Bill to repeal former presidents benefits Act read for first time

The Opposition using their majority in the National Assembly yesterday passed a motion granting leave for the introduction of a Bill to repeal the controversial Presidents’ Benefits and Other Facilities Act of 2009.

Following the passage of the motion the Bill was read for a first time by the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The motion to introduce the Bill follows up on the deliberations on an earlier motion on the President’s Benefits and Other Facilities passed during last year. One of the resolve clauses of this previous motion was to have a Special Select Committee look at the emoluments of special office holders in relation to the President’s pension.

At yesterday’s sitting, APNU’s Carl Greenidge piloted the motion which saw heavy opposition from the Government, whose speaker, Presidential Advisor on Governance. Gail Teixeira said the motion is in bad faith. She also accused the Committee of not meeting in three months.

“The Bill violates resolution 22 [of Greenidge’s earlier motion] which called for the Special Select Committee,” she said. Teixeira added that the Bill is not the best way to go forward. “This is not the way to go,” she stressed.

“We feel that it has been a breach of faith to move a motion to bring a Bill that undermines the work of the Special Select Committee,” she said. However, in rebuttal, Greenidge said that the Government should not be talking about good faith when it has refused to honour motions passed in the National Assembly.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman said that he tried to persuade Greenidge to wait until the completion of the work of the Special Select Committee but he was not successful in getting Greenidge to defer the motion.

Following the passage of the earlier motion last year, Greenidge had tabled a Bill to amend the 2009 Principal Act. However he withdrew this to replace it with a Bill aimed at repealing altogether the Act and replacing it with one that pares down the level of benefits the former President receives.

Greenidge’s Bill seeks to do away with the limitlessness nature of the Principal Act and imposes caps and limits in some cases to a maximum of 10 years. It also sets out the conditions under which benefits could be enjoyed by a former President.

Household staff will be limited to three persons; security personnel limited to two persons and clerical or technical staff limited to three persons who must not be engaged in any political work.

The Bill also limits a former President to two vehicles to be owned and maintained by the State. The Bill when passed will see a former President being entitled to free medical attention and treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by the former President and his or her spouse or entitled children.
This is so only if such attention and treatment are sought outside of Guyana only if unavailable in Guyana at governmental institutions or at the private sector if unavailable in the governmental institutions.

Further, the Bill stipulates that the medical benefits shall only be applicable to natural children of the former President and spouse, below the age of 18 years, subject to a financial limit of $200,000 annually.

The new Act will stipulate that a former President who is in receipt of the benefits and other facilities provided for in the Act shall not be entitled to receive additional benefits by way of tax exemptions and other concessions and privileges.

Further, the Bill will stipulate that a former President shall cease to be entitled to the benefits and other facilities under the Principal Act if the former President engages in business, trade or paid employment or is charged with a criminal offence or is cited by any court in Guyana or outside of Guyana for such infringements of the law.

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