Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Irfaan Ali has described as “distasteful and disrespectful” the recent utterances of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan over the non-appointment of Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram and Auditor General Anand Goolsarran as members of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
Ramjattan is quoted in another section of the media as saying that he was praying for the quick establishment of the PPC so that “Cabinet no longer makes decisions on contracts”. In the very article, he also lamented the absence of “great people like chartered accountants Chris Ram and Anand Goolsarran who did not make it to become Commissioners”. He said while the names were submitted, the Opposition did not want scrutiny. “They didn’t want them,” he is quoted as saying.
But Ali, an Opposition MP, took Ramjattan to task, responding that he was only seeking to confuse the public and achieve selfish motives.
“The comments by Ramjattan are distasteful and disrespectful to the Chairman and members of the PAC. If Ramjattan has to apologise for any comments or commitment he has to give to anyone to be part of the Public Procurement Commission, he should not use the PAC to achieve his objective,” Ali was quoted as saying in today’s Guyana Times.
He said it was public knowledge that when the motion was taken to the National Assembly, every member of the PPC was selected unanimously.
“It was grossly disrespectful and improper and unethical for Ramjattan to suggest otherwise. The committee worked tirelessly through many Parliament sessions to come with a consensus position on this matter. It was the exceptional work of the PAC that allowed us to bring a unanimous decision on this matter to the National Assembly,” Ali said.
Further, Ali said if Ramjattan had any objection at the time the motion was taken to the National Assembly, he had adequate opportunities to stand and suggest changes or amendments he wanted to make. “But he stood and applauded the consensus. So to try to confuse the public using the name of the PAC, speaks volume of his character and the level to which he would go to achieve selfish motives,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, commenting on Ramjattan’s statement too, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall said the comments illustrated very vividly that the Minister was yet to realise that he was in the Government, or he was powerless in the Government, or maybe both.
“It is the APNU/AFC that promised the establishment of the Procurement Commission within 100 days of taking office. Over 450 days after, there is no Procurement Commission in place, although they enjoy a majority in both the National Assembly and in the Public Accounts Committee. Therefore, who is Mr Ramjattan “urging”? He is in Government. Is he urging himself? Or is it internally, his voice has no weight?” he asked.
He said Ramjattan’s blaming the Opposition for the non-appointment of “great people” like Ram and Goolsarran was equally preposterous.
“The Government controls the majority in the Public Accounts Committee. The Government has the power to appoint three persons to the Commission and the Opposition the power to appoint two. Therefore, if the Government really wanted to appoint those two “great people”, there is nothing that the Opposition could have done to stymie these appointments. It is Mr Ramjattan’s own Government that rejected them. Again, I have to wonder whether anyone takes Ramjattan seriously in APNU. If these were his candidates, why were they both rejected?”
He said the truth of the matter was that even without the Procurement Commission, Cabinet could, if it wanted to, voluntarily give up its role in relation to no-objections to contracts.
“Additionally, this Government has persistently refused to comply with the Procurement Act and has been gifting hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to friends and cronies; for example, the Specialty Hospital, D’Urban Park and hundreds of millions worth of contracts for the cleaning of Georgetown by Central Government. None of these contracts were granted with any regard to the Procurement Act,” the former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister said.
Nandlall said this had nothing to do with the PPC, but was all about “a Government steeped in unaccountability, lack of transparency and corruption”.
“So Mr Ramjattan can stop “hoping and praying” and start convincing his Government to comply with the Procurement Act and stop gifting contracts to its friends. If not, the Procurement Commission would become another bureaucratic burden upon the backs of Guyanese taxpayers,” he declared.