The A Partnership For National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition, now in opposition, have opted to abstain from today’s parliamentary session.
They are blaming the Speaker of the National Assembly’s failure to convene the all-important Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
That decision was prompted after the Order Paper for the 14th Sitting of the National Assembly did not contain the convening of the PAC as one of the agendas listed.
Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and touted head of the PAC, David Patterson, in a letter to the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, outlined his disappointment that this was not done, adding “thus it is now highly unlikely that you be upholding your duty to summon the first meeting to have this very important committee constitutionally established.”
Patterson reminded that he had written several letters back in November and earlier this month seeking to have the Speaker discharge his duties to convene the first meeting of the PAC, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.
“It is unacceptable to have the Parliament convened at great expense to the citizens, and not use this opportunity to convene committee meetings. It is disrespectful to the members and a disservice to the country. As such, we do not see any benefit in attending a parliamentary session, which does not take the opportunity, to reestablish our assembly on a firm footing,” Patterson outlined in his letter to the Speaker.
The Opposition MP stated that in prior times, when former Speakers were faced with similar instances, they would have requested their standing orders be “suspended by motion,” therefore suspending the time required for the scheduling of the committee meetings.
As per the standing order, it is the Speaker who must first schedule the meeting to simply elect the heads of the committees.
“I write in a final plea and ask that you confirm that you will be willing to request that the Parliament suspend our Standing Orders and summon a meeting at very short notice,” Patterson stated.
He promised: “The Opposition Members of the PAC will be on standby, ready and able to attend as soon as there is any indication from your good self, about convening the first meeting of the PAC.”
The PAC is only among the list of constituted Parliamentary Committees that are yet to be convened by the Speaker despite Guyana’s 12th Parliament commencing back in September.
In fact, the situation has pushed the Opposition to consider legal action in order to compel the Speaker and by extension the government, to convene the committees.
The Speaker, while acknowledging that there is a delay in the convening of the committees, noted too that his office is facing some “challenges” in convening the first meetings. Those challenges, he explained included ensuring members from far-flung areas are present at the meetings.
As such, he asked for patience.
But the Opposition had argued that such an excuse would not be accepted, as many agencies utilize the online platform Zoom with the advent of the novel Coronavirus.
That method would have sufficed for the convening of the first meetings.
The 12th Parliament has 14 fully constituted subcommittees with oversight for varying sectors including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The duties of the Public Accounts Committee include examining the audited accounts of state agencies presented in the Auditor General’s Report, and exercising broad regulation of the functioning of the Auditor General.