Three parliamentary committee reports were on Friday evening adopted by the National Assembly following a show of full support from both the government and opposition.
The first report to be adopted was the Report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on its examination of the public accounts of Guyana for the years 2010 and 2011. This was followed by the adoption of both the First and Second Special Reports of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services of the Tenth Parliament.
PAC member and Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira noted her joy that the report, which was submitted since November 28th, 2016, was finally a subject of parliamentary discussion. She said there were 50 meetings of the committee between 2012 and 2014 in the Tenth Parliament and after considering the 2010 and 2011 Auditor General’s reports it decided to do a report on its examinations. She said there were general issues that have been affecting the budget agencies for some time and these continue to occur. These, she said, include accounting officers “signing off at the end of the year as if they are crazy… on incomplete work… and paying in advance for work that was either not started or not finished.” She expressed belief that in the future the work of the committee should be included in the report brought to parliament for adoption because “part of our work is to look at the Auditor General’s performance…and the office. We dealt with the vacancies and promotions…and the expansion of the organisational structure of the Audit Office.”
Another PAC member, Carl Greenidge, agreed that the volume of work that the committee undertook should be recognised. He said that initially there were differences but over time they were worked out.
Greenidge outlined some of the challenges the committee faced during its examination of the two audit reports and some of the problems discovered within the ministries and agencies identified. Some of the problems are financial in nature, while others are systemic, he stressed.
With regards to the first Special Report of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services, opposition member Joseph Hamilton said that it focused on visits to several locations, including the Amerindian Hostel and the juvenile detention centre in 2015. According to Hamilton, the report outlines the interaction with officials and offers recommendations.
He said that the incapacity of some of those staying at the Amerindian Hostel placed them at a disadvantage and ought to be looked at by the relevant authorities. In general, he said the sanitation facilities were also a major issue.
Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe pointed out that the visit to the Hostel, in particular, was timely as a lot of deficiencies to the building, including broken windows, leaks in the roof and broken cupboards in the kitchen were noticed. She said that since the current government took office “we have remedied some of the situations.”
With regards to the Second Special Report of the Committee, Hamilton noted that several agencies, specifically in Region One, were visited in 2014, including the Mabaruma Regional Hospital, the National Insurance Scheme office and the police station in Mabaruma. Hamilton stressed that while recommendations were made, given that the report is before the National Assembly three years later, many have been addressed already.
Government member and Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings said that a lot of corrective actions have been taken since that visit.
She said that there were several maternal death cases at the time and there has since been a decline in such occurrences. She credited this to increased capacity building of the health care providers, ultra sound training and more services being made available. She said that since the visit the region has been equipped with additional environmental officers to deal with sanitation issues. The availability of medication has also been improved, she said, before adding that there is still some work to be done within the region to ensure that residents have access to quality social services.