No provision in Guyana’s Constitution allows for the existence of a Ministerial Plenary, much less such a body being able to possess the powers of Cabinet. Therefore, Permanent Secretaries, Regional Executive Officers (REOs) and even the National Procurement and Tender Administration (NPTAB) officials have no right signing off on decisions coming from a Ministerial Plenary.
This was noted today by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference at his Church Street office. The former President warned that the aforementioned officers have a fiduciary responsibility to seek legal advice on all matters that come from the said Plenary.
Jagdeo said, “No public servant can use the excuse that they don’t know the Ministerial Plenary doesn’t have all the powers of Cabinet. If they read the laws, they will understand that. If any Permanent Secretary or Regional Executive Officer uses the minutes from the Plenary to say they have noted a contract, then they are exposing themselves to liability in the future and possible prosecution…”
The PPP General Secretary added, “There is nothing about a no objection from a Plenary of Ministers including President (in the Constitution). The law speaks of a no objection from a Cabinet. I hope they (the public servants) are paying keen attention to this and not being a party to the illegality that is going on… they have a fiduciary duty to seek legal advice before signing anything.”
Speaking on the unconstitutionality of the Plenary, Jagdeo commented that even a layman or a charlatan would not venture to say that a Ministerial Plenary has the powers of Cabinet. Jagdeo said that he expected better from Minister of State and Attorney-at-Law, Joseph Harmon who made such utterances a few days ago.
The Opposition Leader emphasised that the Constitution is clear and therefore the Plenary can only be seen as “unconstitutional and illegal.” He said that the only purpose such a Plenary can serve is for the Ministers to meet and talk as usual. Nothing more.