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Ahead of today’s Sitting of the National Assembly, the main opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – has accused the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, of blocking scrutiny of Government’s spending during the consideration of Financial Papers totaling billions of dollars.
Today, the Assembly is expected to debate and scrutinize two Financial Papers (No. 3 & No.4) amounting to more than $26B, however, the APNU+AFC is concerned that adequate scrutiny may not be allowed.
Alluding to Financial Papers No. 1 and No. 2, which were presented earlier in the year, APNU+AFC Member of Parliament Ganesh Mahipaul said critical questions on government’s spending were blocked by the Speaker.
“The Speaker of the National Assembly, unfortunately in my view, has not allowed these questions that are necessary, and I know from Financial Paper No. 1 and No. 2, the Speaker was not allowing us in the Opposition to go back to the sums that were budgeted and approved and to ask whether those were used in full before the requests for other amounts; and to basically scrutinize, if the sums that were approved in the budget, if they were used for their intended purpose before we move into the direction of approving additional sums for these organisations,” MP Mahipaul explained during a press conference on Wednesday.
From the Contingency Fund alone, Government has deducted an additional $3.8B to facilitate one off cash grant to sugar workers; and $265M to cover operational expenses of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission. Those expenditures, the Opposition said, must be justified by the Government in accordance with the Constitution, and critical questions must be asked.
“I trust that the Speaker will recognize that it is necessary for him to be impartial and allow these questions to be asked, and proper answers to be provided because we are talking here about tax payers’ money and the people of this country deserves to know where their funds are being spent,” the Opposition MP said.
Juretha Fernandes, another APNU+AFC MP, said since taking Office, the Government has been allowed to provide below acceptable responses to questions posed by the Opposition.
“…I am left only to make an educated estimation, based on the continuous behavior of the PPP administration that our questions will not be answered in any meaningful way to give clarity to the House and most importantly the tax payers of this country. We were previously faced with a supplementary that catered for $10 billion dollars and when questions were asked in the national assembly answered could not have been given. That specific allocation was followed with widespread reports of corruption and to that end we fear the same again,” MP Fernandes said.
The Speaker, in recent times, has come in for heavy criticism.
Just last Monday, the Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, accused the Speaker of colluding with the Government to hijack the Parliament.
He said though Monday, December 13, 2021 was designated Private Members’ Day, critical motions tabled by Opposition were excluded from the day’s agenda.
The Opposition was hoping to debate the No- confidence motions against the Ministers of Health and Home Affairs; a motion on the Gas to Shore Project as well as a motion on Natural Gas Flaring at the Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited among others, however, those motions were not included in the agenda to be debated.
“Instead of these substantive issues being addressed the Speaker and the PPP have reduced the Private Members Sitting to the Members of Parliament receiving written responses to questions that were asked of the Ministers by Members of the Opposition,” the Opposition Leader explained.
The Speaker, in his defense, said the agenda was set based on consultations with both sides.