Parliament office being used as “cash cow” — Nandlall

In a recent interview with this publication, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs had asserted that Government switched budgeting allowances for Ministers from the Ministry of the Presidency to Parliament office to ensure a more centralised system.

Junior Minister of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes

However, the decision for the switch may not be so innocent, according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall who is contending that since the Parliament office’s budget is approved by block vote; the Parliamentary Committee of Supply no longer scrutinises expenditure on a line item by line item basis.
“It is clear that since the Parliament Office budget is now approved in a block vote, as a constitutional agency, and is no longer the subject of a line-item by line-item scrutiny, it has been converted into a milking cow by this Administration,” Nandlall said, in expounding on the issue.

Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Valerie Patterson

He noted that under the People’s Progressive Party Administration, most of the expenditures personal to Ministers and members of Cabinet were part of the Office of the President’s budget and in some instances part of the budget of individual ministries.
“Under such a construct, these budgets were and still are the subject to line-item by line-item scrutiny in the Committee of Supply,” he added.
According to Nandlall, this system of oversight is no longer available as these form part of the lump sum approved for the Parliament Office’s budget.
It has emerged that an “administrative decision” was taken to have a property rented for Junior Minister of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes, at a monthly cost of $500,000 borne by taxpayers. In addition, another one is being rented for Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Valerie Patterson. However, questions put to senior members of the Administration have only been deflected.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan, was unwilling to reveal who made this administrative decision to set Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes’ rental cap to $500,000.
When approached recently to give an account for the arrangement, which would have cost the state some $6 million a year, Jordan consistently refused to provide any information.
“That’s Parliament’s business, not mine,” Jordan stated.
During a post-Cabinet media briefing on Friday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said 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. In light of this, the Minister said that he could not give 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.
In a letter to Isaacs, Nandlall had requested specific information including the name of the person responsible for making an administrative decision on the rent and documents to support the contention that the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) approved the arrangement.
There was no word, up to press time, on whether the Clerk of the National Assembly had responded to these questions.