Christopher Ram challenges Govt’s “business as usual” approach to contracts
…seeks order preventing payment of contracts over $15M
As the Coalition Government continues its “business as usual” approach following the passage of the no confidence motion back in December, Political Commentator and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram has turned to the High Court to stop the awarding and payment of contracts over $15 million.
The legal proceedings were filed on Friday by Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall on behalf of Ram, and named Attorney General Basil Williams and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Abena Moore, as the respondents.
Ram is asking the court to declare, among other things, that any procurement (contract) in excess of $15 million approved by a purported Cabinet after the evening of 21st December, 2018 is unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void, and is of no legal effect; and that the court should issue an order restraining Permanent Secretaries within all Government Ministries from making any payment towards any contracts in excess of $15 million approved by a purported Cabinet after the passage of the no confidence motion.
The High Court is also being asked for a declaration to state that “…there exists no Cabinet to review or award any contract which exceeds fifteen million Guyana dollars (G$15,000,000).”
It was noted in the court documents seen by Guyana Times that Section 54 (1) of the Procurement Act gives Cabinet the right to review and approve all procurements (contracts) in excess of $15 million. However, Ram pointed out in his grounds for the application that all functions and duties of the Cabinet ceased on December 21, 2018 when the no confidence motion was successfully passed against the Coalition Administration.
The Resolution gives effect to Article 106 (6), which states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
According to the legal documents, the subsequent ruling of acting Chief Justice Roxane George (on January 31 in a case filed by Ram) was that the National Assembly properly, validly and lawfully passed the motion, which immediately effected the resignation of the Cabinet.
“…the president and the ministers who constitute the Cabinet [were] compelled to resign their functions in Cabinet but retain their office until elections are held… I have observed that the Cabinet has not complied… and neither the Cabinet nor the President has expressed a public intention to resign or fixed a date prior to or on 21st March, 2019 for the holding of national and regional elections, nor has a resolution supported by no less than two-thirds of the National Assembly determined that elections should be held after an extended period,” Ram outlined in his application to the court.
Immediately after the passage of the motion, the Coalition Government had said it would uphold the Constitution, but subsequently took a U-turn, ignoring calls from stakeholders, including the Opposition, to resign.
President David Granger has maintained on several occasions that there is no provision in the constitution for a “caretaker” Government. Furthermore, the Government went on to challenge the passage of the motion in the National Assembly back in December.
However, the acting Chief Justice found that the no-confidence motion was validly passed, and that Cabinet should have resigned. Government has since appealed this decision, and those matters are expected to come up for hearing at the Appeal Court next week.
Meanwhile, following the High Court ruling, the Coalition has been meeting as a ‘Ministerial Plenary’, which is imbued with Cabinet powers, to carry on Government business. In fact, they have noted contracts from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and given their approval for various appointments.
This is a move which Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called illegal. “They have a ministerial plenary to bypass the Chief Justice’s ruling, which is illegal,” the Opposition Leader has said.
Jagdeo had noted, too, that if the People’s Progressive Party, of which he is also the General Secretary, returns to office, then all the actions and decisions of the Coalition Government since December 21 will be reviewed and reversed.