Minister of State Joseph Harmon has announced that the matter involving the payment of house rent for serving Ministers of Government is not addressed at the level of Cabinet, but Parliament.
In fact, he said such funds come from that budget of the National Assembly.
Harmon was responding to questions on the reason for the payment of such an exorbitant cost for rent for out of town Ministers, especially when there are Government houses available in the Campbellville community.
Harmon said he could not give specific details about the rent, as it is a matter for Parliament and the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Regarding the availability of houses in Campbellville – Echillibar Villas, a Government community – Harmon said when the Government took office, the properties there had been in a “rundown state”. Since then, he said Government has been spending large sums of money to rehabilitate, adding that “as residences are rehabilitated, then persons are put into them”. He said there are a huge amount of persons in Government service who require Government housing; however, Government is unable to provide it.
Meanwhile, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs earlier this week denied that there was an increase in all housing allowances for Ministers.
In an interview with Guyana Times on Tuesday, Isaacs asserted that housing allowances are enshrined in the law and remain set at $25,000. However, he has admitted that a monthly sum of $500,000 was paid for Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes, to rent a house on the basis that she lives “out of town.”
“The housing allowance was not increased. The law says that Ministers within the Government are entitled to occupy, free of rent, a furnished residence provided by the Government,” Isaacs explained. “So some Ministers have moved into Government residences, they are paid $25,000 a month.”
He noted that if State-sponsored housing cannot accommodate any other persons, then they would have to rent. Isaacs noted that the housing allowance is separate from the rental. He added that there were two Ministers who have their rent paid in full.
“As far as I know, only two (houses) are being rented for out of town Ministers. That is Minister (Valarie) Patterson and Minister (Simona) Broomes, who was brought by the Government from out of Georgetown. Minister Patterson is from Linden, Minister Broomes is from Bartica.”
Meanwhile, Isaacs noted that the decision to have the Parliament office pay the rent for the Ministers, instead of the Office of the President, was taken in a bid to centralise the process. “Payments were done by several Ministries. You had Office of the President paying the electricity and maids, the Ministry of Agriculture paying the gardener… This Administration (decided) to have everything paid from the Parliament office.”
The issue of Parliament paying the rent for Minister Broomes came to the fore when she became the subject of a court action initiated by her former landlord, who had taken her to court for rent owed.