As more questions than answers remain over whether taxpayers are footing the bill for expensive liquors that are reportedly consumed by Members of Parliament (MPs), Clerk to the Parliament, Sherlock Isaacs has denied any knowledge of requests made by MPs for alcoholic beverages.
Isaacs, who is currently on leave, told this media group that an MP requesting a drink at the VIP Lounge of the Parliament has not happened before and will not be tolerated.
He claimed that he is unaware of any situation where an MP requested an alcoholic drink and got one.
He reminded that MPs only indulge in the drinking of alcohol at special occasions in cases where there is a party or one organised by the Parliament. Isaac said he cannot recall at any time where alcohol was served outside of those occasions or for any other reason.
However, sources have claimed that alcohol has been served to MPs without a special occasion.
In fact, the source alleged that during one occasion, two MPs were even engaged in imbibing with Parliament staff which ended in the wee hours of the morning.
Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes in defending the Government denied that alcoholic beverages are served at Parliament. She said the whopping $700,000 food bill for every sitting is justified in the number of persons catered for.
Hughes said that just over 300 persons eat at every sitting of the National Assembly. That works out to be $2200 (US$11) per person. Among that 300 persons would be the MPs, 65 of them; 40 media workers; 115 Parliament staffers; drivers and medical personnel.
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had recently suggested that free alcoholic beverages should no longer be served at Parliament. He made this statement after he was asked to comment on the large spending on food at Parliament. According to him, this may reduce the spending.
“It’s not just food. It’s a huge amount of alcohol that gets consumed and imbibed in the Parliament … fancy, fancy liquor,” he said, explaining that this comes at the expense of taxpayers.
Jagdeo made it clear that he is not opposed to having food served to legislators, but he believes that alcohol should not be an option nor should it be on the menu at Parliament.
He claimed that Opposition parliamentarians also did not indulge in consuming the alcohol but did eat the food.
“They do eat. We eat. I eat the food. What do you suggest? I don’t go and eat the food? … I eat the food, but I don’t drink the liquor,” the Opposition Leader said.
Isaacs recently disclosed that $700,000 was spent on food for each sitting of Parliament. If committee meetings are to be included, it means almost $80 million would have been spent in the last three years alone overall on food.
But besides the high food bill, Jagdeo, a former President, argued that the dietary expenditure has increased tremendously under the coalition Administration.