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If anything could be said with unanimity about former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, is that he is energetic and involved in his work. That disposition has served him well in his ministerial position and should it continue will serve the country in his new role as shadow minister and proposed Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC oversees government spending. If the Irfaan Ali- administration is serious about zero tolerance for corruption it would insist Speaker of the House, Manzoor Nadir facilitates the procedure to establish the committee forthwith.
This publication in yesterday’s editorial addressed the administration’s record haste in disbanding agencies established by the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change-administration to fight corruption. Every Guyanese should be alarmed that a government has not only hastily disbanded these anti-corruption agencies but is refusing to establish the legally mandated ones. The PAC is a legal parliamentary committee and should have been established since the beginning of the 12th Parliament, four months ago.
That parliament is about to have its 14th sitting and the PAC is not established is not only a crying shame on the Government and Speaker but will also be on the Opposition if they fail to take necessary action. It is therefore heartening the Opposition is taking its oversight responsibility seriously and putting its foot down to have the committee established.
Mr. Patterson should not have to write Speaker Nadir to do what he knows is expected of him. That he had to write at least five letters on the matter provides further proof the government has a problem with being oversighted. Mr. Patterson’s most recent letter to Speaker Nadir about his repeated refusal to establish the PAC is well placed. It is what the religious community would call righteous indignation, i.e., an injustice being inflicted on citizens by the government.
His words are worth repeating here that, “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.” Refer to today’s story “Patterson blasts Speaker over failure to convene committees….hints at a possible boycott if PAC not established.”
The National Assembly will sit tomorrow, Wednesday 23rd December. If the Speaker fails to suspend the Standing Order, a procedural requirement, to facilitate the establishing of the PAC the Opposition would be in order to make good on their promise to boycott the House. It makes no sense having an Opposition sitting in the National Assembly and hindered from doing its work.
One of the most important jobs of the Opposition is governmental oversight through the various parliamentary committees. If the government does not want this, they not only make the Opposition ineffective but have rendered the Opposition useless through this forum. Beyond a boycott the Opposition should also explore the possibility of internationalising the efforts by Government to undermine democracy, the National Assembly and the disbanding of the guardrails to prevent and minimise governmental corruption.
The question is once again being asked- What does the government have to hide or fear that is causing them to run away from establishing the PAC and other parliamentary committees. The saying, ‘do nothing, fear nothing’ still holds true.