The bill to cap the benefits of former presidents which will be tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday differs little from the one passed in 2013 but not signed into law by then President Donald Ramotar except that it increases the amount for utilities to $75,000 per month.
Among the provisions of the 2012 bill which was piloted by then opposition parliamentarian Carl Greenidge, was a $5000 per month cap each for water, electricity and telephone services at the residence of a former president in Guyana. The Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Bill 2015, however, increases this amount to $25 000 each per month for water, electricity and telephone services.
It also defines “child” as a person whether born in or out of wedlock and says that a child born out of wedlock enjoys equality of status and entitlement to equal rights in accordance with article 149E (1) of the Constitution.
The 2015 bill is in the name of Minister of Finance Winston Jordan. Greenidge is now Minister of Foreign Affairs. According to the explanatory memorandum, the purpose of the Bill is to repeal the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act of 2009, and to replace it with the new Act, to provide greater specificity “especially if account is taken of the fact that the former President is eligible for a pension which is 7/8’s that of the President in office.”
It said that in keeping with Resolution No. 22 passed by the National Assembly on the 2nd August, 2012 the Bill seeks to render the conditions acceptable and predictable and to place a limit on the benefits including tax free concessions, to which former Presidents are now entitled. The Bill also specifies some conditions under which the benefits may be enjoyed.
Like in the 2012 Bill, under this Bill, 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 children below the age of eighteen years.
The reimbursement shall not be given where any attention and treatment obtained abroad or at private health facilities in Guyana were available in Guyana at government institutions. This is subject to a financial limit of $200,000 annually.
The new Bill stipulates that the benefits and facilities granted shall not be the subject of any tax exemptions, concessions or privileges.
Further, the Bill stipulates that a former President shall cease to be entitled to the benefits and other facilities provided if the former President engages in business, trade or paid employment or is convicted of a criminal offence for which a term of imprisonment is imposed.
The current Bill when passed and assented to, would repeal the Former President (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act. When the 2012 Bill was passed, the PPP/C then in government voted against it but the then opposition APNU and AFC were able to pass it using their one-seat majority.
Ramotar refused to assent to the bill but once passed, President David Granger is likely to assent to the current Bill.