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POWER PLAY IN GUYANA

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Guyana’s opposition-controlled parliament has started the process of stripping away years of ministerial control over several agencies of state, including the power of the cabinet to decide how much money House, the Judiciary and the National Auditor’s Office get in their annual budgets, so as to make them fully functioning and independent arms of the state, legislators said Monday.

A slew of motions to remove the Assembly and the Judiciary from under the control of the Presidential Secretariat and the Attorneys General’s chambers respectively were to be introduced in the House when hearings began on Wednesday in what could be a protracted but necessary process, legislators said.

Opposition legislators Joe Harmon of A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) and Moses Nagamootoo of the Alliance For Change (AFC) say that they want to end years of abuse by the Executive Branch which ensured they controlled the purse-strings of places like the Parliament and even the operations of the courts and travel for judges, among others.

Under the current systems, the budget of the judiciary and the magistracy is incorporated in that of the attorney general and legal affairs ministry, forcing the chancellor and the chief justice to interact directly with ministers and the ministry to obtain money for simple capital projects and even overseas travel.

“Who pays the piper calls the tune and that we don’t want to tolerate anymore,” said veteran legislator Nagamootoo of the AFC, which controls the balance of power in the 65-seat Assembly with its seven seats.

Nagamootoo said the AFC will join with the 26-seat APNU in voting for the bills to strip away unnecessary powers from cabinet ministers and to make these agencies fully autonomous and removed from cabinet control.

The vote will be by simple majority. Together the two have one more seat than the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The opposition is confident the bills will pass once all their representatives are on the ground and in the country. They hope to complete the process before the August recess but are not totally hopeful it will be completed.

The agencies include the State Auditor’s Office which investigates fraud and other irregularities at government departments. The Ministry of Finance controls its budget.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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