An attempt by opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall to question government’s spending on rental of residences for ministers was disallowed on Friday by Speaker Dr Barton Scotland, who found that it did not meet the criteria for questions that are allowed without notice.
Nandlall had sought answers to a series of questions, titled “Expenditure on Rental of Ministers’ Residences,” from Minister of Finance Winston Jordan.
Nandlall sought to have Jordan inform the National Assembly which, if any, of the housing rental contracts for ministers were considered or approved by the Ministry of Finance and or the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). He also asked that Jordan provide the House with the relevant documentation on the approvals of the ministry or NPTAB on these matters.
He also questioned whether the government’s policy on the rental and rates of accommodations for ministers was/is guided by fiscal availability and budgetary considerations, as well as, which agencies’ budgets in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 budgets made provision for the expenditure and under which sub-heads.
At Friday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Scotland noted that Nandlall had submitted the questions at 10.30 the previous night but that they did not comply with Standing Orders, which required that questions without notice be either urgent or related to the business of the day.
“There is no question about its availability or applicability; no question of time being an issue. It was properly presented at the time it was presented. The question is important; the question of ministerial accommodation has attracted attention far and wide and certainly is one that I believe continues to attract comment and attention,” the Speaker said before explaining that this what not enough to satisfy Standing Order 18:3, which governs questions without notice.
This section calls for questions without notice to be urgent and important or relate to the business of the day.
Scotland contended that though important, the questions failed to qualify as urgent or related to the business of the day.
The public became aware that the properties were being rented for government ministers using public funds after landlord Peter Ramsaroop instituted legal action against Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes and the Parliament Office for breach of contract. That action has since been withdrawn.
Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs had publicly indicated that an administrative decision was taken to rent the residence for the minister, who is entitled to $25,000 in housing allowance. The rental was for the sum of $500,000 per month. Isaacs, however, is still to identify who made this decision.
He has since indicated that he will no longer be addressing the issue publicly and has also not responded to a request from Nandlall, the PPP/C’s Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, asking for the decision-maker to be identified. As a result, Nandlall took his questions to the House.