Leader of the Opposition David Granger has written to Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman requesting a meeting on government’s refusal to act on a slew of motions and bills passed in the House during 2012 and 2013.
“We have sought a meeting with the Speaker of the National Assembly but no date has yet been set,” Granger, also leader of the APNU, told Stabroek News.
“We feel that the government is taking a big political risk if it continues to defy the will of the majority,” he said. “We cannot go on like this for five years.”
The letter was dispatched to the Speaker two weeks ago. “The law is very clear and we could hold government in default. They will have to accept the consequences. [Sooner or later] people will reach their breaking point,” Granger said, on government’s refusal to act on resolutions passed in the House. At the same time, Granger acknowledged that there is very little that the APNU could do to force government to act but he noted that the executive has an obligation to heed to resolutions passed in the House.
APNU Member of Parliament Carl Greenidge had piloted motions and bills to repeal the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 and the motion’s resolution called for a Parliamentary Committee to examine the Pensions (President, Parlia-mentary and Special Offices) Act, Part II Section 4 (Rate of President and Calculation of Pension 7/8 Ceiling of Pension) and to make proposals for their revision. This motion was adopted by the House in August 2012.
The bill passed also placed caps on many of the benefits that otherwise would have been available to former presidents, with the rationale being that those benefits could not be unlimited since the country’s capacity to afford them was itself limited.
On June 27, 2012, the Parliament adopted a motion calling for the government to present a report on the sale of national assets by the holding company National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
This motion also called on NICIL to deposit its monies into the Consolidated Fund. At that very sitting, the House carried a motion calling for the administration to comply with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) with regard to agencies authorised to have extra budgetary funds.
On May 10, the National Assembly carried an opposition motion resolving to remove the Judiciary from under the ambit of a budget agency.
The motion resolved that the National Assembly take 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 Consoli-dated 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.” A bill to this same end was also debated and passed with a view to amending the FMAA.
Also, on June 13, the opposition majority saw to the passage of a motion to allow for the independence of four service commissions. The motion was intended to allow the Judicial, Public, Teaching and Police service commissions to each draw finances directly from the Consolidated Fund—rather than be maintained as budget agencies, to safeguard their independent functioning.
In addition, despite the passage in the National Assembly of the Fiscal Management and Accounta-bility (Amendment) Bill and the Former Presidents (Bene-fits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012, President Donald Ramotar withheld his assent, saying both of the bills were unconstitutional.
Commenting on the situation, former Auditor General of Guyana Anand Goolsarran noted that while the constitution provides for the President to return a bill to parliament within 21 days, indicating his reason for not supporting it, motions do not require an assent from the president. “…These are problems which we face… a motion adopted by the National Assembly and the president refuses to act,” he said. “What should Parliament do? Somebody has to go to the court,” he added.
Goolsarran, who is President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI), said that such a situation does not bode well for transparency and accountability of the executive towards Parliament.
“It is all aimed at transparency,” he said of the many motions adopted in the House. “They had to do with making bodies autonomous so that there is no political influence and interference in terms of financing.
They will be able to get monies from the government and not be starved for day to day resources. If the government refuses to [implement these measures] it speaks a lot about it wanting to have control. Government wants to control the purse strings,” he argued.
According to Goolsarran, the current situation does not speak well for governance. “…That’s not one of the things we would consider good Governance practice,” he said, while noting that whatever Parliament has approved as the legislative branch of government, the executive branch is to execute. “Parliament makes laws, pass[es] motions and it is for the executive branch to implement what Parliament passes.
If the executive refuses to implement, then you are destroying the whole notion of democracy,” he said. “It is about checks and balances and the separation of powers. It is total disrespect for the National Assembly… these are the lawmakers. It is disrespect for the notion of separation of powers and disrespect for the parliament,” he added.