Alliance for Change (AFC) Member of Parliament, Catherine Hughes recently chided the government for seldom Parliamentary sittings, claiming that they are only held when it “needs money to spend” or if there is a bill that needs to be passed.
During an exclusive interview with the Guyana Standard, the Opposition MP said, “The public needs to understand that really- there is not much happening in our parliamentary sitting system”. While remarking that “Parliament is not working”, she was keen to note that there has not been a sitting for quite some time, and whenever they are held, it is usually for the government to secure funds to expend or present a bill for passing.
Hughes further highlighted that this state of affairs extends to the parliamentary committees, as many of them do not meet- some not even hosting their first meeting yet. When asked if there have been any attempts by the opposition to facilitate these meetings she said, “Even if a member of the opposition is the chair, how the system works (is), the clerk or speaker has to call the first meeting. Unless the clerk, speaker and the parliament as a whole is playing its role, it doesn’t happen”.
While pinpointing some of the important committees that have not been holding these engagements, she claimed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which usually uses a majority to host meetings, had its quorum changed and has not met for months. For readers who may be unfamiliar with what a quorum is, it is the minimum number of members of a committee that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.
She also highlighted that committees like the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, have not yet met despite the willingness of the opposition to attend.
Hughes is not the only Opposition MP that has lambasted the government for making no effort to facilitate the much-needed committee meetings. In a letter to the editor issued in this publication today, Opposition MP and Chairman of the PAC, Jermaine Figueira complained of the government’s “consistent failure to show up and do the work they were elected to do”. He referred to it as “a microcosm of the unacceptable reality of many other committees of the National Assembly where committees just don’t meet”.
Figeueira noted too that the Natural Resources Committee, which should be frequently meeting given Guyana’s resource-rich status and the possibilities for transformation, has not met since the inception of this Parliament.
According to the MP, “There are other committees too numerous to mention where meeting to do the work leaves much to be desired”.