‘Déjà vu’ at PAC
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Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira
Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira

–Teixeira threatens motion to remove Chairman over defiance of Standing Orders

MEMBERS of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are once again at loggerheads; this time, the feud is in relation to the frequency with which the committee should be meeting.

On Monday, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira attempted to move a Motion which sought to have the frequency of the PAC meetings remain once weekly. Her Motion was shut down by the Opposition-led PAC, with Chairman Jermaine Figueira asking for additional time to review the submission, “although he was told that the Clerk of the National Assembly had been consulted to make sure that the motion was in order and in accordance with the Standing Orders.”

PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira

Figueira then committed to having the Motion entertained during the committee meeting. “I asked him when [and] he said Monday, October 25,” Teixeira indicated.

Assured by Figueira’s response, the Committee then went about its work to scrutinise a number of agencies in relation to financial irregularities detected in 2016. However, as the Committee wrapped up its business last evening, the live stream was cut, and, according to Teixeira, members of the media who were present in the Parliament Chambers were asked to leave.

The minister explained that Figueira proceeded to adjourn the meeting, not until the Monday as promised, but until this Friday, October 22, “despite being reminded of his previous commitment”.

“He reneged on his agreement, and proceeded to walk out of the meeting. There was no way to stop what was going on,” Teixeira related.
The Government Chief Whip believes that Figueira’s actions serve as yet another example of the “untrustworthiness” of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) “and their Members of Parliament.”

Teixeira’s Motion seeks to rescind an earlier one moved by APNU+AFC’s Ganesh Mahipaul, who argued that the PAC should be meeting twice weekly in order to clear the backlog of financial irregularities that have to be scrutinised.
However, Teixeira and her colleagues have argued that with their substantive portfolios as ministers of government, they may not always be available to meet as frequently.

Teixeira and her team, which includes Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, Dharamkumar Seeraj, and Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin, also gave consideration to the public servants who are also required to attend the meetings. These persons include officers of the Office of the Auditor-General and the Ministry of Finance among others.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said that the earlier decision to increase the number of meetings per week was taken “without any discussion” or “any attempt to reach consensus”.

It is important to note that the government’s participation in clearing the current backlog is especially important, since most of the irregularities being dealt with now date back to 2016, when the APNU+AFC was in government.

FEELING OF DÉJÀ VU
Teixeira believes that Figueira’s actions are reminiscent of that of his predecessor, David Patterson, who was recently removed from the helm of the PAC, having been accused of openly defying several Standing Orders.

Patterson, who assumed the PAC leadership position in December 2020, was also chided for “shutting down” issues raised by Teixeira and other government representatives of the PAC pertaining to financial irregularities under the APNU+AFC, particularly during the party’s first year in office.

Patterson’s “defiance” during February to May 2021 led to a stalemate in the PAC. This forced Minister Teixeira to move a Motion in the full house National Assembly, calling for Patterson to be removed from the chairmanship of the committee.

As the Motion was being debated during an all-night sitting of the National Assembly in June, Minister Teixeira had described Patterson as being unfit to oversee the work of the PAC, given the fact that he is facing criminal charges relating to fraud and misuse of government’s monies.

“This is all déjà vue,” Teixeira said following Figueira’s adjournment of Monday’s meeting. She believes that Figueira is being misled into defying the Standing Orders. “I’d hoped that Mr. Figueira would have been a man in his own right, but, clearly, he is a clone of Mr. Patterson,” Teixeira insisted.

The Governance Minister said that while she and her colleagues in government are upset about the direction of Figueira’s chairmanship of the PAC, they are not surprised.

“This is the typical duplicitous behaviour of the APNU+AFC and their Members of Parliament; nothing new, except that once again, we have a demonstration of the lack of integrity and the lack of trust,” Teixeira argued.

She further insisted that “The APNU+AFC cannot be trusted with anything; nothing in this country ever again.”

More significantly, Teixeira said that if Figueira continues to show disregard for the rules that govern the committee, then the government members will have “no qualms whatsoever” about going back to the National Assembly to have yet another APNU+AFC member removed from the chairmanship of the PAC.

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