Motion passed to assert Gov’t representation at all PAC meetings

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With a majority vote by the government Members of Parliament (MPs), a motion was passed in the National Assembly late Wednesday night that enforced a change in the quorum needed for a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

With the motion passed as an amendment to Standing Order 95 (6), the new arrangement is that five members are to be present before any meeting of the PAC can proceed. Importantly, the government must have two members present, two from the Opposition two and the Chair of the meeting.

The arrangement that an Opposition MP must hold Chairmanship for the meeting where government spending is scrutinised continues.

Before the motion was passed, the quorum for a PAC meeting was three members, irrespective of party affiliation, which made it vastly different from all other committees of Parliament.

Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira moved the motion and said it was fitting, as she recalled several PAC meetings that were held in recent months without some government MPs being present.

With no government representation, current meetings of the PAC would see APNU+AFC MPs scrutinising spending done by the APNU+AFC government; this Teixeira argued cannot be allowed.

“It is about building trust and confidence,” she declared.

Teixeira, who is also a member of the PAC, rejected claims by the Opposition that the motion was intended to stymie the work of the PAC where a backlog currently exists.

The minister reminded that with the motion effecting a change in the Standing Order, similar actions were taken by the APNU+AFC Opposition in the past.

After the 2011 elections where the governing PPP/C had emerged as a minority government, Teixeira reminded of changes to several committees where the then APNU+AFC Opposition used its majority to change the composition of several committees for an opposition majority and government minority.

Five years later, when the APNU+AFC won the elections in 2015 and formed a new government, the composition was reversed by the then governing coalition for a government majority and opposition minority. Teixeira said their posturing now amounted to a double standard.

Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill (Photo: DPI/April 14, 2022)

“So don’t come to me with that holier than thou attitude, I am not accepting it,” the minister said in the House.

She also emphasised that there was no effort to delay the work of the PAC.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Jermaine Figueira said he was not persuaded by the minister’s reasoning and accused the government of having a sinister motive.

The reasoning of several other Opposition MPs who made contributions to the debate on Wednesday advanced the same theme in their arguments.

Making a contribution to the ensuing debate before the passage of the motion, Minister of Public Works and PAC member Juan Edghill said Figueira’s comments in the House justify the motion.

Edghill said it was Figueira who at recent sittings of the PAC allowed agencies to be scrutinised by the former APNU+AFC government when PPP/C MPs were not present.

“What this motion is doing is seeking to prevent the abuse of privilege,” he said.

The debate continued for well over four hours with several MPs from both the government and opposition side contributing; it also saw Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and Volda Lawrence speaking for the first time since they took the Oath of Office on Wednesday.

Notwithstanding the Opposition’s challenge to the motion, it was passed at 21:58hrs with a government majority (34/29) on Wednesday night.

Deputy Speaker Lenox Shuman, who is a member of the parliamentary opposition, voted yes for the passage of the motion.

Opposition MP and member of the PAC David Patterson was not present for the vote along with another MP.

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