Williams, Persaud split on who will recommit local gov’t bills

The local government reform bills are expected to be returned before the National Assembly soon but there is some amount of confusion as to who will shoulder the responsibility of presenting the amended bills.

The Local Government Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amend-ment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill—considered critical for the hosting of delayed municipal elections—were sent for review by a special select committee, which is now awaiting the completion of the report on its work.

The committee last Friday resolved the last contentious issue in the Fiscal Transfers Bill, the last in the suite of bills to be considered, effectively bring months of work a close.

Committee Chair Basil Williams had said that it is now left to the Parliamentary Counsel to draft the report on the committee’s work, which will be reviewed by the committee when its members meet for the last time on June 28th.

After this meeting, he said, depending on if the committee decides to accept the report, the onus will be left with Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud to bring the bills back to the National Assembly. He noted that the four bills were originally tabled by the minister and it was therefore his responsibility to take them back to the National Assembly.

Persaud, however, has said that he is not aware that he has the responsibility for bringing the bills, as amended, to the National Assembly for debate and a vote. He told Stabroek News that he believes that Williams, by virtue of holding the Chairmanship of the select committee, is the one responsible for taking the bills back to the National Assembly. The minister said that he is unsure of exactly what has to be done as a result of the unprecedented nature of the mechanics of the committee, which he did not chair although the bills were in his name.

Asked about the situation, Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman yesterday said that both men were being very technical on the issue. Nevertheless, he said that neither of them may be wrong about their positions.

Trotman explained that once the report on the committee’s proceedings is brought before the committee on the 28th, the members will decide whether to accept the content of the document.

If it is accepted, he said, the committee’s chairman or any its members, as decided by the committee can then move a motion to have the report adopted by the National Assembly. Once adopted, he said, the bills can then face the normal passage through the National Assembly. The Speaker said that this particular responsibility lies with the Local Government Minister.

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