Parliament staff refuse to endure “high stress levels” at unprofessional PAC meetings

…as its clerk develops health issues

The meetings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have been postponed after the “high stress levels” at previous meetings have caused the present Clerk to develop health issues and other substitute clerks are unwilling to work due to the unprofessional conduct of some members.

PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira

This was communicated to the PAC Chairman, Jermaine Figueira, in a letter on Thursday by Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, who said he would be unable to provide a clerk to the PAC for its upcoming sitting. The PAC was scheduled to meet on Friday and again on Monday.
In the correspondence, Isaacs explained that: “Due to the frequent challenges being encountered at meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, the present Clerk of the Committee has developed health issues because of high stress levels and cannot continue to clerk the Committee.”
He went on to point out that given the behaviour of certain members at the PAC meetings, no other staff is willing to sit in as a substitute.
“All other Clerks of Committees are unwilling to clerk the Public Accounts Committee because of the unprofessional conduct of some members of this Committee, which is not conducive to a healthy working environment,” Isaacs indicated.

Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs

The letter, which was copied to the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, as well as other PAC members, did not indicate if a clerk will become available for the sitting after Monday’s.
Only recently, Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira warned that a No-Confidence Motion could be looming to have Figueira removed from the post. This was after the two sides of the House had a disagreement over a motion to increase the sittings of the PAC.
Figueira, who had only taken over as Head of the PAC in July after the previous Chairman, David Patterson, was removed by a NCM, wants to increase the sittings of the PAC since it is only still reviewing public spending from 2016.
But Minister Teixeira has contended that it is difficult to meet more than once a week, since Government parliamentarians and head of constitutional agencies have other work to attend to.
“A decision was made on October 11 in the Committee, without any discussion or any attempt to reach consensus on having meetings twice weekly… they attempted this before and they knew the Government was not in support, neither the constitutional body heads. I brought a motion to rescind the motion of October 11, in keeping with the standing orders. And although hotly debated in the beginning, Figueira did agree he needed more time to review it,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.
According to Teixeira, Figueira agreed that the motion would come back at the next statutory meeting of October 25. This was agreed to, after which the PAC continued dealing with the 2016 Auditor General Report.
“Regrettably, when we came near to the end, Mr Figueira shut off the live stream, told the media to leave and proceeded to adjourn until Friday, October 22. Despite him being reminded he had made a commitment to October 25, the statutory meeting on Monday. He proceeded to walk out the meeting… This is reminiscent of what we went through in the PAC with Patterson as the Chair. Once again, APNU/AFC cannot be trusted with anything, even a simple motion to rescind a decision… so we will now start down a road that is familiar and if this behaviour continues, we have no qualms of going to the House once again to remove the Chairman of the PAC,” Teixeira contended.
However, PAC Member and APNU/AFC Parliamentarian Ganesh Mahipaul released a statement in which he was adamant that Figueira was not bound to hold the next meeting on October 25, like he had agreed. He also argued that the twice weekly meetings are necessary considering the PAC’s backlog. (G8)