Parliamentary Sector Committees have held meetings, questioned ministers
Management Committee to determine procedures
Stabroek News
May 31, 2004

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The parliamentary management committee is to initiate the process that would allow the National Assembly to review the Standing Orders in relation to the procedures of the parliamentary sector committees.

Its decision has reportedly been prompted as a result of the concern the Parliamentary Sector Committee on Econo-mic Services has expressed about its meetings having to be held in private. The Standing Order 73(5) which governs the procedures of the sector committees provides that the deliberations of the sector committees be held in private.

Standing Order 75 prohibits the publication of deliberations or documents before its report has been submitted to the National Assembly.

The Economic Services Committee wrote to the parliamentary management committee following an incident which resulted in a member of the public who wanted to hear the proceedings of one of its meetings being ejected by the Sergeant of Arms. But there appears to be some confusion about public access to the meetings of the subcommittee as more than one opposition member has told Stabroek News that the meetings are open save those that are designated to be held in private.

Before the PNCR took the decision to selectively disengage from the sittings of the National Assembly and its committees, the four sector committees met regularly and interviewed a number of ministers and heads of departments.

Among some of the ministers who appeared before the sub-committees are Education Minister Henry Jeffrey (So-cial Services), Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, Housing Minister Shaik Baksh (Natural Resources), Foreign Affairs Minister Rudy Insanally (Foreign Affairs) and Works Minister Tony Xavier, Trade Minister Manzoor Nadir and Sawh (Economic Services).

Nadir's appearance before the Economics Services Committee, according to its chairman James McAllister, was to deal with the escalating price of locally produced chicken as a result of production being unable to keep pace with the Christmas demand.

McAllister said Sawh's appearance was to deal with the question of drainage and irrigation and that was before the recently enacted legislation that established the Drainage and Irrigation Board as an Authority was tabled.

McAllister observed, however, that some ministers consider appearing before the committee a necessary irritant and, treating its requests for information accordingly, have been less than cooperative when they appear.

McAllister said the work of his committee has been stalled because the committee does not have the expertise to deal with the voluminous information it has received in response to its requests.

He said it had sought and received approval from the Parliamentary Management Committee to acquire expert assistance but its efforts to do so had been stymied by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon.

However, he says a project being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, which would be independent of the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance, should allow the committee to recruit the assistance it needs.

The parliamentary management committee, another body resulting from the recent amendments to the constitution, had been meeting frequently before the PNCR's selective disengagement. The Speaker of the National Assembly chairs this committee on which the government has the same number of representatives as the parliamentary opposition.

The Appointive Committee, also created by the recent amendments had also been meeting but there was a lapse earlier in the year, Stabroek News understands, as result of the chairman's preoccupation with other matters. Culture Minister Gail Teixeira is the chairman of the committee.

However, Stabroek News understands that in recent times the committee, which is looking at nominations to the Rights Commission, has been meeting without the participation of the PNCR members.

The Standing Order that governed the procedures of the sector committees also governs the procedures of the parliamentary management committee and the appointive committee.