An official from the CFATF is scheduled to be here tomorrow to provide clarifications on the contentious anti-money laundering bill and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel has completed drafting one of APNU’s amendments to the Principal Act but has requested clarifications on the remainder.
Chairperson of the Select Committee of Parliament, Gail Teixeira told Stabroek News yesterday that Chief Parliamen-tary Counsel, Cecil Durjhon has sought further clarifications and that APNU has agreed to review them. She said that while the opposition took note and would look over the clarifications, the opposition was not available to meet before tomorrow. As a result, the next sitting of the committee will be held on February 26, one day before the next sitting of the National Assembly on February 27. Teixeira expressed frustration stating that the back and forth on the bill was becoming “tiresome.”
She stated that tomorrow, Financial Advisor to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), Roger Hernandez, is slated to meet the committee in person at the request of the opposition members of the committee. Members voted yesterday to have a meeting in person instead of the proposed teleconference which was to have been held last evening. It couldn’t be held as it was not placed on the agenda for the committee’s meeting yesterday.
Teixeira said that the opposition should be more inclined to want to review Durjhon’s queries and to have them worked out sooner rather than later. It has been over 10 months and two parliamentary committees that the opposition and government have been haggling over the Anti-Money Launder-ing and Countering of Terrorism (AML/CFT ) (Amendment) Bill. The delay in passing the bill has led to the blacklisting of Guyana by the CFATF and concerns about a range of cross-border financial transactions being affected. It was only on February 9 that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) finally brought forth their amendments to the committee and they pertained to the Principal Act as opposed to the amendment bill. This is something that the government has a problem with.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Alliance for Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, told Stabroek News that he was absent from yesterday’s committee meeting held at parliament. He said that he was not interested in wasting any more time and that he has already made it clear to APNU and the government that if the government established a functioning Public Pro-curement Commission (PPC) the AFC would support the AML/CFT bill in its current form.
He said at an AFC press conference held yesterday that the PPC “has to be established first and operational,” before the party would be supporting the proposed AML/CFT and that has been the party’s position since the inception. “We can only support the anti-money laundering bill if those two things are met,” Ramjattan noted.
He continued that the government’s insistence on having a no-objection role on contracts even when the PPC is set up is unacceptable.
He noted that the AFC has a proposed amendment to the procurement legislation already prepared. The proposal concerns Section 54 and would allow for 21 days to object after a procurement award has been made and to make a case. Cabinet would be included in the category of complainant as well as other interested parties such as unsuccessful tenderers. The final decision would then be pronounced by the PPC and the government would be stripped of any veto power.
Ramjattan stated that the incessant back and forth at the parliamentary select committee level was wasting time. When asked if he would be at the meeting with Hernandez on Friday, Ramjattan stated that he was not sure as yet, “when they are ready to vote they can call me,” he noted.
In a statement read by AFC member David Patterson, the party said “that it is willing to support the AML/CFT Amendment Bill providing the PPC is established. We understand that the government has reservations about setting up the commission and we have indicated our willingness to compromise to reach a mutually agreeable position that best satisfies the need of the nation.”
Patterson continued that both the AFC and APNU have submitted names of nominees for the PPC to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament in an effort to move forward. He said that once the PPC has been approved “the finance minister can bring a supplementary financial paper for money to support the work of the commission”.