‘The country can’t run like that’ – Teixeira says two meetings per week ‘extremely difficult’

Opposition MPs insist backlog must be cleared

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With the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) still reviewing public spending from 2016, Opposition Parliamentarians on Monday rejected a motion presented by Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira to have the Committee meet only once per week instead of twice.

Teixeira’s motion would rescind an earlier motion piloted by committee member Ganesh Mahipaul.

But while Teixeira insists that it is extremely difficult to meet twice per week, PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira believes it is practical, taking into consideration the five-year backlog that needs to be cleared.

Teixeira’s motion will be entertained at the next statutory meeting on October 25, 2021. That would be after Figueira has given himself time to be advised by the Clerk of the National Assembly.

He also wants to secure legal advice.

Teixeira is confident in the success of her motion and noted that she too sought advice from the Clerk before bringing the motion to PAC.

“We can do that under the Standing Orders,” she told the News Room on Monday at Public Buildings.

“We are going through again what happened with Patterson. You can’t stop a motion. If you want to amend it you have to get my permission,” she added.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira (DPI photo)

Teixeira reasoned that it was difficult for representatives from constitutional agencies who are required to be at PAC to attend meetings twice per week.

Among those officials who attend PAC along with the Parliamentarians are staff of the Parliament, the Auditor General, the Finance Secretary within the Ministry of Finance, and the Accountant General.

“For FS and Auditor General its two full days to lose in those agencies and we can’t do that. MPs have a responsibility, but you can’t make constitutional bodies sit for two days, it is two full days,” she reasoned.

The Minister said she would support special meetings from time to time, but noted that there was no consensus on meeting twice per week.

“The opposition MPs are not working so they can meet five days a week, but that is not how Parliament runs,” Teixeira added.

Figueira argues that significant work for the PAC is lagging and must be brought up to date. He said that cannot be done by meeting once per week.

“I’m appalled that the government would put a motion to rescind our efforts to get the work up to date. It’s a clear indication that the government is lacking in its responsibility for transparency and accountability.

“I am gravely and grossly disappointed,” he told the News Room.

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