The motion for duty-free concessions to be granted to the accountant and attorney-at-law of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was not passed in the National Assembly.
The house decided against the motion moved by, Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton, after the Opposition voted against its passage and two MPs of the government abstained from voting while some were not present in the chamber for the vote.
Minister Norton, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of Appointment, explained that the committee deliberated at its 30th meeting on March 28, 2018, and agreed to offer Surendra Lall Boodhoo and Yonette Romao Scarville, duty-free concessions for a vehicle at 2000-CC.
The Opposition argued that the motion should be withdrawn and the benefits be granted across the board. It was argued that even though the qualifications of the two officials were similar to several Attorneys or accountants in the State’s employ, others did not enjoy duty free concessions for 2000-cylinder capacity (cc) vehicles.
“The fact is the appointments committee wants to bring a benefit to two employees within that unit. To do this, they have to amend the law and make it part of their benefits in the law,” Opposition parliamentarian Irfaan Ali said.
Ali also noted that the granting of these concessions should reside with Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner General Godfrey Statia.
“We can’t adjust based on the committee. We have to adjust based on principles and on position. So, we have to say here we are going to create a new category of posts that would benefit from such concessions. For example, you will have other persons appointed by the committee that will now say, we are of the same qualification. We were appointed by the same committee, on the same level. Why is it we are not considered for the granting of such concessions.”
“So, I want to propose he bring an amendment to the Act to deal with this issue, or we take a holistic position dealing with all positions in this category, that we will now give equal treatment. And that we cannot direct the Minister of Finance or Commissioner General,” Ali argued, noting that this would breach existing laws and principles.
A division was subsequently called, but even though the Chambers rang bells calling all members to take up their seats, it was evident that several seats, including Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s, would remain empty for the vote. By the time the dust had settled, 26 voted for the motion to be carried and 28 voted against. There are 65 seats in Guyana’s Parliament.
When their names were called, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Business Minister Dominic Gaskin both announced they were abstaining. A few members, including Jordan, reappeared following the vote.
If passed, the motion in question would have granted the newly-appointed accountant and Attorney-At-Law for the FIU duty-free concessions. The FIU is an agency that acts under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) laws.