Office of the Auditor General and Audit Office are being treated as a Budget Agency by virtue of the Schedule to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 2003 and this seriously calls into question the autonomy and independence of the Office.

The resolve clause therefore urges that “the National Assembly removes the Audit Office from the Schedule of Budget Agencies and restore it to its rightful place as an autonomous agency drawing directly on the Consolidated Fund and that these changes be reflected in the Annual Estimates to be submitted by the Minister of Finance for the approval of this.”

Given the opposition majority in Parliament these motions are expected to be passed.

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