– says Govt MPs “ain’t off the hook”
By Samuel Sukhnandan
A seemingly fired up Bishop Juan Edghill has told the media on Thursday that after his four-day suspension ends, he plans to return to the National Assembly with more questions for Government.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP) has said the Order Paper for each parliamentary sitting makes provision for members to ask up to five questions at every sitting.
“…and if they believe that suspending me for four days is the end of Bishop Edghill, whenever I get back into Parliament, they will be answering in writing; because all the questions I couldn’t ask in the Committee of Supply, once they were not asked, I will seek (for) an oral or written response,” he said.
Edghill has said, concerning MPs on the Government benches, “They ain’t off the hook!”
The Opposition MP maintains that his suspension was intended to muzzle him from asking pertinent questions in relation to the estimates of expenditure for the 2018 National Budget. He said there are many unanswered questions he wishes to have addressed, and Government will, at some point, have to provide answers or clarity on each one of these questions.Declaring that, had he the chance to continue his scrutiny of the estimates, he would have questioned why the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) had budgeted for vacancies when this is strictly prohibited, he also disclosed that there is no Integrity Commission in place, yet $21million have been budgeted for that agency.
“So the Prime Minister (Moses Nagamootoo) would have had to name the officers of that Commission, the dates of their appointment, and the date when (the commission) was established,” Edghill declared.
Shifting his attention to another issue, Edghill noted that the Department of Public Information (DPI) — formerly the Government Information Agency (GINA) — has been allocated $35 million more this year than what it had been allocated as GINA last year. GINA had been allocated $215 million in 2017, but the DPI is getting $250 million in 2018.
“So there is a slush fund of $35 million more to DPI,” he disclosed. “And by the way, why (is Government) resourcing the DPI with that extra money when every minister has their own public relations outfit? So public relations in the Government (has) grown significantly. Some ministers have four staff (members) in their media outfit, and so you have a public relations’ outfit that was swollen, which should have shrunk,” he posited.
The Opposition MP also pointed to the $68 million that had been budget for 2018 to an unknown entity or organization, and the $218 million ‘slush fund’ provided to the Ministry of Citizenship.
“You have a situation where 80 people are already paid top-ups of more than 100 per cent of their salaries to carry out the digitization of birth certificates. (Does) this (have) anything to do with padding the voters’ list for 2020? (Does) This (have) anything to do with the Haitians arriving in Guyana and being received by Government officials on the air site? Why is the same treatment not meted to others?” the Bishop questioned.
Reference was also made to allegations of corruption taking place in the wildlife trade. Edghill has said that while this has been away from the public’s eyes, the Opposition, on behalf of some people, has had to make representation to the relevant authorities to bring some fairness to the system. He said only special people were allowed to trade, and there were exorbitant sums paid to be licensed.
Another important issue raised by MP Juan Edghill is the enormous increase in staffing at the MoTP. According to him, that agency staff complement has now been swollen by an addition 168 persons.
“We wanted to know where these people will be housed. Which building you putting them in? We believe these are political operatives in the region, but they (Government) have added them to the payroll,” he added.
Edghill has said he also had questions in relation to how much was spent to build the fence at the MoTP.
“How much money (did they pay) for the fence? Where it came from? How the contract was awarded? Was it sole sourced? Nobody knew where it came from… Those were all the issues in the capital budget that the Speaker avoided Edghill being allowed to ask. So, sit down and you’re out of order!” he added.
Acting on instructions from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Police on Tuesday barred Edghill from entering the Public Building, and he was subsequently arrested.
This development flowed from Edghill’s refusal to remove himself from the Parliamentary Chambers after he was ordered to so do by House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland, who on Monday accused this Opposition Member of Parliament of being out of order.